Clydesdale Horse

Clydesdale Horse: Cost, Care, and History in 2024

You’ve seen them pulling brewery wagons or featured in car commercials, but how much do you really know about Clydesdale horse? These gentle giants have a rich history and make great companions, though caring for them takes dedication. If you’ve ever considered adding one of these magnificent horses to your family, read on to learn everything you need to know about costs, care, and the origin story of the Clydesdale breed in 2024.

With their feathered feet and powerful physique, it’s no wonder these horses capture hearts wherever they go. Whether you’re an experienced equestrian or just an admirer from afar, this guide will give you new insight into the Clydesdale’s charming personality and what it takes to keep them happy and healthy.

Origin and History of the Clydesdale Horse Breed

Clydesdale Horse

The Clydesdale horse originated in Scotland, specifically in an area called Clydesdale. These gentle giants were initially used for hauling heavy loads and plowing fields. ### Selective Breeding

In the 18th century, local farmers began breeding the largest and strongest farm horses, called Clydesdales, to work the land. Through selective breeding, the Clydesdale grew into a magnificent and powerful animal.

Growing Popularity

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Clydesdale’s fame grew throughout Scotland and England. Their tremendous size, strength, and agility made them ideal for pulling loaded wagons. Many breweries used Clydesdales to haul beer, further fueling their popularity.

Budweiser Clydesdales

Perhaps the most well-known Clydesdales are the Budweiser Clydesdales. Anheuser-Busch began using Clydesdales for promotional events in the 1930s. Today, three hitches of Clydesdales travel around the U.S. making appearances at fairs, parades, and other events as ambassadors of Anheuser-Busch.

Current Uses

Although Clydesdales are no longer primarily used as draft animals, they remain popular for showing and as mascots. Breeding programs aim to preserve the Clydesdale’s size, feathering, and gentle and energetic temperament. For those lucky enough to own one, the Clydesdale makes a striking and enjoyable riding and driving horse.

Whether pulling a beer wagon or prancing in a parade, the Clydesdale is an unmistakable and iconic symbol of strength, endurance, and grace. These gentle giants have earned a special place in history, agriculture, and popular culture.

Physical Characteristics and Temperament of Clydesdales

Clydesdales are one of the largest breeds of draft horses.

Clydesdale Horse Sizes and Characteristics

Height16 to 18 hands
Weight1,800 to 2,500 pounds
Typical ColorsBay, black, brown, chestnut
Feathery Lower Leg HairPresent
Lifespan15 to 20 years

Size and Appearance

Standing 16 to 18 hands high and weighing 1,800 to 2,500 pounds, Clydesdales are imposing animals. They have a distinctive, feathery look due to the long hair on their lower legs. Their color is usually bay, black, brown, or chestnut.

Gentle Nature

Despite their immense size, Clydesdales have a very gentle and friendly temperament. They are intelligent, willing to please, and very patient. However, due to their large hooves and overall size, they may not be suitable for inexperienced riders or owners. Clydesdales require experienced handlers who can properly care for them.

Athletic Ability

Don’t let their huge size fool you. Clydesdales are remarkably athletic and agile for their stature. They were originally bred as draft horses to haul heavy loads, but today many Clydesdales compete in shows, parades, and even some equestrian events. Their flashy movement and high-stepping trot make them naturals in the show ring.

Clydesdales are striking animals and living legends. Cherished for their beauty, size, and temperament, they continue to capture the imagination of horse lovers around the world. If you have the means to properly care for one, a Clydesdale can make a wonderful companion and show horse. But these gentle giants deserve owners who understand their needs and can give them the highest quality of life in return.

Clydesdale Horse Uses: Farm Work, Showing, and Drafting

Clydesdales were originally bred as working horses on farms in Scotland. However, today they are also popular show and exhibition animals. Their immense size, feathered feet, and gentle demeanor make them a crowd favorite.

