The American Brabant Horse differs slightly from its ancestral cousin, the Belgian Draft Horse. Also known as the Brabant Draft Horse or American Belgian Horse, these majestic steeds are the most abundant draft horses in the United States today.
Brabant Horse Characteristics
The American Belgian Draft Horse was bred from the Belgian Draft Horse, and while the two have slight differences, they are very similar. Both draft breeds have short, strong legs shrouded by feathering around the heavy hooves.
Both the American Brabant Horse and the Belgian Draft Horse have muscular, powerful bodies capable of pulling immense weight (up to 8,000 lbs!). Their thick, compact physiques make them well-suited for all types of work, but they are best known for their abilities on the farm where they tow carts and wagons.
One of the prominent and most noticeable differences between the two similar breeds is the size of their heads and necks. The American Brabant Horse was bred to have a lighter head and thinner neck than its Belgian cousin.
Brabant Horse Size
The American Brabant Horse is a heavy draft horse, with adult males weighing between 2,000-3,000 lbs and standing 16-17 hands (64″ to 68″) tall. Female Brabant Horses are slightly smaller, typically weighing between 1,500 and 2,000 lbs, and measuring 14 to 15 hands (56″ to 60″) high.
Brabant Horse Personality
A considerable part of what makes the American Brabant Horse such a popular working draft breed is its personality. Brabants are incredibly even-tempered, docile, and patient horses. They’re willing to work and remain patient throughout the training processes.
Being bred and trained to complete slow, deliberate tasks has given the American Brabant Horse a gentle nature. For this reason, they are an excellent draft breed for any level of rider, even small kids. Often credited for their stoic bravery, it’s easy to see why Brabant horses are widely loved.
The Belgian Heavy Draft Horse originated in Belgium during the 17th century. You can trace their lineage back to the Flemish Great Horse of medieval times. Known in Northern Belgium as the “Belgisch Trekpaard” and Southern Belgium as the “Cheval de Trait Belge,” these mighty working steeds quickly gained popularity throughout Europe.
In the mid-1800s, Americans began importing Belgian Draft Horses to use on their farms. As World War One rolled around, declining imports led to a dwindling number of Belgian Draft Horses being transported to the States.
World War Two then brought a wave of mechanization to the United States that began to make working animals like the Brabant horse obsolete. Europeans continued to breed the Belgian Draft Horse in its original stocky stature for farm work, but Americans began breeding leaner, taller Brabants for agricultural and riding purposes.
Horrified by these breeding adjustments, Albert Stankiewicz began importing purebred Belgian Draft Horses to the United States during the 1960s to return to pre-war breeding practices. Soon joined in his efforts by Anne Harper, the two worked for a long time to breed what is now known as the American Brabant.
By 1999, the American Brabant Association (ABA) was formed. One of the ABA’s founding members, Karen Gruner, coined the term “American Brabant” to distinguish the breed from its ancestors.
How to Care for a Brabant Horse
Once adequately trained, caring for this horse is relatively easy compared to caring for some other breeds. If you’re using them for work, try to give them time when they aren’t harnessed and towing. Horses enjoy running freely, grazing the fields, and resting in shaded areas. They deserve a day off now and then to kick up their horse shoes, just like us!
Brabant Horse Training
Proper Brabant training begins only a few days after they’re born. Breeders should handle the horse early. This will get it used to human touch. A breeder should also repeatedly lifting the horse’s tail, as this will prepare it for the harnessing process.
Once a foal is ready, practice putting on and taking off the harness while teaching them to remain still throughout the process. Remember to be patient and encouraging – Brabant foals are lively and playful, so they will likely be a bit squirmy throughout the beginning stages of training.
Next comes teaching them commands while walking through a set course. The first few times, don’t hitch your horse up to a cart. Simply walk behind them while giving commands. For the horse, this practice will imitate the situational (rather than physical) feeling of pulling you behind them.
Once the horse can quickly follow your commands, hook it up to an empty cart. Increase the cart’s weight incrementally until your Brabant is ready to pull you!
Nutrition and Feeding for a Brabant Horse
Brabant foals will nurse for about five months until they’re ready to forage high-quality grass and hay. As adults, these large, stocky steeds have slow metabolisms, meaning they burn energy slowly and are prone to weight gain.
If you’re wondering what horses eat, the American Brabant Association (ABA) recommends a low carbohydrate diet to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. The ABA also recommends that you give them forage with supplemental vitamins and minerals.
Coat Color And Grooming
Brabant horses come in a wide range of colors. The most common are chestnut, bay, black, bay roan, blue roan, red roan, and gray. Chestnut is the most prized color, and gray Brabants are sadly on their way to extinction.
Since Brabants are workhorses, you should groom them daily, before and after their tasks. Groom your horse before work to make it comfortable and prepare it for harnessing. Grooming after work removes sweat and dirt from their bodies, reducing the number of flies attracted to your Brabant. Daily grooming also strengthens the bond between a horse and its owner.
Brabant Horse Health Problems
Brabants have a life span of 20 to 25 years. They’re generally healthy animals, though they are prone to a condition called Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM). You can manage this condition through diet and exercise. Replacing starch and sugar with fiber and fat is an excellent first step to treatment.
Due to their large size and weight, Brabants are prone to heatstroke and dehydration. Try to make cold water and shade available to your horse throughout the day, and keep an eye on how much they’re sweating. A cool (not freezing) rinse with a hose can help lower their temperature.
How to get a Brabant Horse
Where can you buy one of these powerful and helpful horses? The best way to search for Brabants for sale is on online marketplaces, the most popular being EquineNow. For more resources and information on buying a Brabant, check out Trekpaard’s informational webpage.
Based on the horses available on EquineNow, these noble steeds range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Their age, demeanor, color, and skill level all factor into the pricing, as does the current demand for this specific breed.
More About This Horse Breed
Did you know the Brabant’s hardy bodies can also withstand cold winters? They can! Brabant popularity is dwindling in Europe, but in the U.S., they remain the most popular workhorse. You can easily find them in New England since the first major Brabant importer was located in Vermont during the 1970s. Be sure to try our CBD pellets for horses if you become the proud owner of a Brabant, and let us know your top care tips in the comment section!