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Farm open house showcases world-champion Percheron horses

by on May 17, 2017 1:28 PM

SPRING MILLS — Despite the wet and cool weather May 13, there were cars with license plates from Ohio and New York, as well as Pennsylvania, parked at Windemere Farms. An enthusiastic rooster greeted visitors to what is also known locally as Abraham Allebach Farm.

These visitors were attending an open house held by the Allebach family, who raise award-winning Percheron horses at their Spring Mills location. Over the years, the Allebachs have produced four world champions and two Supreme World Champions.  

Percherons were first developed in France's Huisne River Valley, previously known as Perche, the origin of the horses' name. The horses were bred to be war horses, but today are known today for their intelligence and strength.

In the United States, England and France, owners use Percherons for work and show. The horses perform well in endurance riding, dressage, jumping and racing.

The day included several demonstrations. At the track, a team of six Belgian mares, owned by Lewis Biddle, of Oak Hall, pulled a cart and seemed eager to pick up the pace with each trip around the ring.  A Percheron named Bentley, a national champ twice, was the largest horse in the barn and drew crowds all day. He weighs around 2,200 pounds and dwarfed the people standing nearby who captured his image with cameras and cell phones.

Abraham Allebach said that he started his farm 54 years ago and raised milk cows. “I always liked horses, though, and decided I wanted to raise them.”

Allebach said that while he was on the National Percheron Association’s board of directors, he introduced the idea of shipping semen around the country. That was common with cows, but had not been done with horses. His farm was the first to collect and ship on a commercial level within the Percheron breed.

“I did a lot of research and tried to set up the program for success,” said Allebach, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Draft Horse and Mule Association Hall of Fame in 2016 during the 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

He said there was a lot of work that had to be done before shipping became an accepted practice. Even today, the frozen semen must be sent to Harrisburg first to be checked by veterinary professionals before being sent to another farm.

Prior to the initiation of the frozen semen shipping process, Allebach said a farmer would lead a stallion from farm to farm to mares needing to be bred. This was a costly way to breed, and prohibitive to many farmers.

The farm's 50 Percherons, including young foals in the pastures, looked healthy and happy during the open house. Abe Allebach's son Gerald has continued to keep the farm on a progressive path, adding the selling of hay and training of horses to the day-to-day business of running Windermere. The younger Allebach also has produced podcasts for “The Draft Horse Digest.”  

“I learned a lot from years of selling cars, mainly about making customer service No. 1,” said Gerald Allebach. “I check in on a horse, even after I have sold it.”

Those wandering the grounds on May 13 were able to watch two oxen be yoked and led around by Abe Allebach. The enormous pair, Dan and Dick, was a hit with the visitors. It was amazing to see Allebach control the two huge beasts with his voice, although he did hold a whip for backup.

Mary Allebach, wife of Abe Allebach, was in her soap house during the open house. She shared interesting and informative facts regarding the many types of soaps, creams and other products she sells in her building.

“When our son Gerald began to take over more of the farm work, I looked around to see what other activities I could get into and enjoy,” she said. “I decided to make soap. That was around the year 2000.”

Mary Allebach can sell you a product to rub on your temples and/or neck, depending on where your headache is causing the most pain. She may suggest creams for your face, your feet and your body — in as many scents as you can imagine. She has studied, experimented with ingredients and become knowledgeable about medicinal properties of the natural substances that she uses in her products.

Connie Cousins covers Centre County for the Gazette.
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