The real gentle giant of the horse world, the Shire Horse is known for its docile temperament and hardy work ethic.
From its time in battlefield to its extensive experience in farmland, this hardworking horse is a well mannered and faithful companion.
The ancestry of the Shire Horse dates all the way back to the medieval era with well-known livestock breeder Robert Blackwell breeding the horse during the 1700s.
The very first recorded Shire Horse was the Packington Blind Horse in 1755 – this horses great ancestors came from the Old English Black Horse found in the middle of Britain, commonly known as the “shires”.
The Old English Black Horses were known for their sturdy weight and docile nature which made them the perfect companion to a knight. They were known as warhorses during the 1500s and would often go to war with fighting knights, carrying the heavy weapons to the battlefield.
The invention of gunpowder changed the fate of this horse as quicker, faster horses were needed. This ultimately led to the breeding of the horse with the Shire Horse being born.
The average Shire Horse stands 16.2-18 hands in height and weighs up to 2200 pounds. Typically you will find your horse to be brown, bay, black or grey in colour with plenty of white around the legs and hoof area.
The Shire Horse is well known for its broad forehead, large eyes and slightly roman nose. Its thick neck and muscular body is just one reason why this horse has been favoured for many years.
Caring for a Shire Horse
All horse breeds are different and it’s important to be aware that Shire Horses are big eaters and therefore should always have plenty of fresh hay and clean water available.
Due to their heavily feathered legs and feet, it is essential that grooming takes place regularly and that the conditions in which they live are kept sanitary as this will prevent the development of bacterial infections in the ankle which could prove fatal.
As Shire Horses are so large in stature it is vital that they have enough room to move around so you may need to invest in bigger stalls than with an average horse.
It is crucial that the Shire Horses receive a great deal of exercise too. The best way to do this is through training. Due to its docile and polite temperament, you’ll find training this horse breed a dream and can use Shires for much more than horse riding. Jumping, driving, dressage and trail riding are all activities you can enjoy with this breed.
Although it is quite rare, Shire Horses are prone to PSSM (Polysaccharide storage myopathy), also known as the “shivers”.
Often the symptoms of this can be managed with simple changes to the diet however in more extreme cases medical care of hoofs and legs may need to be sought.
Other than this, you should watch out for any other common equine health problems and ensure areas such as teeth, hooves, legs and eyes are inspected regularly for damage or illness. Vaccinations and veterinary examinations are also recommended.