About Estonian Draft Horses
Estonian horses (also known as Estonian native, Estonian
Klepper, or natively Eesti hobune) are a relatively small horse. The Estonian
horse has influenced several Baltic horse breeds, including Tori horses. They
are strong and are resistant against sickness.
Estonian Horses are descended from the primitive forest
horses that lived in Northern Europe more than 5,000 years ago, and are
considered the progenitor of other breeds such as the North Swedish Horse and
the Dole Gudbrandsdal. They have retained its qualities and looks due to little
influence by other horse breeds. However, it is believed that they became mixed
with the now extinct Oland Horse, as large numbers of Oland Horses were
exported to Estonia at one point. Tests authorised by associations dedicated to
the Oland Horse have revealed that these two breeds have a genetically similar
They became popular throughout the Baltic countries for
their strength and suitability for farm work. Many were sold to Russians as
early as the 14th and 15th centuries. They were also imported to Sweden for
military use. Development of agriculture resulted in good working horses
becoming even more desirable, and many Estonian Horses were crossbred with
heavier draft horses to create stronger animals.
The first documents concerning attempts to improve the
Estonian Horse are from the founding of the Tori stud in 1856. The breed was
then crossbred with lighter working horse and riding horse breeds. The best
offspring resulting from these attempts became the foundation of the Tori
horse. One of the most successful sires, Vansikasa, was foaled at the stud. He
became well known for his exceptional strength, pulling skill and
indomitability, and one of his daughters was the founding mare of the Tori
Horse. Even the Vyatka horse was influenced by the Estonian Horse.
After the First World War a breeding program was created to
help preserve the breed whose numbers had fallen quite a lot during the war.
"Estonian Native Horse Breeders Society" and an Estonian Horse
studbook were founded in 1921. By 1937, only 13 stallions had been used, and
the Estonian horse was becoming inbred due to the scarcity of strains. This led
to horses reaching maturity later, and slowed down the development of the
breed. With the mechanisation of transport and agriculture, horses became obsolete
and the breed nearly died out, excluding the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa.
With a few animals left on the mainland, the breed was eventually revived with
the help of a new breeding program, and the breed's population has now reached
circa 1000 animals in Estonia. The breed has recently been crossbred with
Finnhorses to enhance its size, but it should be noted that both of these
breeds are descended from the Forest Horse.
In 1992 the association started anew after having been down
for the 1980s. In 2000, an association was founded to preserve the breed. In
2005, 25 animals of the breed were imported to Sweden to recreate the
genetically closely related, extinct Oland Horse. The new Öland horse is not
called that, however, but the "Estonian Bush Pony".
They are rather small, measuring 14.3 hands (59 inches, 150
cm) at the withers. It is strong, yet not heavily built. The most common
colorations are black, bay, chestnut, and grey.The breed is a tireless and
powerful puller, and is well suited to agricultural work with its easy
temperament. This has contributed for the breed's use as a children's riding
horse, a major reason for why the breed was able to survive.
Most breeders let their herds live under natural pasture
conditions except during wintertime, and the breed lives well on forage alone.
This has made the breed healthy and durable with hard feet. Their appearance is
not exceptional. The head is small with straight profile and primitive facial
features. The breed is willing and easy to handle, inexpensive to keep, and
often long-lived. The breed is nowadays used for tourist rides. Finland has a
breed association for the Estonian Horse.