The Percheron is a beautiful, charming draft horse. If you are from the US, then you might not be as familiar with this breed. While they are one of the more popular kinds in France and throughout Europe, they are less prevalent in the States. Still, if you have ever watched one in a parade or witnessed one work in the farming industry, then you would know all about their grace and size.
If you have ever been to Disney, then you have probably witnessed these horses firsthand. Disney uses them to perform in parades and to pull their carriages! If you are thinking about training a draft horse or if you simply want more information, we have put together this guide on the basics of Percherons.
What Is a Percheron?
When it comes to draft breeds, the Percheron is among the most famous. In the past, people bred them to be war horses. Nowadays, they spend most of their time driving and hauling. This horse comes from the Huisne river valley in France. The breed takes its name from the province formerly known as Perche. After their initial use in the wars of the 17th century, they were used to pull stagecoaches and work in agriculture.
So, what makes them stand out among other draft horses? On the one hand, unlike the Clydesdale, these horses have cleaner, shorter hair. While they may have thick manes, they do not have heavy leg feathering to make them difficult to groom. In addition, they tend to stand out as livelier than other draft horses. In fact, they can travel nearly 40 miles a day at a trot.
The Uses of the Percheron
Draft horses are large, heavy horses that can carry, haul and otherwise assist farmers, loggers, and others in heavy labor. The purpose of breeding a draft horse is usually to have a working animal. In the past, they would plow fields and take part in other farm labor. While nowadays most farmers use heavy machinery, some farmers still utilize draft horses.
To identify a draft horse, all you need to do is look for a tall stature and muscular build. These horses tend to tower over light riding horses. They have an upright shoulder, and this helps them to be better pullers. In the past, humans domesticated horses for hauling heavy loads. They needed an animal of calm, even temperament that could work hard. Of course, most of us are also familiar with lighter horses that you ride more often than not. People learned how to selectively breed horses to create the type of animal that they needed for specific work.
When it comes to draft horses, the Percheron is among the most famous. It is a French draft horse, and as far as French horses are concerned, it is among the most popular. People still breed these horses for a multitude of tasks.
Here is a list of work that people use them to perform:
- Farm Work
- Pulling Competitions
- Forestry Work
While most draft horses are not for riding, the Percheron can be. This is especially true of crossbreeds.
The Characteristics of Percherons
What you will notice first about a Percheron is its size. They stand between 51 and 73 inches and weight between 1,100 and 2,600 pounds. In general, they are gray or black. If you want to register your horse in Great Britain or France, it must be black or gray. However, in America, your horse can also be roan, chestnut or bay. Some horses may have some white markings, but excessive white will not be accepted for registration.
As far as features are concerned, they have broad foreheads, small ears and large eyes. Percherons are heavily muscled, especially in their legs and feet. These horses are rugged and powerful, and it shows in their features and characteristics. Aside from their outstanding physical qualities, they have an impressive temperament.
These are alert, intelligent and calm horses. They are willing to work and given their high energy, need to be able to be productive. They are easy to train, easy to take care of and as long as you earn one's trust, you don’t have to worry about its size as a disadvantage.
How to Train a Percheron
When training a Percheron, you should use the same rules that you can use to teach any draft horse. If you have experience in working with horses, then a lot of the information here shouldn’t be too surprising. However, if you’re a beginner, it’s important that you pay attention to the proper methods of horse training. These large creatures can easily hurt you if you are not careful.
Exercises in Leading
Always start with the basics first. Unlike smaller horses, you have to teach respect quickly. You need to emphasize that your horse isn’t allowed to invade your personal space. If your horse does not give in to pressure, it may pull back when tied. Tug down on the rope to instruct your horse to lower its head. As soon as your horse obeys, release the pressure. You can do this with other body parts, too, until the horse backs up. Do not ever keep the pressure on your horse if it responds. You can teach it to step back from you by wiggling the lead rope until it steps back.
In the beginning, when you lead your horse, you want to stay in front. This is about teaching your horse to respect your space. Remember, you are the one who determines the speed and where the two of you walk.
After you master leading the horse, you can begin to lead from a partner position. Like any horse, you teach the draft horse to stay next to you while you are walking. Only practice this exercise if your horse has mastered walking behind you in first position. Also, while walking as its partner, make sure that you can put your horse back into the other position at any time.
Exercises in Touch
Horses can be a little wary of human touch at first, no matter their size or strength. It is important that your horse learns to trust you. This isn’t only healthy for the horse, but imagine what it would be like to have an animal that weighs nearly 2,000 pounds distrust you. You can do this through petting your horse with your hands or using objects that you want it to be familiar with being close to. For instance, use a bag, cloth or brush.
Once your Percheron trusts your touch, you can scratch and rub the areas that it enjoys the most. Some horses love it when you scratch or stroke around their manes or withers. Make sure that you familiarize your horse with your touch. Not only will this make it easier for you to interact with it, but also if your horse is ever injured, it will trust you to inspect it.
Exercises in Experience
With standard horses, you expect them to bolt when they are frightened. This is because they aren’t natural predators and their instincts tell them to run when danger comes around. The difference between a draft horse and a lighter weight horse is that the draft horse knows that it is bigger and that it can win in a fight. Due to a Percheron's size, it also may not have the speed to outrun danger, so fighting is the better option. You need to be able to train your horse to listen to you when it is frightened. Allow it to experience objects it may be afraid of, in order to give it calming cues. A Percheron may stand still in danger, so it’s a good idea to teach it to keep moving calmly.
Conclusion: Should You Get a Percheron?
While Percherons are obedient, docile horses, they are not for everyone. If you cannot dedicate yourself to putting forth the hard work and effort into training a draft horse, then it may not be for you. This is all due to their massive size. Keep in mind what they are capable of at their body weight. While not aggressive or more stubborn than other horses, there is not as much room for mistakes when you are dealing with an animal that weighs up to 2,000 pounds. Yet, they are calm and docile, and if you are a beginning rider, a trained Percheron is a dream.
Of course, with all horse ownership, you have to be devoted to your animal. It does not matter which breed it is, all horses need time, attention and care. While the ability to handle a large horse is necessary with this breed, you don’t have to be an expert on horses. They don’t require a lot of experience. They are easygoing, thrive in a variety of environments and are loyal and eager to please their owners. People originally bred these horses to work, and their hardworking personalities shine through in their day-to-day lives.