The Clydesdale Horse Society was established in 1877, approximately 150 years after the breed first evolved. As the name suggests, the breed’s roots are in the hinterland of the River Clyde in the county of Lanarkshire. It is said that the smaller native mares were mated to some splendid Flemish stallions belonging to the Duke of Hamilton and a larger horse capable of heavy draught work resulted. These horses were in great demand, and at the annual sales in Lanark many hundreds of horses changed hands not just to local buyers. The Clydesdale Horse became popular in the north of England and the north of Ireland, as well as across the rest of Scotland. Given their capabilities, in addition to their pivotal role in the farming communities, the horses were used in industry as well as for carting within major cities. The fame of the horses also spread across the world, with many being exported by sea to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Once the Society was formed in 1877, the gentlemen in charge began to make a record of the breeding of the horses to be contained within a stud book. The first retrospective book appeared in 1878 and since then a stud book has been produced almost every year, with the exception of the time the popularity and necessity of such

horses took a dip when mechanism took over. At that time many breeders just gave up and the breed was almost at extinction levels. However some breeders kept going, out of sentimentality rather than expecting a return on the animals, and gradually the popularity of these lovely horses has grown again. However the breed is still recognized rare breed, designated so by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and because of this status, the Clydesdale Horse Society receives an annual grant from the Horserace Betting Levy Board, this being engineered to improve the breed essentially by way of stallion premium schemes.

As well as being used for showing, the Clydesdale is also to be seen pulling drays, taking brides to church and increasingly as a riding horse. This latter occupation has brought the breed to the notice of a whole new ‘audience’ both in the UK and in Europe.

In showing, a judge will look at a number of key points on the horse. When moving, they should lift their feet cleanly off the ground so that someone standing behind it can see the inside of every shoe. The hind legs should be close together, with the points of the hocks turning inwards rather than straight, pasterns should be long and set at an angle from the hoofhead to the fetlock, and the neck should be well arched ascending from an oblique shoulder with high withers. The horses should be broad in front and they should have a good deep body. Purists prefer horses of good solid colour, with four white legs to above the knees and hocks, with a broad white blaze on the face. However increasingly the

horses have more white on their bodies, with many being a roan colour, where white hair blends with the basic colour to produce a marbled effect. The judges will also be looking for quality, style and fluidity of movement and in the case of the females, femininity is a requisite.