Farm Work

Historically, Clydesdales were used for hauling heavy loads on farms and for plowing fields. They were bred to have a kind temperament so they could work closely with people. Though farm work has become highly mechanized, some small farms still use draft horses like Clydesdales for sustainable agriculture and eco-friendly farming practices.

Showing and Exhibitions

Clydesdales are prized show animals and are exhibited at events around the world. They compete in halter classes where they are led and judged based on breed standards for size, structure, quality, and movement. The Clydesdale is also popular in combined driving competitions where they pull carriages through obstacle courses.

Perhaps the most well-known use of Clydesdales is in the Budweiser Clydesdales exhibition teams. These teams travel extensively to promote Budweiser products. The elaborate red, white, and gold harnesses and hitches of these teams have become an American icon. Clydesdale exhibitions like these highlight the breed’s genteel nature and striking appearance.

Draft Work

Some Clydesdales still work as draft horses, pulling wagons, carriages, sleds, and logging equipment. Their immense size and strength allow them to haul heavy loads with ease. Draft horse competitions like log scooting and stone boat races showcase the power of breeds like the Clydesdale. These events are popular at county fairs, draft horse shows, and other horse exhibitions.

Whether working the land, competing in the show ring, or captivating crowds, the Clydesdale is a versatile and impressive breed. Valued for both physical ability and appearance, the “Gentle Giant” of Scotland continues to charm new generations.

Caring for Clydesdale Horses: Diet, Housing and Exercise Needs

Feeding Your Gentle Giant

Clydesdales are large animals, so they require a lot of high-quality food to maintain their health and body condition. You’ll need to feed your Clydesdale 2-3 flakes of grass hay plus 10-20 pounds of grain each day. The hay provides roughage, while the grain mix should be specially formulated for draft horses to provide the right amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals. Fresh, easy water need to be to be had at all times.

Shelter and Space

Clydesdales require a spacious stall, at least 10×10 feet. Their shelter should protect them from harsh weather like heavy rain, snow and wind. However, they also need access to turnout areas and pastures. Clydesdales are active horses and need room to move around, exercise and interact with other horses. Provide access to a paddock or pasture as much as possible.

Keeping Them Exercised

In addition to turnout time, Clydesdales need regular exercise and interaction with their handlers to stay healthy and well-socialized. Spend at least an hour a day, 3-4 times a week exercising, grooming, and working with your Clydesdale. This could include light riding, driving, lunging, or simply going for walks together. Exercise, both physical and mental, will help keep your Clydesdale fit and also strengthen the bond between you.

Healthcare and Hoof Care

Due to their large size, Clydesdales can be prone to certain health issues like laminitis or colic. So, routine veterinary care and farrier visits are essential. Hooves should be trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Because Clydesdales live an average of 15-20 years, a responsible breeder will have breeding stock checked for genetic diseases before breeding to produce healthy foals.

Overall, Clydesdales may require significant investments of both time and money. But for many owners, the reward of sharing your life with one of these gentle giants makes it worthwhile. With proper care and dedication, Clydesdales can live long, healthy and happy lives.

Health Issues to Watch Out for in Clydesdales

Respiratory Problems

Due to their large size, Clydesdales can be prone to respiratory issues. Watch for symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge. The most common respiratory ailments are bronchitis, pneumonia, and allergies. It’s best to have a vet examine your horse if symptoms persist for more than a day or two. Treatment may include medication, steroids, or other therapies to open airways and fight infection.


Clydesdales are prone to lameness and leg issues due to their immense weight and size. Look for signs like limping, difficulty walking, heat in the hooves or legs, and swelling. The most common causes are injuries, arthritis, abscesses or laminitis (founder). See a farrier regularly to properly trim hooves and a vet if you notice any lameness. They may recommend shoeing, medication, or other treatments depending on the cause.


