A Brief History of the Ardennes Horse
by Mrs J.C. Hewitt
|The Ardennes type draught horse
is the basic root of all the Heavy Draught breeds that exist today. As the Arab is to the
light horse, the Ardennes is to the heavy. As a direct descendent of the Solutrian horse
(50,000 BC) that roamed the basins of the Rhone, Saone and Meuse in great numbers during
the Palaeolithic period and soon spread to cover the whole geographical Ardennes region,
it is true cold-blooded horse. There is evidence to show that the horse stood no more than
15hh at this time. They have been around relatively unchanged since the last ice-age
15,000 years ago.
The needs of successive wars
oscillating across Europe have, as much as the land and the climate, conditioned the
evolution of this horse. There is much documented evidence to illustrate this.
|Julius Caesar (100 - 44 BC)
declares in his commentaries that "the horses of the second Belgium" are
"rustic, hard and tireless" and he recommended their use "in heavy cavalry
work". All the Roman emperors after him used the breed to good effect.
Geoffrey of Boullion a nobleman from a town of that name in
southern modern day Belgium, in the heart of the Ardennes, rode off to the Levant on
crusade in 1096 on his Ardennes stallion. The return of men to Europe on Arab horses
marked the introduction of Arabian blood to European horses. The knights of the Middle
Ages found the sturdy, compact good tempered horses of the Ardennes, strong and tireless
chargers, easily carry the weight of men in full armour into battle.
The Ardennes being strong enough to carry a man in full armour made wonderful chargers
The Ardennes are wonderfully good tempered - and gentle!!
|Moving through into the 17th and 18th centuries the royal armies obtained a great number of remounts for their cavalry from the Ardennes region. These horses were small but noted for their hardiness, sobriety and endurance. The reports and memoirs of the military men of the day mention the Ardennes as being "the main artisan of rapid displacement" (such as that of the artillery, munitions and fighting corps) exacted by the strategy of the emperor. It is said that Napoleon owed his return to Niemen to his Ardennes cavalry. Having withstood the cold and privations that had destroyed over 10,00 horses, they were harnessed to the supply corps wagons to pull them through axle deep mud and snow, on his return from his Russian campaign.|
into modern times the Ardennes was heavily involved in both world wars and the horses of
the region did their bit. Many thousands were used pulling supply vehicles, harnessing
their strength and docility. They could work through the deep mud unlike motor vehicles.
When killed or mortally they provided much needed food for the troops, unlike the twisted
remains of their metallic counterparts.
Published by Field Galleries - the web site of Equine Artist Sue Wingate MA RCA
|Copyright © Sue Wingate 1998|