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Of ancient and entirely European origin, the Ardennese horse is a very quiet animal of character and is a hard worker also energetic. He is at the side of man since from the time of Julius Caesar, even in heavy jobs where there are 600-800 kg weights to be towed. It is widespread mainly in France and Belgium but we also find it in Italy, it is a bit lower than others, about 150-160 cm, but it weighs a lot because it has a massive constitution that allows it to hold up even if used in hard work, agricultural or not.
Ardennese horse: origins
As the name of the breed explains, this horse originates in the mountainous region of the Ardennes, on the border between France and Belgium. We find it told by Julius Caesar in the story of Gallic Wars so it is an animal that has been known to man for many years and is used by man, even in wars. It must be said that we also find it in the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus and later in the Crusades of the 11th century always in a war context and with the role of ally of the armies.
At the time it was a horse about ten centimeters lower than today's standard but no less powerful and robust. From the Ardennese horse horses of the Middle Ages are also derived, but not only. He contributed to the formation of other European heavy shooting breeds such as theSwedish Ardennese, which reminds him both physically and temperamentally, and the Trait du Nord which is often remembered as a sort of larger and more rustic version of the Ardennese itself and called for ease theNorthern Ardennes.
Ardennese horse: characteristics
As you will have understood from the first numbers, it is a horse with a robust and massive physique, but not at all heavy. It has a large and massive head, with a straight profile, the muzzle is somewhat square with slightly protruding eyes and spaced, small and pointed ears. The sturdy neck but very long connects the head to the shoulders and carries a very visible mane. The withers are not too pronounced but compact as well as the back, the bone structure is evident that it is very developed but supported by a massive musculature, chest and shoulders are very developed, the rump has rounded shapes but in the back the muscles are particularly present, without however breaking the body harmony.
The limbs are short, compact and massive, among the most muscular in the world of horses, even if their structure is not clearly seen as they are covered with hair, the feet are small but still powerful, with a rounded shape.
For what concern hair, that of Ardennesi it is very thick on the feet, almost touching the ground and certainly enough to cover the hoof in a very elegant way, but the reason is certainly not aesthetic. This type of feature is very functional, it allows the water to run off quickly without dirtying the pastoral. This does not depend on the color of the entire coat which can be red roan, bay, chestnut, gray or isabella. All of these colors are allowed in the standard, as well as other rarer colors such as light chestnut, dark bay and palomino, the only one not included is the black horse.
Returning to the feet, we can observe the hoof noting that it is sturdy just like the rest of the body, this for the more experienced means that you need larger shoes than those of saddle horses.
Ardennese horse: aptitudes and use
A physicist like that ofArdennese it lends itself to various uses, in the present as in the past. He has a very strong muscular structure, joints that withstand almost limitless efforts, he has a powerful bone structure: he can do anything! The character also helps because it is a very docile animal and does not complain and does not get stuck when you make it work a little. Even today it is used as heavy draft animal or as an aid in agricultural field although today technology is increasingly present and replaces it, but this does not mean that the Ardennese is useless to man, there are many other sectors in which it is still used with satisfaction. In addition to the production of meat, especially in France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, it is used to make crossings with other breeds, both European and Asian, and then we find it the protagonist of equine exhibitions and, at the same time, an excellent ally in therapeutic walks thanks to his docile and calm nature.
In the past it was used a lot in warfare and has therefore in a sense participated in historical events such as the French Revolution, the Crusades, the campaign in Russia and the WWI even up to the second.
Ardennese horse: feeding
When grazing, free, this horse prefers the grasses and it even has long tactile hairs, which emerge under the chin and on the upper lip, thanks to which it is able to recognize them immediately. When he is in the stable he needs a diet that allows him to remain robust but at the same time athletic and "all muscle". Usually it feeds on oats, barley, corn, bran, carrots, beets and also fruits like watermelon, mandarin and apples.
Ardennese horse: breeding
When breeding these animals, also because of their fur, it is very important to have care of their hygiene. This concretely means cleaning the hooves from residues of earth, sand, mud and stones and the abdominal area from any encrustations due to sweat. In general, then, they must always be carried out washing and grooming of the cloak with a cloth and circular movements. Today the Ardennese is bred mainly in its countries of origin and in Europe in general, in Luxembourg, Sweden and Poland, as well as in France and Belgium.
In France most of the structures are located in the region of Champagne-Ardenne, in which the horse itself is a regional heritage but throughout the country it is considered one of the most common breeds used in draft horse competitions, along with Comitois, Breton and Percheron. From here it is also exported to Morocco, Hungary, Finland and Bulgaria.
In Belgium the farms are mainly found in the south and east area but throughout the country the horse is known and appreciated, since the thirties of the twentieth century, in fact, right here there is a competition for horses of the Ardennese breed, in the context of the agricultural fair of Libramont. In Italy we find it in some farms such as the Manente farm in Favaro Veneto (VE).
You may also be interested in our related article with the complete list of all horse breeds with individual detailed sheets dedicated to each breed.