As the saying goes, “There are horses, and then there are good horses.” Miss Matilda would have easily lived up to that saying ... and then some. She was, as Bruce Roy would put it, “A mare for all reasons.” A product of Harold Clark’s breeding program at Meadow Brook Farms, Howell, Michigan, she was a mare that fulfilled the goal of winning in halter, hitching with the best and producing offspring that would continue to set benchmarks for the breed. A mare that was inimitable in personality, performance and style, she was the epitome of the breed’s ideal. In addition to her good looks and style, she also had a winning personality and was a horse that always seemed ready for whatever was next. Over the years she captured the hearts of many men that had the opportunity to work with her.
Her Pedigree; a winning combination of two great Belgian families
Foaled in 1959, Miss Matilda was sired by Conqueror. As many students of the Belgian breed know, Conqueror was the foremost breeding son of Progress and Shirley Belle, an Elegant du Marais daughter. Matilda would assist in establishing her sire in the breed annals.
Her dam, Matilda Farceur, was a mare purchased at the Indiana Spring Sale from Water Cress Farms as a 4-year-old when they ended their Belgian operation. She was a daughter of a good breeding horse, Jan Farceur and out of Lady du Marais. It was a known fact that the Jan Farceur daughters clicked with Conqueror–so well that Harold paid $900 for her, which, in that day and age, was quite a hefty price. This new addition definitely came from a powerful family of horses. Upon her arrival she was bred to Conqueror and fitted to accompany the Meadow Brook show string that year. She would prove her mettle by winning her class at the Indiana State Fair and also return as an 8-year-old to be Champion at the same venue. Her first foal was a filly named Rosalee. She was a good one that unfortunately got injured as a foal. She was a good enough foal that Harold didn’t hesitate to breed her dam back to Conqueror. In all, Matilda Farceur would produce ten offspring, many of them either champions or producers of champions. It was her second foal, Miss Matilda, that would set things rolling.
Fitted for the show string as a foal, Miss Matilda would accompany her mother to the National Belgian Show in Davenport, Iowa, and to the Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State Fairs, before heading north to Toronto's Royal Winter Fair. These were the haunts of the major league players in the Belgian
breed with classes filled with the best the breed had to offer. Her undefeated season as a foal would set the stage for tanbark accomplishments few other horses would attain. Davenport had eight fillies come before judge Bill Taft. Taft was a Percheron breeder that knew his stuff in the draft horse business and he would be the first to pin her at the top of her class. At the Illinois State Fair, she would again stand at the top of her class defeating five other debutantes under John Gibson of Ohio. The Indiana State Fair employed Carl Roberts of Canada to place the Belgian line classes. Mr. Roberts was one of the top Percheron breeders of the day and would continue the filly’s winning streak, placing her 1st in class. Then it was on to the Ohio State Fair where she would come under the scrutiny of Floyd Jones from Bangor, Wisconsin. Floyd was a second-generation Clydesdale breeder that also liked what he saw at the end of Harold’s lead shank. He also put her on top. The last show of the season would take place at the illustrious Royal in Canada. I always viewed this show as the battleground of the year, where the winning horses from across Canada and the USA came for final judgment. At that time the foal classes were combined, so this filly from the States would need to show against both fillies and stud colts. There were ten in the class and for the first time she would wear a red ribbon on her show halter. Lest you think she suffered defeat, she didn’t–in Canada the first place ribbon is red, so this young starlet served notice she was a force to contend with. The seal of legitimacy on this victory is the man who judged the Royal line classes. It was none other than Belgian breeder Clifford Eller who would place them honestly and without prejudice.
At Davenport, Sidney Bennett would not only place Miss Matilda at the top of the yearling class, but also make her Reserve Junior Champion. This first win of the season would be an omen of more great things to come. Ken Pritchard of Canada would do the same at Springfield, placing her 1st and Reserve Junior Champion. There was depth in the class at Indiana. Under judge Jack Wood of Ontario, Canada, she would head the class. She wouldn’t place in the Junior Championship class, but winning a class of 12 at Indiana was as solid a win as it is today. Miss Matilda’s first taste of defeat would come at Columbus. The judge at the Ohio State Fair that year was John Gibson, the same judge who had placed her 1st at Illinois the previous year. She would stand 2nd to a filly by the name of Jetta Farceur shown by E.J. “Jake” Geisy. Like Indiana, Ohio had depth to the Belgian line classes and a 2nd place ribbon was nothing to be ashamed of. The Royal Winter Fair would employ the same judge as Davenport, Sid Bennett. Evidently he liked her even more in November than he had in August, for he made her 1st, Reserve Junior and Reserve Grand Champion. It was quite an accomplishment for a yearling at the Royal.
