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Sherrie Van Tassel walks Big Ben of the Berkshires, a 3,000-pound Belgian gelding, back into...

Thursday, January 31

GREAT BARRINGTON How do you weigh an animal as massive as Big Ben?

Transport him to a plant in Caanan, Conn., where there's a platform big enough to weight concrete trucks, and have him step on.

That's exactly what Sherrie Van Tassel and Charles Haddad, Big Ben's co-owners, did recently and they were overjoyed when they saw the numbers on the scale.

Their 6-year-old boy weighed 3,000 pounds.

"I was like, 'Yes!' " Van Tassel said, grinning and giving the thumbs-up. "We're trying to make him into a body builder."

Van Tassel and Haddad were standing outside of Big Ben's stall at Haddad Farm yesterday, discussing their prize horse's chances for making it into the record books. The world's tallest horse is Radar, a 10-year-old Belgian gelding who stands 19.3 hands, or 6-feet, 7-inches at the shoulder, and weighs a measly 2,400 pounds.

Big Ben, who is also a Belgian gelding, stands 19.2 hands at the shoulder. The average horse is about 15 hands, or six feet, at the shoulder.

The heaviest horse on record, however, is a Belgian stallion named Brooklyn Supreme, who topped the scales at 3,200 pounds. The horse died in 1948 at the age of 20. Other sources list a Shire horse named Samson as the heaviest, weighing 3,360 pounds. Samson was born in 1850.

No matter. Big Ben, with his gleaming reddish coat and blazing flaxen mane, cut rakishly short, is a stunning specimen; gentle and patient with children, yet unafraid to give a resonant snort when an unfamiliar hand reaches out to caress his muzzle.

Pride and joy

Van Tassel and Haddad, who bought Ben earlier this winter, said they would like to have "Big Ben of the Berkshires" tours at the horse farm so others can see their pride and joy.

They're also on a mission to find him a suitable partner another supersized Belgian. The pair, they hope, will make an astonishing harness team, capable of pulling tens of thousands of pounds in competitions.

"On his own, Ben could easily drag a car all the way to the road," Haddad said, gesturing to Route 7 nearly a half-mile away.

Putting him to the test

Once the ground has thawed, Ben will start training; he'll be putting his strength to the test by pulling truck tires and concrete blocks. But in the meantime, he's enjoying his jumbo stall, a spacious 20-foot by 20-foot lair and he's eating.

A lot.

He gets a five-gallon bucket of sweet feed and oats twice a day, plus a bale of hay for breakfast and another for dinner.

"A bale of hay is like a salad to him," Van Tassel marveled. "He's on a better diet than most people."

For more information about Big Ben and Haddad Farm, call (413) 528-8458

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