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American Brabant horses
are area woman's passion
By Dara Scheidler, STAFF WRITER



Wildrose Farms Rosy, seen here in the Farm Show competition ring, is the official model of Apple Bottom Farms’ collection of mane and tail decorations for show horses.

Now having celebrated its 99th year, the Pennsylvania Farm Show consistently draws competitors from throughout the state to receive acknowledgement for agricultural prowess.

From canning to carriage racing, livestock sales to blue ribbon apple pies, residents of the Sentinel’s coverage area have been bringing home the gold for years.

It’s not always about winning, though, as Misty Sostar will be the first to tell you. Her goal this year was to introduce a “new” breed of horse to the stage.

Sostar caught a lot of curious looks as she led Wildrose Farms Rosy, a 19-month-old Brabant mare, into the Farm Show arena. The horse came in third and routinely models Apple Bottom Farms’ collection of show horse mane and tail decorations, but it was the introduction of her breed’s unique qualities that had Sostar wanting to show her in the first place.

Brabants are the foundation of the American Belgian draft horse and the breed has a long, storied history.

The American Brabant. Bred specifically to be thick bodied, hearty workhorses, the Brabant was not meant to win beauty contests. The breed has many attractive characteristics though.

Brabants come in a variety of colors and are easily noticeable by their “socks” – the white or cream-colored feathered hair directly above their hooves.

They stand between 15 and 17 hands high (about 60 to 68 inches) and weigh around a ton, their stocky bodies and “plenty of bone in the leg,” making them a farmer’s dream.

The breed has a willing disposition and are what those in the business call “easy keepers.” They are prized for their untiring work ethic and may even have descended from medieval war horses.

The American Brabant Association is dedicated to preserving the standard of Belgian draft horses, which are an “intensive crossing of the best breeds from the Dender and Nijvel regions” of Belgium.

“Experience has taught that only pure breeding gives the best draft horse,” is a tagline from the association’s website.

The trend of breeding toward cleaner legs and taller, lighter bodies has dwindled the Brabant’s life expectancy from a hearty 25 years to a mere six or seven.

“The cause of this is the many beauty contests for horses, as a result of which breeders no longer select for strength but for aesthetic characteristics,” the association claimed, adding that while there currently are 15,000 Brabants in Belgium, their continued existence is under threat from a disease affecting their legs and that “their natural horse power was replaced by mechanical power.”

Wildrose Farms Rosy. Rosy’s future looks bright, as she has just begun the show circuit. At only 19 months old, the Brabant mare has been shown at Twin Brooks, the Farm Show and the Keystone International Livestock Exposition.

Rosy was born in Ohio to full-bred Brabants that had been imported from Holland. Sostar said she has a lot to teach the mare and a lot of showing to do in order to reintroduce the mass of the breed, but she looks forward to breeding Rosy in about five years or so.

For more information about Apple Bottom Farms’ collection of show horse mane and tail decorations or Rosy’s future, check out the draft horse groups on Facebook or email Sostar at ytsimratsos@yahoo.com.