The European Belgian draft horse is the foundation horse for the American Belgian, as well as several other draft breeds. Until about 1940, the Brabant European Belgian and the American Belgian were essentially the same horse. It was this horse that powered the world. After World War II, the Belgian horse changed in both Europe and the US. The horse changed much more slowly in Europe because horsepower was used into the 1950s, however, in the US the changes began immediately after the war since the US mechanized sooner. The Belgian was bred in Europe to be thicker bodied and more drafty, with heavy feathering on the legs, while in the United States the Belgian was bred to be taller, lighter bodied and clean legged.
In the United States, during the late 1960s Albert Stankiewicz imported stallions from Belgium because he was disturbed by the changes in the Belgian horse in the US. He used his imported stallions on old-style domestic Belgian mares in an effort to preserve the old pre-war work type draft horse. Anne Harper saw his stallions and partnered with Stankiewicz for several years importing stallions to breed to her old-style Belgian mares. Ultimately, Harper also began importing mares from Belgium to breed to old style domestic stallions and back cross with her European-American crosses. The entire project was designed to recreate and preserve the pre-war work type Belgian horse. In the process, Harper actually created the foundation for a new draft breed. Today that breed is called the American Brabant. In 2001 Colleen Michaels also spear-headed an importation of a group of European Belgian horses.
Th European Belgian is raised in several European countries and goes by different names, depending on the country of origin; however, they are all European Belgian horses. In southern Belgium, the European Belgian is called the Cheval de Trait Belge or Brabançon. In northern Belgium, the European Belgian is called the Belgisch Trekpaard. In France it is the Cheval Trait du Nord, in the Neterlands it is the Nederlands Trekpaard and in Germany it is the Rheinisch Deutsches Kaltblut.
The American Brabant Association was formed in 1999 in an effort to provide fellowship and networking for people interested in preserving and promoting the wonderful attributes of our horses. The founding members were Tommy and Cindy Flowers, Karen Gruner and Colleen Michaels. Karen Gruner coined the term American Brabant in an effort to distinguish the new breed formed by European-American Belgian crosses from the modern American Belgian and its counterpart in Europe. By 1999, the modern American Belgian was quite different from the modern European Belgian and the American Brabant was different from both.
Between 1999 and 2012 members met and conducted the business of the Association at Horse Progress Days.
In 2014 a small group revitalized the association by starting monthly conference calls and a major growth spurt began encompassing members from across the US, Canada and Europe. Monthly membership meetings are now conducted by telephone conference with Annual Field Days for fellowship. Websites and Facebook pages were launched to augment the newsletters.
In 2015 & 2016, it became clear that the demand for American Brabant horses was increasing. Early in 2017, a special committee was formed to discuss creating a registry and what benefits a registry would have for these horses in the future. This registry opened in May 2018 and is documented in the handbook and complementary by-laws additions.
The ABA has great hopes that this registry will benefit the American Brabant horse by keeping a database of imported 100% European Belgian horses, Western Hemisphere-born 100% European Belgian horses and 25-99% registered American Brabant horses. 0-24% Breeding Stock will also be recorded.