Thunder Hill Equine Drum Horses

How the Drum Horse Breed is Being Created

Traditionally the working Drum Horses are chosen based on temperament and other important factors as young adult horses. During the 1980’s a plan was developed to breed suitable horses so as to be able to have replacement horses easily at hand when needed. In 1986 a young three year old stallion of mixed Shire and coloured Cob breeding was chosen as part of the breeding program. This black Tobiano stallion was a son of Edingale Mascot, a World Champion Shire stallion and a coloured mare. His name was Galway Warrior. Galway Warrior was believed to have been trained as a working Drum Horse to determine the suitability of his temperament. The planned breeding program was short lived since there are fewer than ten working Drum Horses in Great Britian.

In April of 2002 Chew Mill Guinness a 1998 son of Galway Warrior was the first Drum Horse to be imported to North America. Galway Warrior himself was the second Drum Horse to be imported in June of 2002. These two stallions are the starting inspiration for the continuing development of the Drum Horse as a breed and not only a job description.

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There are currently three registries for Drum Horses in North America, first The Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse Association (GCDHA),, founded in 2002; second the International Drum Horse Association (IDHA),, founded in 2006 originally as the American Drum Horse Association; and third The Gypsy Horse Association,, which started allowing Drum Horse registration in 2010. It is our hope that eventually all Drum Horse registries will combine into one.

The GCDHA states: “Inspired by some of the recent working Drum Horses of the British Cavalry, the GCDHA believes the development of the Drum Horse as a breed, to be a worthy aspiration, in and of itself. A breed inspired by great warhorses with a beauty, stature and dignity not found in any other existing breed…the Drum Horse has captured the imagination with his stunning good looks and stately air. Though it has some similarities to the Gypsy Cob, the Drum Horse stands at least 16HH and utilizes the bloodlines of the Clydesdales, Shires, Friesians, and Gypsy Cob. It is a heavy horse, of any colour or pattern, with lovely feather and exceptional disposition. Developed as a heavy riding horse the Drum Horse is suited for low level dressage, eventing, hunting, saddle seat, trail, pleasure, and of course, makes an excellent driving horse.” The GCDHA has breed inspections and stallion licensing similar to the Friesian registry.

The IDHA believes “the purpose of the Drum Horse as a breed is to develop a new Heavy Horse Breed that utilizes the best examples of Shire, Clydesdale and Gypsy Cob breeds, while focusing on breeding for athleticism, agility, and performance ability for all ridden disciplines… The overall impression of the Drum Horse should be one of an elegant heavy horse of great strength and agility. The Drum Horse is a heavy riding horse and should therefore display the athleticism to allow for competitiveness in all ridden and driven disciplines. The Drum Horse should be a large, well-muscled horse of medium to heavy weight, with good quality bone, an athletic body, a kind expression, and abundant hair (including heavy “feather” on the legs). Drum Horses have a desired mature height of 16HH or taller. Currently the IDHA requires a registered Drum Horse to carry no less than 1/16 (6.25%) Gypsy Cob blood and no more than 15/16 (92.75%) of any of the other foundation breeds. As of 2015 the amount of Gypsy Cob blood is limited to a maximum of ½ (50%) for regular Drum Horse registration. Any horse registered after 2015 with more than 50% Gypsy Cob blood will be placed in the Foundation Drum Horse studbook. The minimum height requirement will also be enforced more strictly with horses not attaining a 16HH mature height being ineligible for “premium” status as a breeding animal. The IDHA has more information available about the breed standards on their website.

The Gypsy Horse Association allows registration of Drum Horses with 25% to 75% Gypsy blood and the remaining percentage to be of one of the other 3 foundation breeds. Drum Horses registered with another registry are automatically eligible for registration. There is no height requirement.

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Foundation Stock: Breed Information:

Clydesdale Horse

Clydesdale: The Clydesdale working Drum Horses currently used by The Household Cavalry are the inspiration for the Drum Horse as a breed. They are considered a full feathered breed with feather around the front of the hoof known as “spats” as well as on the rear of the cannon bone. The feather is required to reach the ground. Allowed colours for the Clydesdale are black, brown, bay and chestnut; roaning and Sabino belly spots are also allowed. A Clydesdale used as a Foundation breeding animal should meet all requirements of the physical breed standards for a Clydesdale. Height should be chosen with a consideration to enabling any offspring to reach the required 16HH Drum Horse requirement. Temperament should also be a key consideration when choosing a Clydesdale as a Foundation animal.

