This description kindly supplied by Colin Green, Past President of the CBHS
The pure bred Cleveland Bay is a very intelligent horse with a sensible temperament. They possess a strong character and like to know and understand clearly what is expected of them and once they have confidence in their trainer, who needs to be patient and kind, they will try their utmost. They can be very willing horses, extremely friendly, honest and knowing.
Characteristically they are horses of great substance showing width and depth in the body, powerful quarters, and short limbs but possessing plenty of bone with up to 101/2 inches below the knee. An outstanding feature of the Breed is their strong, hard feet often described as ‘blue feet’. They are tall with a height range from 15.3hh to over 17hh although traditionally their height standard has been 16 to 16.2hh. They have a bold head, kind expression and calm but expressive eye which rarely shows white. Long, tactile ears are also a distinguishing feature of the pure breed. This breed is defined by colour, which always has to be bay. All ranges of bay are acceptable but a rich, red bay has often been spoken of as being preferred. A small white star is permitted but white elsewhere on the pure bred will down grade a horse in the Stud Book register.
The movement of a Cleveland is neither high at the knee nor excessively reaching at the front although the hind quarters when engaged, can display power and a huge length of stride. Their history first as agricultural horses and then as coaching horses determined their possession of great stamina. Historical documents held in the Cleveland Bay Horse Society archives vouch for enormous feats of endurance over great distances whilst carrying heavy loads and setting staggering records for their time.
It is the combination of all these qualities in just one horse breed that has for centuries attracted the attention of horse breeders all over the world. Repeatedly the Cleveland has been in demand as an improver and restorer of other breeds that had lost some of their own similar original qualities. The Cleveland was able to supply the bone, substance and temperament so that now it is possible to say that Cleveland blood has been incorporated into very many European and other breeds even further afield.
Really, the records do not exist that would allow the tracing of the true influence of this breed but one often hears people in all continents say, having seen a pure bred Cleveland for the first time, that they can now see the Cleveland in their own horse.
It is precisely because the Cleveland Bay Horse Society has assiduously maintained the purity of entries into the Stud Book for nearly 120 years, that has ensured that the characteristics of the Breed have remained constant. It breeds true to type and when crossed with other breeds, can clearly and reliably define the qualities of the out come. Few other breeds can boast the purity and prepotency of their horses.
Cleveland Bay - A truly remarkable Breed