Colic, or abdominal pain, is common in many horse breeds and can be life-threatening if untreated. Watch for symptoms such as kicking at the belly, restlessness, decreased appetite, and lying down frequently. The exact cause of colic is often unknown, though it could be due to an intestinal blockage, gas, or other digestive issue. Call a vet immediately if you suspect colic – they may perform exams, take bloodwork or give medication/fluids to relieve the obstruction or pain.


Internal parasites like strongyles, roundworms, and bots can infect Clydesdales and rob them of nutrients. Have a vet check manure samples twice a year and deworm your horse regularly based on their recommendation. Look for symptoms like dull coat, weight loss, and diarrhea which can indicate a parasite infection. An effective deworming program, good pasture management and manure cleanup can help control parasites.

With diligent health care and monitoring, Clydesdales can live long, healthy and active lives. Building a good relationship with an equine vet and farrier will help keep your gentle giant happy and sound for years to come.

Costs of Owning and Maintaining a Clydesdale Horse

Owning a Clydesdale horse is not cheap. These gentle giants require a major financial commitment to care for properly.

Costs of Owning and Maintaining a Clydesdale Horse

ExpenseAverage Cost
Initial Purchase Price$5,000 to $15,000
Monthly Feed$200 to $500
Farrier Visits (Every 6-8 weeks)$200 to $500
Annual Veterinary Care$200 to $500
Emergency Healthcare$500 to $5,000 or more

Initial Purchase Price

A registered Clydesdale horse typically ranges from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on factors like age, breeding, and quality. Show-quality Clydesdales with a strong pedigree can cost $25,000 or more. While the initial purchase price may be high, the ongoing costs of feeding and housing are also substantial.

Housing Requirements

Clydesdales require a large, sturdy stall and access to a spacious paddock or pasture. Plan on at least a 12×12 foot stall and a half-acre of turnout space per horse. You’ll need a well-built barn or stable to provide shelter. Bedding, such as wood shavings, straw, or sawdust also need to be purchased and replaced regularly.

Feed Requirements

An adult Clydesdale can eat up to 20-30 pounds of hay and 10 pounds of grain per day. You’ll need to provide access to fresh, high-quality hay or grass as well as fortified grain to meet a Clydesdale’s nutritional needs. This can cost $200-$500 per month in feed alone. You’ll also need to supply fresh, clean water every day, especially in hot weather.

Farrier and Veterinary Care

Clydesdales require regular hoof trimming and shoeing every 6 to 8 weeks, which can cost $200-$500 each visit. Annual medical exams, vaccinations, and dental work are also necessary, ranging from $200-$500 per year. In the event of illness or injury, vet care and medication can cost $500-$5,000 or more.

While Clydesdales are rewarding companions, the significant costs required to properly house, feed, and care for these gentle giants mean ownership is out of reach for most. If you have the means and commitment to provide everything these magnificent animals need to live comfortably and thrive, a Clydesdale can make a wonderful lifelong friend. But go into ownership with your eyes open—this is not a cheap proposition!

Where to Buy or Adopt a Clydesdale Horse

So you’ve decided you want to add a gentle giant Clydesdale to your farm or ranch. Excellent choice! Now comes the task of finding a reputable breeder or adoption center.

Private Clydesdale Breeders

Many private breeders across the U.S. and Canada specialize in raising and selling Clydesdale horses. Search online for “Clydesdale horse breeders” along with your location to find nearby options. Expect to pay between $3,000 to $10,000 or more for a healthy, registered Clydesdale from a private breeder, depending on factors like age, breeding, and quality. Always visit the farm in person to view the conditions the horses are kept in and check references from previous buyers.

Clydesdale Rescue Organizations

If buying from a breeder is out of your budget or you want to adopt, search for “Clydesdale horse rescue” or “equine rescue” along with your location. Groups like the Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A. maintain a rescue network to help place Clydesdales in need of a new home. Adoption fees typically range from $500 to $3,000, including initial veterinary care. You’ll still need to cover ongoing costs like feed, farrier services, and medical care. The reward of giving a horse in need a loving home can make the investment worthwhile.

