How to Care for a Belgian Horse

Draft horses need special care.
Draft horses need special care. (Image: horses image by Earl Robbins from

Whether they are working in the fields or just giving rides to the grandchildren, Belgian horses require special care to keep them happy and healthy. These large draft horses have long been used to pull plows, drag timber and do other heavy work, but Belgians have also made a name for themselves in many other equine endeavors, including dressage, pleasure riding and even jumping. With the right care, Belgian horses can excel at just about any equestrian sport.

Things You'll Need

  • Barn or run-in shed
  • Water troughs
  • Hay
  • Horse feed
  • Proper fencing
  • Saddle

Make sure your Belgian has a quality shelter. If that shelter is a barn, the stalls should be a minimum of 14-feet-by-14-feet. Belgians are large horses, and they need plenty of room to lie down and move around. Belgians and other draft horses can become cast, or stuck, in a smaller stall. A Belgian can be kept in a run-in shed, but the shed needs to be large enough to accommodate the animal's size.

Place several water troughs around the horse's enclosure, and be sure that they are kept clean and topped off on a daily basis. Draft breeds like the Belgian can drink up to 20 gallons of water a day, so it is essential to fill the water troughs frequently.

Provide your Belgian horse with plenty of fresh forage in the form of quality hay. Working Belgians can benefit from the higher energy and calorie levels of alfalfa hay, while those used for casual riding can be given less costly hay such as timothy and orchard grass. But no matter what type of hay you feed, it is important to inspect the forage carefully. Good hay will have a fresh smell, with no signs of mold or moisture.

Choose grain according to how your Belgian horse is used. Horses that perform strenuous tasks such as farm work need a feed with a higher protein content---look for a protein content of at least 14 percent. Horses who do lighter work such as trail riding will do fine on a feed with a protein content of 10 to 12 percent. Protein content will be listed on each bag of feed, so it is important to read the labels.

Find a farrier who has experience shoeing draft horses. The Belgian and other draft horses need special shoes due to their large size, along with a farrier who understands their special needs.

Choose a fence that is both strong and high. Belgian horses can be at least a foot taller than the average horse, so a high fence is essential. Belgians are not known for their jumping ability, but they can in fact jump a fence that is too low. Make sure that the fence is at least 5 to 6 feet high. Also make sure that the fence is sturdy, with the posts put in the ground and set with concrete. Many horses will lean on a fence to reach grass on the other side. For most breeds this would not be a problem, but with a horse as heavy and powerful as a Belgian it can be.

Select a saddle designed specifically for draft horses. Belgians have a much larger frame than smaller horses, and the bars in the saddle will need to be wide enough to fit the horse's back properly.

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