The World Percheron Congress will be coming to the Keystone Centre this summer, drawing thousands of people to Brandon. 

The weeklong event will be held July 18-23rd and will be hosted by the Manitoba Percheron Breeders. 

Committee member, Ivan Strain has raised these beautiful horses for many years on the family ranch just south of Boissevain. Strain says he is the oldest of a 3-generation-family who has a special love for the breed. 

“There’s myself, my son and my grandson,” he says. “We are heavily involved in bringing this to Manitoba!” 

The Percheron Congress rotates through various locations around the world every four years, but most often in the U.S. and Canada. 2004 was the last time this world-renowned event was in Brandon. 

The history of the Percheron dates to the 17th century, France, in the former province of Perche, from which the breed takes its name. This draft horse is well-muscled and known for its intelligence and willingness to work. They have been called, 'The Work Horse of France’ for their size and power, as a full-grown Percheron can tip the scales at 2500 pounds and stand at an average of 17 hands high. 

Before World War I, thousands of them were shipped to the United States from France, but after the war began, an embargo stopped the this practice. In fact, some horses were shipped back to France to help in the war effort. 

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Arabian blood was added to the breed. “The French imported some Arabian stallions to improve the quality of their horses, and that’s why the Arab influence is still there in a lot of them,” explains Strain. “However, they don’t look like an Arabian. They are big, big horses!” 

The Keystone Centre is expecting to see some 500 horses from across Canada and the U.S. adorn their stalls, hallways and arena, and the July week will be full of events, promising to be quite the show! Thousands of people are expected to come from across North America, as well as from France, Germany, Japan and Australia. 

Hitch Classes include carts, tandem carts, teams, unicorn hitch, four-horse, six-horse and eight-horse hitches. 

Specialty Events include barrel racing, feed team races, plowing, costume class, Western and English saddle riding and more! 

Strain says the youth classes are very important to the line-up. Showmanship, Decorating, Judging, and Pee Wee Showmanship are included in the youth events. 

The organizing committee has been working over the past 3 years to put plans and sponsors in place. “The sponsorship aspect has been utterly fantastic,” shares Strain. “A couple of us have been working on the sponsorship and we would like to thank all of those people for getting involved.” 

Please listen to more of the interview with Ivan Strain and CJRB’s Betty Sawatzky below: