The Amish and Their Horses
by Amish 101
Doyle Yoder photo
The horse and buggy often is the first thing people look for when entering Amish country. While there is no restriction on the horse breeds the Amish use, former standardbred racehorses are most commonly used for pulling buggies, and draft horses usually the heavy pulling and the work in the fields.
Standardbred - The standardbred mainly is bred for use in harness racing. While they have the ability to canter, they generally have been trained to trot or pace. Because a racing standardbred already has been broken to pull a cart, it is a perfect candidate for hitching to an Amish family's buggy. The standardbred is known for having an even temperament, which is important as Amish horses often share the roads with a lot of automobile and truck traffic.
American Saddlebred - The American saddlebred is another breed commonly used to pull a buggy or hack. This is a fairly sturdy breed, with a naturally flashy, knee-snapping gait. In addition to its flashy gaits, the American saddlebred has a reputation for having a good temperament and willingness to please their owner.
Draft Horses - A majority the Old Order Amish and all of the Swartzentruber Amish still do not use tractors or other machines in their fields. Instead, they rely on a draft horse or a team of draft horses to pull plows and other farm equipment. The most common draft-horse breeds are the Percheron and the Belgian draft horse. Both are powerful, hardworking, docile horses.
Contrary to some media reports and animal rights activists very few Amish mistreat their horses. As in all segments of society there are a few who give the rest a bad name. The majority of the Amish love their horses, some like they are a member of their family.