1961 ... as a 2-year-old
Floyd Jones was asked to judge at Davenport in ‘61. The filly he had placed 1st as a foal at Ohio captured his eye as a 2-year-old at the breed’s National Show. He would place her 1st and then go on to make her not only Junior, but also Grand Champion. At the Illinois and Indiana State Fairs she would continue her winning ways by again garnering the Junior and Grand Championship honors. At the Ohio State Fair there were ten mares in the 2-year-old class including Jake Geisy’s mare, the only mare to place in front of Miss Matilda and who had won the class in Ohio as a yearling. This year Miss Matilda would turn the tables. She would force Jetta Farceur to stand in second place and then go on to be Junior Champion. As usual, Harold rounded out the season at the Royal. She was good enough to win a class of ten and go on to be Reserve Junior Champion.
As a 3-year-old our featured mare would win her class at the National Show and go on to be Senior and Grand Champion. Incidentally, Ralph House’s entry, Beauty Queen, would follow Miss Matilda closely the entire stretch being 2nd in class, Reserve Senior and Reserve Grand Champion. Ralph and Beauty Queen would turn around and upset the fruit basket at Springfield by forcing Miss Matilda to stand 2nd. Beauty Queen would go on to be named Reserve Senior and Reserve Grand Champion. Evidently these mares of Meadow Brook and RKD Farms were like two peas in a pod, for things would turn around again at Indiana with Miss Matilda in 1st and Beauty Queen in 2nd. The Ohio State Fair would be a similar copy of Davenport. Under Justin McCarthy she would win her class and continue on to be named Senior and Grand Champion. The Royal Winter Fair allowed Miss Matilda to close out her year with a 1st place win.
This year would find Miss Matilda winning her class at Davenport, Illinois, Ohio and the Royal. Her only defeat would be at Indiana where she would stand in 3rd place. This was the year for her to produce her first foal. His name was Conceur and we will talk more about this colt later. I will say this much; Miss Matilda and Conceur were a formidable entry in the Mare and Foal classes.
In her fifth year, our featured mare would capture wins at Davenport and Illinois, and place 2nd at Indiana and Ohio. For the first time in several years, Meadow Brook chose to show in what was literally their backyard. They would show at the Michigan State Fair where she would place 1st. Harold Poole would be the judge up at Toronto and, in a class of 12, she would be placed 3rd.
Evidently, her sixth year was a tough one. She stood 2nd at Davenport and Michigan, and 3rd at Illinois and Ohio. She did manage to bounce back somewhat under the eye of Jack Woods at Indiana by placing 2nd in a big class of 20 and also being named Reserve Senior and Reserve Grand.
As a 7-year-old, Miss Matilda was a bridesmaid at Davenport, placing 2nd. However, at Illinois she would be in the spotlight as Senior and Grand Champion. Facing deeper competition at Indiana, she would compete in a large class of 19 mares. She would place 5th. At Ohio she would move up a notch to 4th. Sometimes the ending is the best. Such was the case in ’66 when she would, once again, head north of the border. Miss Matilda found herself at the top of her class of 15 mares, and also wearing the Senior and Grand Championship rosettes. A win like this at the Royal was a great way to end the season.
You will notice that we have skipped a year. Miss Matilda wasn’t shown as an 8-year-old. I don’t know why Harold left her at home, but I am sure he had good reason. In her return as a 9-year-old she would place 2nd at Davenport, win her class at Illinois, and take 4th at Ohio.
While showing against younger mares and stablemates, an aging Miss Matilda would have an average year on the circuit. She was 10th out of 12 mares at the National, placed 1st out of eight at Springfield and 6th out of a field of 14 at Ohio.
Staging somewhat of a comeback as an 11-year-old matron, she would garner a 3rd place at Davenport, win her class at Springfield, place 4th at Ohio and 3rd at Michigan. She would end the season with a great performance in the ring at Toronto by winning the aged mare class out of six. She was nursing a filly foal by the name of Contilda, who also happened to win her class. Miss Matilda’s stablemate, Consetta, was Grand Champion mare that day. However, several breed pundits suggested that Miss Matilda should have worn the purple rosette for the powerful movement she displayed in the Horse Palace arena.
This would be the final season for this grand old matron to travel the show circuit. The highest placing she would achieve would be at Springfield where she took 2nd. Her other placings would include two 5ths, a 6th and a 7th place. At first glance, you might wonder why Harold would even have taken her along to the shows at this age. For a better understanding, let’s move on to her career in harness.