Shire Horse

Shire: The Shire horse is a breed similar to the Clydesdale. They are also a full feathered breed. Allowed colours for the Shire are black, brown, bay and grey. Roaning is not allowed in a stallion but may be present in a mare; excessive white on the body is not allowed. A Shire used as a Foundation breeding animal should meet all requirements of the physical breed standards for a Shire. Height should also be chosen with the offspring’s mature height a consideration. Temperament is again an important consideration to ensure that the offspring have the wonderful calm, friendly personality the Drum Horse is known for.

The Lion King, 15.2HH

Traditional Coloured Cob: The Traditional Coloured Cob is often called a Gypsy Cob or Gypsy Vanner in North America and is currently known by many other names in Europe such as Tinker. In the United Kingdom this small "landrace" horse has been known for many years and it is only a result of romanticized tales and reinterpreted stories based on a verbal pedigree history that has caused the recent confusion. It should be noted that the Clydesdale (as an example) had a verbal pedigree history for approximately 150 years prior to the first official Studbook in 1877. The “Trad” or Coloured Cob as it is generally known in the United Kingdom is thought to have many coloured Shire horses in its background as a result of the Shire Horse Studbook, losing interest in, and finally disallowing coloured Shires to be registered by the 1950’s. These discarded coloured Shires were bought by many of the various Traveller/Gypsy/Romany peoples in the United Kingdom. This background as well as many of the Coloured Cobs other attributes make it an ideal element to reintroduce colour and flash to its larger cousins in the form of the Drum Horse. The Coloured Cob has, as its name implies, a cob body structure with a stout build and strong bones. Ideally it has a profuse double mane and tail, and feather that starts at the knee or hock on the front of the cannon bone as well as the rear. The Coloured Cob comes in any colour or spotting pattern with the black and white Tobiano pattern being the most common historically. The Coloured Cob is known for its feathering and trademark temperament. As the Coloured Cob is the smaller parent of a F1 (first generation) Drum Horse it should be 15HH or taller for its offspring to be able to reach the 16HH requirement of all Drum Horse Registries. The Coloured Cob should meet all the requirements for the physical breed standards of any one of the current Registries.

Friesian Horse

Friesian: The Friesian horse is a stunning Baroque style horse with a long mane and tail. The Friesian has partial feathering which does not cover the front of the hoof in most instances. The breed standard states: “Horses should display feathering that is age appropriate. Lack of feathering shall not be penalized.” The ideal Friesian height is 15.3HH. Friesians are mostly black with a few red chestnuts appearing that shall be penalized accordingly. The GCDHA and The Gypsy Horse Association allow Friesians to be used as Foundation Drum Horses, the IDHA does not.

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Photo from the Vines family

To create the Drum Horse breed, we are in reality reversing the creation of the Traditional Cob. The Traditional Coloured Cob was thought to have been created by crossing the discarded coloured Shires with local ponies. The breeders of Drum Horses are reversing the process and breeding the Traditional Cob back to Shire and Clydesdale horses to increase the size yet keep the colour and feather. Because the goal is to create a heavy riding horse over 16HH the general practice has developed to breed a Cob stallion to a Shire or Clydesdale mare on the first cross. All Drum Horse registries accept Drum Horses of any colour to ensure that breeders are breeding for conformation, temperament and feather first and not just colour.

Horse Feather

Breeding for feather is more difficult that it seems, feather is a recessive trait that will be lost if one of the breeding animals does not have feather. It will then take many generations to bring it back to a level that is considered full feather. When selecting breeding stock heavily feathered stallions must be chosen to use with well feathered mares because two horses with less than ideal feather will never produce a horse with good to exceptional feather.

All horses selected for breeding must have hair completely around the front of the hoof that touches the ground at all points to be considered a feathered horse. More information on feather can be found in our grooming section.

Thunder Hill Equine has made the decision to use the bloodlines of the Clydesdale, Shire, and Traditional Coloured Cob but not the Friesian to ensure that all foals will be eligible for registration in any of the existing Studbooks. At this time we are only registering horses with the IDHA as we feel that a registry that promotes only one breed of horse suits our own concept of breeding best. We strive to breed Drum Horses that can excel in riding, driving, sport, and utility disciplines as well as being outstanding family horses.

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