Livestock Auctions

Some Clydesdales end up at local livestock auctions, where you may be able to get a good deal. However, you won’t know the horse’s history or health background, so you’ll want an experienced horse person with you to properly evaluate the animal before bidding. Be very cautious buying at auctions, as some horses may have undisclosed medical or behavioral issues.

The most important things are finding a Clydesdale from a reputable source and making sure you can properly care for these gentle giants for the long term. Do your research, set a budget, visit places in person when possible, and make sure you have quality shelter, feed, farrier services, and veterinary care lined up before bringing your new Clydesdale home. These magnificent horses deserve owners who will keep them healthy and happy for life.

Training and Riding Tips for Clydesdales

Clydesdale Horse

Once you’ve brought your Clydesdale home, it’s time to start training and riding. These gentle giants are intelligent and aim to please, but require patience and consistency due to their size.

As with any horse, start by desensitizing and ground work. Get your Clydesdale accustomed to a saddle, bridle, and other equipment by gently introducing each item. Take time grooming and leading your horse to establish trust and bonding. When they seem comfortable with all equipment, you can start saddling and bridling for short periods before riding.

When riding, keep sessions short, around 15-20 minutes. Clydesdales have a smooth gait, but their size can make long rides tiring for new riders. Focus on basic skills like stopping, turning and changing direction or speed. Provide clear commands and give your horse plenty of praise and rewards like treats or play to positively reinforce good behavior.

Consider starting with a well-trained schoolmaster Clydesdale if you’re new to riding draft horses. An experienced horse can help build your confidence as you get accustomed to their size. Look for riding stables or breeders in your area that offer lessons or “rent-a-draft” programs. Private or group lessons with a qualified instructor are invaluable for learning how to properly handle and ride Clydesdales.

Some other tips for riding Clydesdales:

  • Use a saddle made for draft horses, with a wider tree and seat. A saddle that doesn’t fit properly can cause pain and bad behavior.
  • Invest in a sturdy bridle, reins and bit designed for draft horses. Their heads and mouths are larger, so equipment sized for light riding horses won’t work.
  • Mount and dismount carefully. Because of their height, use a mounting block or fence to get on and off. Have someone hold and steady your horse if possible.
  • Ride with confidence. Clydesdales can sense nervousness, so remain calm and self-assured. Take your time and enjoy riding these gentle giants!

With training, patience and consistency you’ll soon form a trusting partnership with your Clydesdale. Follow these tips to have many happy trails together!


So there you have it! Clydesdales are gentle giants with a rich history and special care needs. While they require more space, feed, and upfront costs than a regular riding horse, their sweet temperament and flashy presence can make it all worthwhile. If you have the time, resources, and passion for this breed, owning a Clydesdale could be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Just be sure to do your homework first on their housing, nutrition, exercise, health care, and training needs. With the right preparation, you’ll be ready to enjoy many wonderful years with these magnificent horses. Thanks for reading and learning more about the Clydesdale breed – maybe someday you’ll be lucky enough to own one of these beautiful beasts!

Recent Posts


How much do Clydesdale horses cost?

Clydesdale horses can cost between $5,000 to $15,000, depending on factors like age, breeding, and quality.

What is the history of the Clydesdale horse?

The Clydesdale horse originated in Scotland, bred by farmers in the 18th century for hauling heavy loads and plowing fields.

Are Clydesdales high maintenance?

Clydesdales can be considered high maintenance due to their large size, requiring spacious stalls, regular exercise, and specialized care.

How do you take care of a Clydesdale horse?

To care for a Clydesdale, provide a spacious stall, regular exercise, high-quality feed, routine veterinary care, and proper hoof maintenance.

How much food does a Clydesdale need?

A Clydesdale typically needs 20-30 pounds of hay and 10 pounds of grain per day to maintain its health and body condition.

How much does a Clydesdale eat?

On average, a Clydesdale horse eats between 20-30 pounds of hay and 10 pounds of grain daily to meet its nutritional needs.

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