Walking through the horse stalls at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, it’s hard to miss Brown’s Percherons of Lenore.
Decorated with a welcoming yellow and green, the stalls are the temporary home to seven impressive black Percheron horses who towered over their owners Lyle and Kathy Brown, as they were prepped for competition.
"We love Percherons. We love their prettiness and versatility," Lyle said. "In this world of showing, we really strive for animation. We want that real proud, bold look."
Using a stepladder, Lyle and his helpers tended to the horses, making sure everything was just so before taking them into the ring.
Lyle is the third-generation rancher on the family farm, and has been involved in the horse industry for most of his life. Kathy also grew up around horses, a rider since she was young.
"If it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood," Kathy said with a laugh. "It’s fun. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun."
Lyle recalls showing horses at the Winter Fair back in the 1960s, when he was just eight years old.
He went on to specialize in roping, and now at 56, he has turned his focus to producing, hitching and showing Percheron horses.
"(The fair) been a great way to promote our breeding program and gives us a chance to meet lots of people that are from the same walk of life," Lyle said.
"We really enjoy it."
It’s a busy week for Brown’s Percherons, as they are competing in a variety of events, including the heavy two-horse hitch, unicorn hitch, obstacle driving, futurity classes and the four- and six-horse hitch championships.
Lyle said driving the horses is "a real adrenaline rush."
"It’s no different than driving down the street, you can control your situation but there’s a lot of other cars — in this case there’s other hitches," Lyle said. "So if somebody else is having a little trouble, you’re in that small ring with the rest of them."
Lyle said preparations for the Winter Fair begin four to six months in advance.
"We’re starting to drive them extensively and get them paired up," he said. "Get their hair coat and condition in. There’s a lot of work ahead of time. It doesn’t just happen a week before."
Lyle and Kathy have been married for four years, and have a blended family of six grown children and four grandchildren. The entire family pitches in to help with the ranch.
"Our whole family is very, very involved," Lyle said. "It takes a lot of people to get these guys out in the ring."
When in the ring, teams are judged on style and performance.
"When you get into the multiple hitches, you want them all driving as a unit," Lyle said.
"You want their heads and their stride to be as much alike as you can possibly get."
Catch Brown’s Percherons this afternoon at Westman Place in the draft six-horse hitch event, and tonight in the draft four-horse hitch championship.
Riders from Westman are making their mark at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. Here are some winners from Tuesday:
• Tom Lane of Birtle won the four-horse tandem team event with his Creekside Belgian horse.
• Abigail Halloran of Boissevain placed first in the children’s costume class with her horse, Speedy.
• Bob Scott of Alexander won the single roadster pony (non pro) category with his horse, Southern Exposure.
• Nic Gee of Birtle won the youth cart event with a horse from Bar RB Belgians.
• Lyle Brown of Lenore placed first in the light draft team in harness to wagon event with Brown’s Percherons.
• Larry Mennie and Norma Bradley of Brandon won the juniors driving class with Northern Reflection.
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