It has taken over a century of careful selection to produced these sound, sensible horses with an innate jumping ability, great stamina, intelligence and gentle nature. Characteristic of the breed, and one of the elements required to pass inspection for registration, is that the "movement must be smooth and free without exaggeration and not heavy or ponderous". Increasingly both amateurs and professionals are turning to this breed for its soundness, ease of training and rideability, power, temperament and versatility.
The Irish Draught when crossed with a thoroughbred produces the world renowned Irish Sport Horse (Irish Hunter). This cross has representatives around the world winning both grand prix and gold medals. A good example Custom Made's recent Olympic Gold Medal with David O'Connor. In addition, because of the generous temperament and easy rideability, this is the perfect horse for the amateur whether competing in any discipline or simply riding at home. It is easy to imagine that this hardy breed with its exceptionally strong bone, stamina, and good sense is also much sought after by fox hunters.
Unfortunately, the same qualities that made the Irish Draught so perfect for cross-breeding with thoroughbred and other lighter breeds has also nearly caused the extinction of this breed. More often than not history tells us that the best mares were bred to thoroughbred stallions rather than to a full Irish Draught in order to produce the Irish Sport Horse which was continues to be in demand. Fortunately, it appears that the rapidly declining number of purebreds was recognized just in time to save the breed from extinction. However, the Irish Draught is still an endangered breed with less than 2000 purebreds registered worldwide with approximately 90 registered stallions.
To be convinced that these crosses can produce the lighter, faster, athletic horse such as Custom Made, Biko, Mill Pearl, and Cruising, it is necessary to dispel the thought that the purebred Irish Draught is related to the Shire, Clydesdale, or any other variety of draft horse. These are purely cold blooded horses. The Irish Draught purebred is already a mixture of These generations of lighter boned horses among which is the thoroughbred. The Encyclopedia of the Horse by Elwyn Hartley Edwards published by DK Publishing, Inc. lists the Irish Draught, not under cold blood draft horses, but rather under warm bloods.
The Irish Rover's sire, Kildalton Gold, who won the stallion class at the prestigious Royal Dublin Horse Show in both 1988 and 1989, tragically passed away in the spring of 2000. Fortunately years of careful, selective breeding has produced stallions such as "Kildalton Gold", and mares like The Irish Rover's dam, Knockavera Pride. His dam won the mare division in both 1982 and 1983 at the Royal Dublin Show for possessing the characteristics for which the breed has become renown. The legacy of these champion mares and stallions can be seen in the numerous sport horses being shown in a variety of disciplines both in the United States and in Europe.