Friday, December 16, 2016

How to Dress a Draft Horse

A very common question I am asked is brands for specific pieces of tack that Klein has.  There is no black and white answer.  Everything is, it depends.  I can tell you what brands of items I use on Klein, however there is absolutely no one size or one brand fits all when it comes to big horses.  For example, Klein is a 17hh Percheron, yet draft sized halters and bridles are slightly too big because she has such a refined head.

Trial and error is your friend with big horses.  Find a brand that works well on them and stock up.  I see so many posts on social media "ISO of 7" bit" or "ISO of 100 inch blanket."  Your first step would be to MEASURE your horse.  Just because they are big, doesn't mean that they need giant tack, believe it or not.  Also, not all drafts need draft specific tack, and honestly, stay away from it because most draft specific riding tack (I said most, not all) is extremely poor quality.  Here is an example:

A "draft horse saddle" *barf*

So many people just go straight to a search for "Draft Tack" when they want to put their draft under saddle.  I started to fall in that trap in the first months of owning Klein because I wasn't really familiar with what all is out there.  That was almost ten years ago, I've learned a lot since then in this department.

Klein has one piece of tack that is actually made for bigger horses, and that is her jumping saddle, a Duett Presto.  However, when we're done with the Presto, I don't think I'll get another Duett.  I think I'll be looking at a CWD.  I have had her fitted by a CWD rep before.  They had no problems fitting her and had plenty of options for us.  She also has had a Voltaire on before and it was fine.  Her dressage saddle is nothing more than a Wintec Isabell.  It has the XW gullet in it, and fits us both well so why fix something that isn't broken?  Same idea with the Presto, it fits us, and it's really comfortable, so I will keep it until I have an actual reason to buy a new jumping saddle.

She's normal sizes in saddle pads.  Her half pad is a Mattes shimable pad and it fits fine.

Klein wears a Micklem bridle for everything.  It's their largest size, "large horse", and no she is not on the last buckles of any part of that bridle.  Before that she wore a Bobby's bridle, also not a draft specific brand.

She wears breast collars in Oversize (OS) aka Warmblood (WB).  Brands that fit will vary.

Boots have been a pain and we are very limited but I have found something that works and bought multiple pairs.  Woof Double Locking brushing boots are what works best for her.  She is an L in the front and XL in the rear.  Polo wraps, she can wear horse size polo wraps no problem.  The standard 9' length has never been an issue.  Standard no bows and even Back on Track Quick Wraps fit her as well.  Keep in mind I keep her feather trimmed too though.

 Back on Track Quick Wraps

Blankets, Klein is an 84-86, depending on the brand.  Big Fella blankets are popular among the draft community because they are billed as draft blankets with a draft specific wide cut.  I bought one, and the fit on Klein sucked.  The length overall was fine, but the length of the blanket on the sides was short and she's only 17hh, she's not a big draft by any means.  What does work?  Amigo XL.  Klein and Wes both have Amigo XLs.  Wes is a 90 and he is 18hh.  The cut and fit are GREAT on the
 Amigo XL!

 LOVE the Amigo XLs for drafts!

Back on Track Quarter Sheet.

Back on Track Mesh sheet

Bits, Klein is a 6" in anything with a solid mouthpiece and a 6.5" in anything with a broken mouthpiece.  Those can be a bit challenging to find, but they are out there!  My personal favorite site to find anything you are looking for in bigger sizes is this place: Yes, it is from England, but the shipping isn't that much more.  They even have a trial program with their bits and the program allows overseas shipping.  Shipping doesn't take as long as you might think either.

If you really are against dealing with overseas shipping, Draft Tack is actually probably the best source of variety in the U.S. as far as bits in size 6" and larger.  You can find them here, the menu is on the left for different styles:

Girths, a lot of people fall victim to looking for a "draft girth" on this one too.  Measure your horse.  Find a girth you like or a style of girth you like and spend some time researching if they exist in the size you need.  Klein has all Total Saddle Fit Girths.  She isn't even in the largest sizes they make.

Her TSF girth for her jumping saddle.

I recently read some rant on a Facebook page full of horse people from a person that had just bought a full draft and was on her soapbox about not wanting to pay more for tack.  This isn't always the case, but with some items, it is because there is not a lot of demand for them in the sizes we are looking for.  You have to pay to play.  Don't get the horse if you are not willing to buy the appropriate tack.  She was throwing a fit about paying over $100 for a bit.  I guess she's not familiar with KK or Myler.  If you want quality things, you pay for it.  If you want quality things (and you should) for your big horse, you're definitely going to pay for it.


  1. I had a Han/TB gelding that matured at 18.2. Luckily he had a TB barrel and wasn't too massive that way (esp as I'm short), but he did have the Big Warmblood head, broad back, long relatively thick (but not drafty) legs...and TB withers. But you're exactly right. Knowing exact sizes and just looking for things specifically works wonders. Sometimes, especially for bits as in 2000-2008ish larger dressage bits were quite hard to come by, I would have to go straight to the manufacturer. They often offered the sizes I needed, but few stores would stock them so they didn't have much of a digital footprint for search engines to find. His TB withers was our biggest problem for tack. We went through 3 jumping saddles due to his fit changing, yet our dressage saddle fit right up until his teens. And while he was very tall, we were never at the maximum size for anything other than bits for upper levels. I had the great fortune of winning a WB Micklem bridle, and while I only got to ride him in it once before I lost him (very long bout of illnesses), it was several holes from being maxed out.

    1. Wow, sounds about as difficult as Klein is to find stuff for!

  2. Thanks for this! I have a clyde X and have learned a lot of the same things as you. He has a giant head but I have found lots of other horse-sized items for him :) I ride him in a todd minikus verhan for jumping (he's a very similar build to Klein) - might be worth a try as an alternative - although not as nice as a CWD :P

    1. You're welcome! I'm always up for trying new stuff too, if I can find one, I will definitely give it a try! I am having a fitter out soon just to evaluate the fit on her jumping saddle before we get started with a heavy workload and I'll see if she happens to have one around. Thanks!

  3. Houston wasn't a draft but I have found that there are a lot of brands that OS was huge and definitely would have fit some drafts.
    Like you said there doesn't seem to be one cut and dry for any of our horses!

    Also CWD is awesome. I have had mine about 2.5 years now and I really love it. It was made for Houston but seems to suit Annie very well with the appropriate pad. :)

    1. It's pretty much as bad as clothes for people! One size in one brand doesn't mean the same size in another brand will fit as nicely!

  4. My barn has small and large drafts, draft crosses, and german warmbloods. A lot of the tack is interchangeable between them. And the funny part? The horse that requires the widest gullet, is the 15hh pure bred Arabian.

    1. Ha! I believe that! Klein's jump saddle fits on Mochi, and she's 14hh. I was having my fitter out before we left Georgia and was having her tell me what would be a good fit for Mochi for a jumping saddle and she looks at Klein's jumping saddle and said "What's wrong with that??" I was like, what? She said to grab it and put it on and I was shocked to see it actually fit.


  5. nice this blog.
    You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. I’m looking to reading your next post.


  6. Thanks for giving such a great information about horse products
    Your products are really good to use
    I'm very crazy about horses
    keep doing well
    tack bits suppliers