It is unfortunate that a record of her accomplishments in the hitch classes was not documented. Through conversations with Harold, I know that one of her first teammates was a closely related mare by the name of Conelda. Paired together they were tough to beat in the pair of mares class. After Conelda came her daughters: Consella, Margot and a full sister to Constable by the name of Stella. The decision of who to hitch with Miss Matilda came down to which other mares were in the show string that would not only “do the trick” in the line classes, but also drive well. Miss Matilda was a mare that eagerly wore the harness and when Harold would start rolling her mane, you could see her anticipation building. In her final year on the show circuit, 1971, she proved her tenacity in harness by being in the winning pair of mares at Ohio, Davenport, Illinois, Michigan and the big Waterloo show. In addition to her ability to win in the team class, she had that extra touch of class and athleticism to lead a six. In her last year, Harold drove Miss Matilda in the lead with a son of Conquest named Steve. Steve was larger, but Harold felt she drove better on the right so that is where you will find her in the above photos.
One of the ideal contributions a broodmare gives to her respective breed is sons and daughters that carry on her tradition of excellence. Miss Matilda had a total of nine foals in her lifetime: six sons and three daughters.
• Conceur #29846, by Conquest
• Danquest #30573, by Conquest
• Congolaise #30737, by Conquest
• Matt #31843, by Constable
• Con Elegant #31484, by Constrico
• Convincer #31484, by Congressman
• Miss Jeanette #37697, by Conquest
• Contilda #40413, by Constable
• Miss Tillie #46961, by Commence
Space does not allow me to review the individual contributions of each offspring. However, I would like to bring out some highlights of three sons and one daughter that I am personally familiar with. Each made a major contribution to the Belgian breed in one way or another.
ConceurMiss Matilda’s first offspring didn’t set things on fire as a foal, but he did catch the eye of a young Belgian breeder from Michigan. Robert Dunton of Saranac, spotted him at the Columbus show. His memory of Conceur as a foal was that he was “stretchy, cocky and I liked him.” As a yearling, he would start to shake things up. He tasted defeat once and it would be at his first show, Davenport, where he stood 2nd. At Illinois and Ohio he was Junior & Reserve Grand Champion. He would continue, named Reserve Junior & Reserve Grand at Indiana, Junior & Grand at Michigan, and rounded out the year winning his class at Toronto. As a note, Bob Dunton took a photo of Conceur that year at the Ohio State Fair and hung it in his den. He would look at it every time he walked in the den and it would prove to be an omen of things to come.
As a 2-year-old Conceur would prove to be invincible and was Grand Champion at Davenport, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and the Michigan State Fair. He was not shown at the Royal.
In 3-year-old form he was Grand Champion at four major shows: Davenport, Illinois, Ohio and the Royal. He came close at Indiana, being the Reserve Grand Champion stallion.
Returning to the normal haunts as a 4-year-old he was Senior Champion at Davenport and Indiana and Reserve Senior at Illinois and Ohio.
On occasion Harold would stop in at the Duntons' to visit. It was during one of these calls that Harold mentioned he was thinking of consigning Conceur to the Indianapolis Spring Sale. Bob responded that he might be interested in the horse. A price was quoted and, in Bob’s words, it was "serious money." At that time the Duntons had a son of Conelred that they had purchased from Bill Wickert. Harold subtly suggested that Bob might want to consign his stallion to Indianapolis and purchase Conceur. When Bob consulted with his mentor and friend Justin McCarthy, his response was, “If you want to make a name for yourself, you couldn’t do better than this colt."
That was all it took.
Bob saw an improvement in his breeding program by leaps and bounds and he says it is proof of what a good stallion can do for a breeder. The Duntons didn’t breed a lot of mares, therefore it was difficult for the horse to distinguish himself. Elmer Smith was his main customer and, evidently, he liked how the horse crossed with his mares. Some of the best mares Elmer took out on the show circuit were Conceur daughters. One of the qualities I personally remember about the sons and daughters of Conceur were their great expansive hoofheads and width of heel.
Elmer liked what the horse was doing for him, as years later, he would approach Bob at the Indianapolis sale and ask for a price on the old horse. Bob remembers it clearly. It was the evening before the sale and he was in the Coliseum restaurant. The price was set, hands were shook, and the deal was made. Twenty minutes later, none other than Don Schneckloth of Davenport, Iowa, approached Bob and asked about purchasing Conceur. If the horse had gone to Sunny Lane Farms, he would have been in the hotbed of some serious Iowa breeders–the McMains, the Ray Curtis family and Harry Wendell to name a few. These were heavy hitters with some of the great mares in the Belgian industry. My thoughts run parallel to Bob’s in that if Miss Matilda's first born had gone west instead of staying in Michigan, he would have had a much greater impact on the Belgian breed.
