Pat Prather’s Belgians are booked in Kenwood
You might have spotted Belgian Draft horses this month as you drove through Kenwood. They’re owned by Pat Prather of Prather’s Belgians in Bodega Bay, and will be leading complimentary 15-minute wagon tours of Landmark Vineyards on weekends through Oct. 27.
“My family has always been into horses,” said Prather, whose ancestors originally settled in Philo, about 5 miles northwest of Boonville, in 1852. “My daughter rides three-day events all over the world. She’s over in Europe right now.”
A former commercial fisherman, Prather decided nearly three decades ago that he wanted to get into “a fun business with horses, so I got involved with the Draft Horse Club.”
He ended up working with the legendary Silvio Piccinotti. A life-long Petaluma resident who died in 2009 at the age of 100, Piccinotti ran six-horse teams into his 80s and was founder of the North Coast Draft Horse and Mule Club. For many years he provided wagon rides at the Sonoma County Fair and the Harvest Fair, and led an annual wagon train journey.
“He was my inspiration,” said Prather. He followed in Piccinotti’s footsteps, driving horses at the Fair each year, and taking his steeds to gigs at wineries, in parades, and anywhere draft horses were needed.
“George Lucas has had my horses at his 4th of July party for 18 years,” Prather said. His horses were also used to record background sounds for the Jim Carrey movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
At Landmark, Prather tends to use his two favorite horses, Daisy and Cindy. As the gals clip-clop along, Prather fills his passengers in on the different varietals they see and discusses grafting, the process of turning juice into wine and more.
Of all the heavy horse breeds — which include Clydesdales, Jutlands and Percherons — Belgian Drafts rank among the strongest and are capable of pulling huge amounts of weight. The average Belgian weighs about 2,000 pounds; the largest known weighed 3,200 pounds.
According to the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America, Belgians are the most direct lineal descendants of the “Great Horse” of medieval times.
“They’re one of the original war horses of Europe,” Prather said, “and very sturdy. They not only carried 400 pounds of armor to protect themselves, but also a knight in full armor.”
So when you’re enjoying your wagon ride around Landmark Vineyards this summer, save a moment or two to admire those magnificent creatures pulling you and the wagon along…and doing it so effortlessly.
— Suzie Rodriguez