Horses have always been a part of the Welch and Wellnitz families' lives, from teams of draft horses being used for daily farm work 80 years ago to pleasure horses and 4-H projects. Today, there are four generations who enjoy and have a helping hand in working with their horses.
As Matt Wellnitz shares, it was the fall of 2009 when his family decided to look at purchasing a team of draft horses. They started out looking for a young, safe team to have around the farm for pleasure, to go on wagon or carriage rides together. They found more than that with their first team of Belgian Geldings, Roy and Ritz. Even their neighbors and neighbors' dogs enjoyed the evening rides around the neighborhood. What they thought was going to be a simple hobby became a new lifestyle.
"We began our showing career with what we thought was going to simply be a weekend at a county fair with our team Roy and Ritz," says Matt. "We originally borrowed equipment and tack to make it into the show ring. It did not take long to realize draft horse shows can be so much fun!"
Once they decided to keep showing and buy their first hitch wagon, they needed put a name on it. They decided to call themselves WW Belgians, the Initials of the two family names that were showing the horses.
By their second year, WW Belgians purchased a third Belgian and were showing a unicorn hitch, a pair of horses hooked to the wagon and a single horse leading the hitch, a definite challenge for a single team. "As our family began driving the multiples, we quickly realized the quantum leap in organization and practice and found the importance for all of us to work together to teach the horses as a team," says Matt. Later that fall, they bought a fourth Belgian and started driving a four-horse hitch. After exhibiting their Belgian hitch at many events and being comfortable with the four-horse hitch, the families made the decision that they were ready to expand the hitch to a team of six in 2015.
Currently, WW Belgians has nine Belgian Geldings, the ages ranging from 2 to 11 years old. Shares Matt, "Each horse has their own personality and strengths. Each horse had different skill levels when we first brought them home; some of them were experienced and some we had to start at the beginning to train. It is the their willingness to learn and work that amazes us. When we hitch our horses, we tend to team the older, more mature horses with the younger less experienced horses."
WW Belgians have participated in many local parades, draft horse shows, and competitions throughout the Midwest. Their horses have also provided guests with rides at weddings and corporate events.
"With exhibiting our horses at various events and adding horses to our heard, we've realized the importance of the care and wellness of our horses," says Matt. "We've decided it is well worth the investment of enrolling our horses on a wellness program through Badger Equine Veterinary Services. We have always found both the doctors and technicians at Badger knowledgeable and helpful when we have questions or concerns about our horses' health and well-being. "
One of the team's favorite events of the summer is the Milton 4th of July Parade, on which they partner with Badger Veterinary Hospital. The reactions of Dr. Spaulding and all the spectators make the efforts well worth it. For WW Belgians, it is always a joy to share their horses with the public and answer questions about them.
WW Belgians' next scheduled event is the Michigan Great Lakes International next month at the Michigan State University Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education in East Lansing, Michigan. Read more about the team in this Agri-View article: Belgian horses foster enthusiasm and passion.
Thank you to the Welch and Wellnitz families for choosing Badger Equine Veterinary Services! It is a pleasure working with the entire WW Belgians team!
Interested in enrolling your horses in an annual wellness program? Contact Badger Equine to learn more about our wellness packages!