American Drum Horse Standard

The Drum Horse is a combination of any of the following breeds: Shire, Clydesdale, and Gypsy Horse, where no single breed listed above exceeds 87% (7/8) of the total make-up and the percentage of Gypsy Horse blood does not fall below 12.5% (1/8). [Note: starting in 2015, the % of Gypsy breeding cannot exceed 50%. Horses foaled after 2015 with more than 50% Gypsy breeding will be placed in the Foundation Book].

Purpose of the Breed

The purpose of the Drum Horse as a breed is to develop a new Heavy Horse breed that utilizes the best examples of the Shire, Clydesdale, and Gypsy Cob breeds, while focusing on breeding for athleticism, agility, and performance ability for all ridden disciplines. The inspiration for the Drum Horse is the working horses still found carrying riders and heavy kettledrums in the Queen of England’s cavalry.

Breed Standard

General Appearance

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 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).


The Drum Horse should be a large, athletic animal capable of excelling in a variety of equine disciplines. To achieve this goal members are encouraged to select breeding stock of a size that will help ensure their Drum Horses will reach the desired mature height of 16 hands or taller.


The American Drum Horse should display good character and be a willing and sensible partner.


Drum Horses may have any base color, and may be solid or colored. There is no preference given to colored horses over solid colored horses.


Mane and tail should be natural and abundant. Feather is a required characteristic of a Drum Horse. Feathering should preferably begin above the fetlock joints, and start at the back of the knee and hocks, as well as run down the leg to cover the entire hoof. Feather should be silky and soft, and may be either straight or curly. Trimming of the mane, tail, and feather is not desired, unless required for a discipline in which the horse in question competes. Clipping or trimming of bridle paths, belly hair, jaw and ear hair is permissible and up to each individual owner/breeder. Docking of tails is not permitted (Docking rule applies ONLY to foals born in the United States and horses already registered with the IDHA.


The ideal Drum Horse should move naturally, with forward impulsion and presence, during all three gaits:
Walk: Horse should walk flat with a straight four-beat, ground-covering gait. Stride should be consistent and balanced.
Trot: The trot should be coordinated, straight, and balanced. There should be two distinct beats in which front and hind legs are moving diagonally. Action at the knees may be snappy and naturally animated, or regular and extended. The Drum Horse should use his hind end well, and hocks should be powerful and work close together.
Canter: The canter should be a fluid three-beat gait, exhibiting balance, cadence and strong use of the horse’s hindquarters.


The head should be attractive and in proportion to the body. The forehead and poll should be wide, but not so wide as to lose the appearance of overall proportion to the length of the head. The muzzle and jaw should be square, and tie in cleanly to the rest of the head. The upper and lower lip should meet, and the horse’s bite should be even. The ears should be attractive and in proportion with the head, and carried alertly. The eyes should appear expressive and kind, and should be an appropriate size in relation to the horse’s head. Eyes may be any color. Both convex and straight profiles are acceptable, given they are appropriate for the horse’s body type.


The neck should be long, well muscled, and in proportion to the horse’s frame. Throat latch should be clean, allowing for good flexion at the poll. The length of the neck should be well proportioned in comparison to the length of the back, and should tie in smoothly at the shoulder and withers. Stallions may exhibit a masculine crest in proper relationship to the size and thickness of neck. Mares should have a more refined, feminine head and neck.


The chest should be deep and as broad as the shoulders, balanced in appearance compared to the rest of the body.


The shoulders should be set far enough apart to allow for each front leg to be centered under each point of the shoulder. Shoulders should be level and in balance with each other. The slope of the shoulder and the slope of the pastern should ideally be the same angle (as close to a 45-50 degree angle as possible).


Withers should be average in height (not too high or low) and well-defined, with a generous layer of muscle. They should be sloping, and preferably lie further back than the elbow, to allow for greater scope of motion in the forelimbs.

Back, Loins, and Croup

The back should be strong and in proportion with the horse’s overall frame and build. The back should tie in well with the loins, which should be wide and strong on the mature horse. The loins should lead fluently into the croup, which should have a slight downward slope. The croup should not be short or steep/pointed, nor overly round.


The barrel should be well-rounded with long, well set ribs. When viewed from the side, the bottom length of the horse’s barrel should be approximately the same length of the back, or slightly shorter.


When viewed from the front, front legs should be set parallel to each other and far enough apart to allow one hoof width in between. When viewed from the side, legs should be straight to the fetlock joint. The knee should be slightly wider than the leg itself, and “flat,” as opposed to “round,” in appearance. The cannon bone should be half of the length of the forearm. Pasterns should ideally be the same angle as the shoulders.

When viewed from behind, the back legs may be straight or display a “draft horse hock set,” but should not be cow hocked. When the horse is standing square and viewed from the side, the hind legs should be set directly under the hindquarters, with the point of the hock directly beneath the point of the buttock. The hock should be flat in appearance, and ideally a little higher than the front knee. The cannon bone in the rear leg should be slightly longer than in the front legs.


Hooves should be large enough for soundness, stability and weight-bearing, but not exaggerated in proportion to the horse’s build. Heels should be open, and hooves should be well shaped to provide long years of sound use.

Breeding for a Drum Horse

The Drum Horse must be a proven combination of any of the following breeds: Shire, Clydesdale, and Gypsy Horse, where no single breed listed above exceeds 87% (7/8) of the total make-up and the percentage of Gypsy Horse blood does not fall below 12.5% (1/8). Therefore the breeder must consider the bloodlines of any mare used to create Drum Horses and breed her to a stallion that will maintain the proper combination of breeds in the correct percentages. [Note: starting in 2015, the % of Gypsy breeding cannot exceed 50%. Horses foaled after 2015 with more than 50% Gypsy breeding will be placed in the Foundation Book].

For imported Drum Horses to be considered for registration, applicant must provide import documents. The horse in question must meet the IDHA’s Breed Standards as described above.

Effective for foals born in 1999 and later, all mares must have blood type/DNA information on file with the registry prior to registration of their foals.

Foundation Certification

At this time there are very few mature, breeding age Drum Horses in the United States. Therefore, Drum Horses may be created by the careful breeding of fullblood Clydesdale, Shire and Gypsy Horses. The horses approved for breeding Drum Horses are certified as Foundation Horses and will be recorded in their own studbook. In order to be certified as Foundation Breeding stock a horse must be approved and meet the standard of their breed.

The IDHA provides due diligence, including DNA testing when accepting a horse for registration in the IDHA books. We strive very hard to ensure that each horse qualifies for the book that it is registered in, and that it meets the rules and breed standards of the IDHA. Because this is a new breed and many of the horses in the pedigrees of the IDHA registered horses are not yet in the DNA database we cannot be absolute when stating a pedigree on a registration certificate. Therefore the IDHA cannot accept liability for any parentage, pedigree, or other registration information that it cannot verify.