Can Shire Horses Jump? [Yes, But Don’t Do This]

As a part of an impressive draft breed, Shire horses were initially built to work in agriculture and to pull carriages. However, a lot of people make a mistake in thinking that the Shire breed is limited to pulling heavyweights. Shire horses are very talented and can do many other things besides pulling.

That being said, people that buy a Shire or some sort of a heavy draft horse don’t usually buy them because they want to do disciplines like jumping or competing in riding events. They buy Shires because they like those types of horses and understand that they’ve got pretty tight limitations to how high they can jump or how agile they’ll be for dressage. Talking about dressage, that is a unique Olympic discipline, where your horse is tested on its form of riding. The goal of dressage is to train a horse to be moving with harmony and fluidity by performing tasks with only minor signals from its rider.

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When should Shire horses start with jumping?

The Shire horses should not start with jumping before they are fully matured (around their 6th birthday).

Usually, for most horses, being mature means they are around 4-5 years old. However, because The Shires are a big breed, they should not be doing much more than ground poles or small cross-rails before they are 6 or 7 years old.

After its 3rd birthday, you could start training your horse how to correctly place its feet, and to walk properly. First walk, then run! The horse’s knees first close at 2-3 years old. The hocks don’t close until 4-5 years old and all of the bones in a horse are closed at around 6 yrs old (give or take 6 months).

Jumping before the growth plates in those major bones/joints have hardened completely is a serious risk to a horse’s long term soundness and health. It’s not that their bodies break down easier, it’s just that strenuous work and impact from that much weight creates more stress than that of a small horse.

Can Shire horses be used in jumping competitions?

There is absolutely no reason that a Shire would be unable to do some lower level (or even mid-level if he has the mind and agility for it) dressage and/or cross country.

Almost any sound and healthy horse, regardless of the breed, can do just about any discipline at lower levels, providing they have the temperament for it. They may not be very competitive so if ribbons are important to the rider, a shire might not be the best choice, but if a rider is just doing it to have fun and the horse enjoys it too, then there should be no problem in doing it.

Bear in mind that jumping a draft is only asking to injure it, in the long run. And horses are not supposed to be “finished” at 15-17 years old. A horse should also not be getting hock injections at the age of 8 or being arthritic and stiff by the age of 15. A horse should be jumping sound, at least over the small stuff, well into their early 20’s, naturally, if they do not have some previous serious injury or some other health problem.

How much can Shire horses jump?

Shire horses can presumably jump up to 2’3″/2’6″ (68.5 /76.2 cm).

If you wish for a horse that could jump higher, the Shire horses are, almost certainly, not your ideal type of horse. With this in mind, jumping a draft (a purebred, or cross which takes after the draft parent) is only asking to injure it, in the long run. The chance of injuring a horse by demanding the tasks it was not meant and created to do, is really high. Talking precisely about jumping, there are many things to think about, apart from its age, for example, like

  • how often will the horse jump;
  • how high will the horse jump;
  • how hard is the task the horse is supposed to do?

The hip/pelvic angle of the Shire horses is not ideal for jumping. It is ideal for working slowly, with a lot of power.

The bones the draft horses have are large in comparison to a light horse, but are proportionate to the amount of body mass they have – so they do not have the “big bones” which is desired for jumping/dressage/cross country. Those horses that do have large bones for their breed type are likely too heavy to be good jumpers.

Are Shires good riding horses?

Shire horses are excellent riding horses.

This conclusion is a result of people working with and training the Shire horses. These horses are calm, do not frighten easily, learn quickly, and aim to please.

Their personality is calm and docile, and their work ethic is enviable. Shires also present an excellent seat for bigger riders as they’re strong and travel smoothly. With their bigger size comes a bigger step too, so they do not have to run that fast, but at the same time, they can quickly cover a lot of ground.

Depending on their training, the Shires are usually suitable for every rider, a beginner or a professional, there is almost no difference. The Shire is a very agreeable riding horse. The rider almost doesn’t feel the change from walk to a slow gallop. When talking about activities the Shire horses can participate in, there are a lot of them, as these horses are generally excellent for riding. Therapeutic riding, police work, and dressage are just a few of them.

Can Shire horses gallop?

Shire horses gallop at approximately 27 mph (44 km/h).

Excellent athletic abilities and a gentle, peaceful nature, make this type of a horse one of the first choices when it comes to therapy riding.

If you have the Shire, be assured that it won’t be easily spooked. In a confusing and traumatic situation, when other horses are frightened and must be calmed, you will notice that you are sitting on a calm and level-headed draft breed. The paths you ride wouldn’t be a problem for the Shire, even if they are not even and have other smaller obstacles. The size of these horses is once again a plus, as they can easily step over those obstructions.

However, be cautious of what you ask of your horse. If they are properly trained, they aim to please, and could hurt themselves trying to execute everything you demand of them. Think carefully about their size and the activities they are probably not going to perform very well.

Are Shire horses good for beginners?

Shire horses are suitable for all types of riders, from beginners to professionals.

Even though the Shire horses are so massive, they are known for being amiable giants. These animals are easygoing, tranquil, and gentle. They are easy to train, despite their size. The behavior usually contributed to horses when they are in training, like rearing or bucking are almost never seen in Shire horses, as one of their personality traits is to please their trainer. Shire horses do not mind being around other animals, such as dogs and cats, further, they are even calm around loud noises, water, cars, and children. Overall, this breed has a gentle personality and state of mind that is usually contributed to the fact that these horses were created to work as war horses. That job required that these animals stay level-headed and even-tempered during the most chaotic and dangerous situations and these characteristics are in the genes of modern Shire horses, making them a valuable asset.

Are Shire horses rare?

Shire horses are considered rare nowadays, as opposed to for example, one hundred years ago.

At the beginning known as the Great Horses, they were of enormous importance in Medieval Britain carrying knights into battle.

After those times, with the development of armor and weapons, the need for a strong battle horse declined, and having a Shire horse was instead a great advantage in agriculture.

Then came the industrial revolution and the Shires were pushed away again, and only used by breweries. Forced into decline by agricultural mechanization the breed survived due only to the support of a small number of individual breeders and breweries.

As machinery took over in the 1920s, much of the farm and heavy transportation work traditionally performed by Shire horses were now done by tractors and trucks. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Shire horses were on the verge of extinction, their numbers were low and it was as if there was no need for this breed anymore. However, albeit small, there are some groups, like Amish, that still use the Shires for their initial purpose, as in agriculture and to pull weights.

How many Shire horses are left?

There are fewer than 3,000 Shire horses left today.

Not so long ago, the Shires were a normal sight on farms, as there were almost one million of them, just in Great Britain. But, nowadays, there is a fear that this majestic breed could be extinct in the next 10 years.

Shire horses are these days usually used for showing and pleasure. They are shown not only in configuration classes but also in hauling and driving competitions. In some places, where the machines can’t easily navigate, the Shires are today used for pulling and logging tasks. Even though they are massive, the Shires are, thanks to their docile personality, often used in recreational riding. They are friendly and do not mind being around other animals, further, they do not spook easily, which is a great thing and one that makes them perfect for people that recently started riding. People are actively working to protect the Shire horse breed and save them from going extinct. Finding new ways of using this breed seems like a massive task, but taking into consideration that we are talking about real, live gentle giants, it will be worth it.