Ardennes Horse: Breed Profile

Training, Grooming, and Care Tips

Ardennes horse grazing in a field

Vintervit / Getty Images 

With a history spanning centuries and an impressively powerful stature, the Ardennes Horse stands out in any stable. Though this breed is plenty powerful, it’s also docile and even-tempered, making it a pleasure to work with. The Ardennes is one of the heavier breeds that you’ll find, but it’s well-suited for navigating challenging hilly terrain, making it a fabulous working horse.

Ardennes Horse History and Origins

The Ardennes Horse has a rich history dating all the way back to Ancient Rome. Rumored to be descended from the horses that Julius Caesar prized for use in cavalry units, the breed originated on the Ardennes plains. During Ancient Roman times, the Ardennes was much smaller, standing closer to 14 hands. Napoleon crossed Arabians with these horses to increase their stamina, and Percherons and Thoroughbreds were later added to the breed, too.

It was in the 1800s that the breed started to resemble the Ardennes that we know today. Belgians were crossed with the Ardennes, creating a heavier conformation and transforming the breed into a heavy draft horse. The Ardennes served as an artillery horse, then was eventually sought after for its meat. A breed registry was established in 1929, and studbooks in France, Luxembourg, and Belgium now serve as modern-day breed registries.

Breed Overview

Weight: 1,500 to 2,200 pounds

Height: 15.3 to 16 hands

Body Type: Heavy draft

Best For: Farm work and driving

Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years

Ardennes Horse Size

The Ardennes is a powerful, heavy draft breed weighing between 1,500 and 2,200 pounds. Mares stand an average of 15.3 hands high, while stallions are slightly larger at 16 hands.

Ardennes mare and foal lying in a grass field
 Stanislava Karagyozova / Getty Images

Breeding and Uses

Because the Ardennes has such tremendous muscling, it is sought after for its meat in European countries like France, Germany, and Switzerland. The breed’s strength also makes it ideal for farming and forestry work. They’re often used for competitive driving, and thanks to their great temperaments, they can also be riding horses as well as therapeutic riding mounts.

While this breed is still refined and bred, the Ardennes has been introduced to other draft breeds. It contributed to the development of the Sokolsky horse and the Trait Du Nord. The Ardennes was imported into the United States through 2004.

Colors and Markings

Black and bay are the most common colors, though palomino, roan, chestnut, and gray goats do occur, too. Black coated Ardennes are very rare and are not eligible for registration.

A pair of Ardennes horses grazing in a field
 Vintervit / Getty Images
Roan Ardennes horse in a field
 CaroleCastelli / Getty Images

Unique Characteristics of the Ardennes Horse

The Ardennes has an impressive build and the breed is able to work in challenging, rough, hilly areas that other draft breeds would struggle with. This breed has a great disposition and is tremendously hardy.

Diet and Nutrition

Ardennes horses tend to be easy keepers, making them more affordable to keep than some other draft breeds. Their hardy nature means they can survive on lower quality forage. Because these horses are such easy keepers, owners may need to restrict their access to lush pasture, which can cause them to become overweight and possibly lead to founder.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

The Ardennes horse is hardy and not prone to any breed-specific health conditions. These horses tend to have an agreeable, calm temperament, so they’re often easy to work with.

Grooming

The Ardennes will benefit from frequent, thorough grooming. Currying can help to bring out a shine in the coat. This breed has significant feathering around its fetlocks and hooves which will require careful attention. If that feathering frequently gets wet and muddy, the horse can develop scratches, so grooming and even braiding that feathering may be necessary.

Pros
  • Powerful and hardy

  • Easy keeper

  • Great temperament

Cons
  • Rare in the United States

Champion and Celebrity Ardennes Horses

The Ardennes is a relatively uncommon breed, so there aren’t currently any widely-known champion or celebrity Ardennes horses.

Is the Ardennes Horse Right for You?

The Ardennes is large and powerful, so it’s an ideal mount for larger riders looking for a taller horse. It can also be used for driving and farming, and its hardy nature and easy-keeper characteristics make it relatively affordable to feed. Keep in mind that this breed is rare in the United States, so while it might have the characteristics that you’re looking for in a horse, buying one could be a challenge.

How to Adopt or Buy the Ardennes Horse

Few Ardennes Horses exist in the United States today. While a few breed enthusiasts have imported and bred the horse within this country, these aren’t horses that frequently come up for sale. If you plan to buy one, be prepared to pay a premium for a horse already within the country, or budget for the expenses of importing a horse.

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