Enjoy the Belgian draft horses – our living cultural heritage – at Agriflanders

hThe cream of our Belgian horses will be shown at the Agriflanders in Ghent and will compete for the legendary title of National Champion.

Championship stallions and mares

With stallions it will be a titanic battle. Toppers entered and will compete against each other: Tor van de Kloosterhoeve, Hector van Grootveld van Vlaams-Brabant, Bob de ter Couterhove, Lord van de Boterhove, Jules du Canteleu, Matt van ‘t Langhof … For those who become champions It is eternal fame.

In the mares class, the series winners will compete against 4 mares entered directly for the championship, Rolinde van de Greens, Amelie van den Bender, Katrin van te Vallehoff and Gwendolyn van de Spurweg.

The Gwendoline will also be on display at the Royal Belgian Draft Horse Society (KMBT) stand. There she will be flanked by 2022 champion Melanie van Heet-Voldershoof and 15-year-old Los van Heet-Refferenhove. The latter demonstrates the longevity of our draft horses and the solid, sturdy legs that are strictly monitored during breeding.

Also sure is the breeders up-and-coming young force who is not yet championship-qualified, but is ready to take on the role. Young people also see how the contestants reproduce.

living cultural heritage

Draft horse culture has a long and glorious tradition. The Romans have already paid tribute to the horses of the Belgians. The Belgian Draft Horse constantly and dynamically adapts to a changing society, without losing its individuality. In the Middle Ages, it was a knight’s horse, and later it became a magnet not only for agriculture, but also for industry and transportation. It has pulled our economy down literally and figuratively. Today, the future of traction is mainly in entertainment.

If we look at ‘riding’ in Belgium in historical terms, we come to the surprising conclusion for the uninitiated that there are hardly more horses in Belgium today than there were in the heyday of the Belgian draft horse. From 1846 until shortly after World War II, there were about 270,000 horses in Belgium, most of them draft horses. At its peak, between 30,000 and 40,000 draft horse foals were born each year. At present, more than 300,000 horses are registered in Belgium, of which approximately 20,000 are draft horses. The current horse population produces only a fraction of the above numbers of colts. The (main) role is now reserved for Belgian horses, who are a world-wide success, often bred or ridden by descendants of families who used to gain fame with Belgian draft horses.

Distributed all over the world

There is a global demand for Belgian draft horses. To date, Belgian draft horses leave for all over the world. The idea is that there is a special demand for horses with solid, healthy legs and color.

The classic brown bear remains popular with traditional breeders and continues to represent the largest number of high quality horses. For quality horses, one always finds a buyer, regardless of color. It is remarkable that pony competitions are respectfully visited by potential buyers from Holland and abroad. The number of foals born remains more or less stable. Support from the regional authorities, both Flanders and Wallonia, helps the draft horse survive.

It is important that the use of the draft horse is increased. A breed raised without a goal is doomed. Used or ridden, our Belgian draft horse remains an ideal recreational horse that provides family fun. Courses to learn to work with draft horses are fully booked at any given time.

A general favorite at all kinds of events

In every village you can still admire the Belgian draft horse. Draft shows where efforts are made to promote our draft horses with flying carpets, mill horses, demonstration shows with working draft horses … guarantee great interest and fun for young and old. Just think of the day of pulling horses in Vollezele.

The Belgian draft horse is our thing. It evokes warmth, nostalgia, sympathy, and good feeling. It is the art of enjoying the simple things. For every child who has ever been allowed to sit on a magic carpet, it is an unforgettable experience. When household waste is collected with draft horses, people go out to pet the horse. We don’t see that happening right away with a garbage truck.

In addition to the breeding of draft horses, there is a whole gamut of crafts associated with our Belgian draft horse. Farriers with ‘travail’, harness makers…are part of the traction culture we still cherish.

Draft horse culture also encompasses the entire social experience surrounding draft horses. Annual fairs and other competitions, ranging from ring stitching, geese driving, drag competitions, tree pulling, plowing, cartoons with children’s draft horses, classic harness demonstrations … are supported not only by the owners of the draft horses, but also by the visitors. Fairs such as Libramont, Agribex and Agriflanders attract huge numbers of visitors and it is remarkable that the draft horse still draws the notable crowd there. Local fairs and events, where people bet on the Belgian draft horse, also manage to attract large audiences.

At fairs such as Libramont, Agribex and Agriflanders, it is the draft horse that is the crowd-puller par excellence. – Image: Agriflanders

The world of draft horses is one where rank does not matter. Horse Breeder Project fingers Passed down from generation to generation to breed high quality horses, standing in competition alongside – and often before – the wealthy industrialist, who also enjoys our horses.

The social experience that surrounds draft horses, and the social connection between breeders, users and fans, fosters solidarity among the draft horse community.

The Belgian draft horse is a typically Belgian thing, but something that has conquered the world. It is world famous to this day, just like Brussels, French fries, our chocolate and Eddy Merckx.

Continuing traditions

It is up to our generation to continue this tradition. It goes without saying that internal divisions among draft horse owners, inbreeding, unfair practices, and sick legs are weaknesses. It is up to us to address these weaknesses in order to pass the powerful Belgian draft horse and everything about it on to the next generation. Looking beyond the steeple is the message. The challenge is to develop our genealogy book from a European and global perspective.

Everyone is invited to make it a big party on January 15th at the Flanders Fair!

Jan de Boitselaer, KMBT

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