For a man who got off to an admittedly rather freewheeling start in the world, Gerald Allebach of Windermere Farms Percherons in Spring Mills, PA has done pretty well for himself, his family and his farm. He has the absolute backing of his wife, Melissa, whom he refers to as “just about the best draft horse trainer in the country”. He also has a darn good back up in his son, Abraham, who carries a man’s load of work without being told what to do or when it needs doing. Abraham is named for his grandfather, Abe Allebach, who with his wife Mary, started what has become three generations of Percheron horse breeders back when the farm also had dairy cattle.
Gerald himself is the best one to explain about the freewheeling start.
“Dad always had some harness horses at the track,” Gerald said, “And I would go with him from age four on up. He would open the truck door when we got to the track, tell me not to get into trouble and turn me loose.”
“I got to be a pretty good hand at an early age,” he continued, “and it got so that I would keep a bag packed in my bedroom. Someone would call needing help and off I’d go even as a very young boy and be gone for days with them on the road with horses. Of course the way things are today, well, you just can’t do that anymore.”
Gerald says that feeling of independence gave him a fair idea that he was a good hand at dealing not only with life but the people in it. All that changed when he met and subsequently married Melissa who brought two sons, aged 7 and 9, to the marriage. He realized that he was struggling with his new found life but, when Melissa — a Monty Roberts scholar — got him to go to his first Monty Roberts clinic, he says he found out just how far off track he was.
“Everyone else came out of that clinic thinking how much they had learned about horses,” Gerald said. “I came out having learned how little I knew about how to deal with people! Luckily Melissa bought me the Monty Roberts tapes. After that when things got tense between me and the kids, you could find me outside sitting in the truck listening to Monty Roberts and getting my attitude adjusted!”
The attitude adjustment seemed to work because the Allebach clan has not looked back since. They are the owners of a large and very busy Percheron farm that not only breeds and shows horse with national champions to its credit but is also a training farm for young horses.
“Melissa is the trainer around here. She is one of the best hands with horses that you would ever want to see. Besides working with our own horses she always has between two and four young horses here for training,” Gerald said.
“I take care of trimming and the shoeing,” he continued. “Shoeing a show Percheron is real specialty work because it requires the ability to do Scotch shoeing to get the largest hoof under that big horse that you can.”
“And everyone just helps out with everything else!” he finished. “There is so much to do on this farm with these horses that we are ALWAYS busy. But that’s the way we like it.”
At the shows the Allebach family not only shows in the halter classes, but also drives any kind of hitch that there are classes for, singles, pairs and four or six in hand hitches. Their horses are strong competitors and the list of Champions, World Champions and National Champions on the aptly named ‘Results’ page of their website ( windermerefarmspercherons.com ) runs to an impressive 26 horses over a four state area. Heading the list currently is the 2015 National Champion, Bentley, and the Reserve National Champion, Deluxe. On the page also are two Supreme World Champions, Windermere’s North American Maid in 2010 and Windermere’s Deidra in 2008.
The attitude at Windermere Farms is one of complete customer service and it was Gerald’s dad, Abe, who was one of the most instrumental people in getting the draft horse registries to allow the shipping of semen, which is now an everyday part of the draft horse business.
“It didn’t matter what they asked of him,” Gerald said, “Dad jumped through all of those hoops and got it done. Of course, today, no one could really be in business without it and it means so much to the breeds themselves to be able to ship semen from one area of the country to another.”
Windermere Farms has just finished a two-day Open House that attracted some 150 people in weather that left a lot to be desired. If you check the pictures on the Windermere Facebook page you will see that everyone, including the Allebach family and staff, looked like they were having fun. Maybe there is something to that freewheeling start — or maybe it’s something that Monte Roberts said.