Goshen >> Several potential media stars were born and raised right here in Litchfield County. Well, the four-legged kind that is.
Three of five foals born at the Utopia Percherons farm in Goshen in 2016 were recently sold and exported to Steffen Dittmar, owner of Bergquell Brauerei Löbau in Löbau, Germany.
“Steffen is the curator of a German beer company,” said Stacie Lynch, owner of the farm and breeder, along with her husband, Brian. “Steffen intends to breed and raise American type Percherons for use in promotion of his brewery much like the Budweiser Clydesdales.”
Dittmar purchased six foals in total, three foals from a breeder in Wisconsin and the three foals from Utopia. “The foals from Wisconsin were shipped a few weeks prior to ours from Chicago, IL,” said Stacie Lynch. “Our three foals were all conceived, born and raised here in Goshen. Steffen purchased two fillies, Utopia’s Maple, foaled February 17, 2016, Utopia’s Heavens to Betsy, foaled Mar. 11, 2016 and one colt, Utopia’s Arlo, foaled June 7, 2016.”
Prior to export the foals get their mandatory vaccinations and are required to be held in a USDA quarantine facility for 30 days. The foals went in to quarantine on October of 2016 just outside of Newburgh, N.Y. The foals then boarded a Lufthansa air cargo plane late in the evening of Nov. 30, 2016 and landed in Frankfurt, Germany on Dec. 1. They were held for a day in Frankfurt to recover from their long journey and then hoofed out six hours outside of Frankfurt to Hauptgestüt Graditz, Torgau, Germany. where they are currently lodged.
Interestingly, records of the Percheron Horse Association of America, the first purebred livestock association formed in the United States, indicate these are the first registered American Percherons to ever be exported to Germany.
Stacie Lynch explained the genesis behind the historic transaction. “Brian and I were heavily involved with co-chairing the 2014 World Percheron Congress; the Super Bowl of the Percheron industry held at the Eastern States Exposition grounds in Massachusetts, Oct. 6 through 11, 2014.” The event only occurs in the United States every four years. The World Percheron Congress brings international delegates from France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Great Britain, South America and Japan. “Our relationship with Steffen began via Facebook where he learned of the World Percheron Congress. Steffen attended the event in Massachusetts where he was introduced to our Percheron stallion, F.P. Icepick, also known as Ice.” Dittmar fell in love with the breed and began the process of acquiring the horses for his commercial purposes.
Stacie and Brian Lynch’s paths crossed in the draft horse industry from the time they were twelve-years-old. Said Stacie, “When we were in our twenties our relationship changed and we began our adventure together in 1998 calling our business Utopia Percherons.”
Offered Stacie Lynch, “We have been called upon to perform clinics for draft horse enthusiasts discussing conformation, driving, showmanship and show preparation. Both Brian and I along with our family and horses have been featured on RFD-TV’s show “Gentle Giants.”
The couple outgrew their original location in Bethany, needing a more suitable agricultural location to raise horses. They decided to buy a property, a part of what was once the Budney Farm, in Goshen in 2000 and built a home and horse barn there in 2002.
Said Stacie Lynch, “Our present location is quite removed from the heart of the draft horse industry, which is in the Midwest. In some ways, it gives us an advantage and in others it is a disadvantage. It is an advantage to us because there are not many draft horse breeders in New England. However, it is much more difficult to raise horses affordably here.” She said the couple’s operation is also far removed from the circle of larger competitions, which makes it difficult for them to attend many of the more competitive shows. They travel annually throughout New England and to New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio to compete. “We look forward to returning to Des Moines, Iowa for the 2018 World Percheron Congress.”
Stacie Lynch said of the couple’s fascination with Percherons, “Being exposed to all breeds of draft horses the Percheron always comes to the forefront for us. The best way to describe a Percheron is a smart, proud, alert, willing-worker, a flashy, strong-willed mammal. Overall Percherons tend to have a very pleasing disposition.”
There are challenges with breeding anything extra-small or extra-large. In the case of Percherons, they are on the extra-large side. Said Stacie Lynch, “Our first foaling experience as Utopia Percherons in 2003 ended in disaster when we lost both the foal and later the mare due to a breech dystocia, the worst kind of dystocia one can face in equines. It was a wonder we even wanted to try to raise another foal after waiting the 11 months and being faced with heartbreak. But, we had our first foal, and named him Utopia’s Royal Victory, successfully born on our farm in 2005. At present, there are 20 horses at Utopia.
The larger the foal the more difficult it is for the foal to stand and nurse without assistance. The foals tend to weigh between 150 and 200 pounds when born. A foal must nurse within 12 hours of birth to get colostrum, containing important antibodies they need for protection from invading bacteria. Said Stacie Lynch, “We tend to milk the mare and feed the foal immediately to give them the extra boost the large foal needs to get to its feet as quickly as possible. It often takes two, sometimes three, people to get a large foal to its feet for the first time due to their large size.”
Brian opines that Percherons differ from some of the other breeds because of their versatility. “A Percheron is well suited as a family type horse. They can be ridden or driven and be used for most anything you can use a horse for. Different bloodlines within the breed also provide a more refined individual than some other breeds, giving them a more elegant, less drafty appearance. They have the strength to pull heavy loads and yet they are graceful and stylish enough to pull a fine carriage.”
The Lynches do their best to attend every birth on their farm no matter if it is during the day or middle of the night. Said Brian Lynch, “Our barn is outfitted with IP web cameras where we can watch the mares from our mobile phones, on our television in our bedroom, or anywhere the internet is accessible.”
As for future growth, the couple would like to do more with its carriage operation. “At this time, we have eight to 10 jobs a year where we utilize a team of horses to do hayrides, an occasional wedding, private parties, and parades,” said Stacie Lynch. “Our horses can be seen delivering Santa Claus to many of the town greens, including Bethlehem, Washington Depot and New Milford each holiday season.”
The couple’s children, Kaleigh and Kaiden, are now the family’s third generation to breed and raise Percherons.
Said Stacie Lynch, “We hope to continue to breed, raise, train and compete with our horses. Our hope is to re-assemble our competitive six-horse hitch once Kaleigh and Kaiden can be of more help. Kaleigh has taken an interest in the breeding operation and as of this year she now owns her first registered Percheron mare, Utopia’s Ivy.”
Adds Brian Lynch, “Kaleigh hopes to begin competing with Ivy in the years to come. We have entered Ivy into two future competitions where hopefully she will be able to help Kaleigh earn money to put towards college tuition.”
Although the Lynches did not accompany their prized Percherons to Germany, a visit to their “children” may be in the offing.
“We have a standing invitation to visit them in Germany and when time and funds allow we will be honored to do so,” said Stacie Lynch.