There is a saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Adhering to it, Harold bred Miss Matilda back the same way. It was a smart move. Her second son would be even better than the first. Like his big brother he cut a wide swath in the show ring being undefeated as a yearling with some Reserve Junior Championships, Junior Championships, and Reserve Grand Championships thrown in for good measure.
As a 2-year-old he would again go undefeated along with being named Grand Champion at Davenport, Illinois and the Royal. He would be Junior and Reserve Grand at Ohio, and Junior Champion at Michigan.
1973 would be the last year Congolaise would be shown by Harold. At the Ohio State Fair he was the Senior and Grand Champion stallion. Now would be as good a time as any to inject an observation I had made while working with Congolaise. His joints were of exceptional quality and never saw a wrap in the time I worked with him. He didn’t steal this quality, for the hocks and ankles of his dam were as sweet as they came.
Congolaise was purchased by the late Charlie Orndorff of Pennsylvania. In speaking with Christina Lemley, Charlie’s granddaughter and protégé, I learned something I had never known. When this (at that time) young girl found out her grandfather was buying the horse, she said she wanted in on the deal as a partner. His response was, “Young lady, it’s gonna' cost ya! The horse is priced at $3,000.” Evidently Christina had been an attentive student as she bought in on the horse. Today it sounds like a cheap deal. But, remember, in those days the draft horse market hadn’t taken off yet.
In Christina’s words, Congolaise was a horse that had tremendously clean bone, wonderful hocks and pleasing slope to the pasterns. He never required wraps as there was never any puffiness to worry about ... none. He was a perfect gentleman that was a lover, not a fighter, and transmitted these qualities on to his offspring. (I guess little brother Corbly was known to be found crawling under the horse with no ill effects.) She said you probably could’ve sat underneath him and read the newspaper and been OK. One of the last comments she made was, “He was the best stallion in the world.” I would have to agree with her. I don’t think I have ever worked with a stallion of any breed that came as close to being 100% the perfect package.
He not only showed exceptionally well for his new owners, but took their breeding program to the next level. He was crossed with their Marcus Supreme, Penn State Conqueror and Marcus du Marais daughters and it clicked like magic. He was the sire of sons and daughters that not only proved themselves in the show ring, but also transmitted their qualities into the next generation. I would have listed the sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, and on down the line a few more generations, but there are more than you can shake a stick at. If you don’t believe me, pull out some old Journals and Reviews the next time you have a chance and check the records.
Con Elegant was sired by the great Constrico. This colt was a good one that showed lots of promise. Unfortunately, the days of Meadow Brook were coming to an end. Harold and Ruth purchased the horses and equipment, selected 12 horses to take along in their move to Millersburg, Indiana, and listed the balance on their dispersal sale held at Warsaw, Indiana. While this colt showed promise, he didn’t make the cut and was sent along to the dispersal. He was purchased by Elmer Jones from Minnesota. As a 3-year-old, Con Elegant was Grand Champion stallion at the Minnesota State Fair. His claim to fame, however, was his sale to a contingent of Japanese buyers for the hefty sum of $25,000. The money part is nice as it was good for the Belgian and draft horse industry. Still, as Gary Hale and I were reminiscing about Miss Matilda and her offspring, we both expressed the thought that this promising young horse could have had a great impact on the breed if he would’ve stayed in the country.
This daughter of Constable would set a fast pace in the show ring. As a foal she would travel to the same major shows her mother had, plus the Michigan State Fair and the large draft show at Waterloo, Iowa. She would go undefeated, including beating the stud colts at the Royal.
As a yearling she would win her class and be Junior Champion at Davenport, Reserve Junior Champion at Illinois, Ohio and the Royal, and be Junior and Reserve Grand Champion at Michigan.
As a 3-year-old she would win her classes at Indiana and Michigan and be Senior and Grand Champion at Ohio and the Royal.
She and her brother made a formidable Produce of Dam entry!
When Harold’s health declined, he dispersed the remaining horses. Contilda would set a new record for a Belgian mare sold at public auction selling for $16,500 to McKeehan Farms at Greencastle, Indiana. She would continue in her championship ways for her new owner. In 1975, she was Grand Champion mare at Davenport, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. At Waterloo she took it a couple of notches higher and was named Best of Breed and also Supreme Mare of the Show.
In 1976, she was the Grand Champion mare at Indiana and Ohio, and Reserve Senior Champion at Wisconsin. The following year she would repeat her championship honors at Ohio and Waterloo, along with garnering the Best of Breed title at Waterloo.
So there you have it, a brief reflection on a mare that proved her worth in the show ring, foaling stall and in the continuance of breed improvement. She set the pace and benchmark for the breed, and through her genes, supplied not only sons and daughters that would continue the tradition of excellence, but also multi-generational descendents that passed on those special qualities she possessed.
She was a great mare and truly one-in-a-million.