Heavy horses were once a familiar sight in every town and village in the country, pulling drays and ploughing the fields. The decline of these gentle giants began during World War One, when thousands of heavy horses died whilst hauling heavy artillery into the trenches. Numbers steadily increased during the period between World Wars I and II, only to decline again rapidly as the horses were gradually replaced when transport, agriculture and industry became highly mechanised.
The RBST is now concerned that some breeds of heavy horses could die out within a decade unless there is intervention, and as a result launched the new campaign at the National Livestock Gene Bank Conference. Tom Beeston, the CEO of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust stated, “These heavy horses were here for us when we needed them, now it’s our turn to act to save these iconic breeds.”
It is hoped the crowdfunding campaign will help raise awareness of the plight of the UK’s heavy horses and increase donations to assist in funding the collection of much-needed genetic material for the Gene Bank, without which there is a risk of losing these animals forever.
Viv Cockburn of Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre said “We are all absolutely delighted with this approval, and we will be working very closely with RBST to help preserve these magnificent animals. The Centre already runs a breeding programme for the Clydesdale Heavy Horse, and this year we have extended this into rare breed sheep and even rarer British Lop Eared pigs (of which there are only 1-200 left.)”
Viv’s daughter Anna added, “’Looking Back’ will launch Hay Farm as a Conservation Centre and in addition to the other attractions, depending on our expectant mum Louise together with Mother Nature, visitors may get even a chance to see some new-born piglets!”
‘Looking Back’ offers visitors the opportunity to visit the Centre and see the majestic horses at work as well as learning about other rare breed animals and watch craftsmen demonstrating old working skills and aspects of vintage machinery. Throughout the weekend there will be horse-drawn carriage rides too.
Gates open on Saturday and Sunday morning at 10am, dogs are welcome and the Centre is accessible to the disabled.