WELSH DO THE
The most coveted trophies at the National Shire Horse Show were won by breeders from Wales this year, reports Ann Rogers who joined the crowds on the second day of the spring event
THERES something for everyone at the National Shire Horse Show whatever their interest in the breed may be – from buyers and breeders with bloodlines, conformation and sound feet on their minds to the enthusiasts only able to express their pleasure in Shires by buying pictures, models or horse brasses.
Pleasure that Shire horses give featured in the first World Shire Congress which took place on the three days leading up to the show at the East of England Showground, Peterborough.
"There were almost 100 delegates from eight nations and they were full of enthusiasm," said Shire Horse Show secretary Tonie Gibson, adding, "There was an enormous demand for another one in two or three years time, perhaps not in this country."
As well as the technical aspects of breeding and keeping Shire horses, the congress looked at ways of using them, he said, with a well received paper from an expert from the USA on using Shires for promotional work and one on Shires for pleasure from a Dutch enthusiast. He spoke of riding his Shire through the woods for an hour before work each morning and spending time with it again in the evening.
Judging by the programme of activities at the show interest in Shires for riding seems to be growing. Besides demonstrations of modern horse-drawn farm tackle and timber hauling techniques and displays of American driving, the programme included musical rides by Brookfield Shires, knights playing medieval mounted games and an impressive dressage to music performance by Mrs Christine Mogli-Scharer who had brought two Shires from Switzerland.
Durham farmer Gawin Holmes, a competitor in the agricultural turnout classes, has hunted with one of his Shires this winter. Sixth in the single turnout class and the only competitor forward for the pairs, Gawin also uses his horses for light work on the 202ha (500 acres) at Beamish he farms with his brother Keith, a Clydesdale breeder.
The agricultural single heavy horse turnout class was won by Ken Taylor from Oxfordshire for the fourth year running. Cyril Knowles Ltd of West Thurrock, Essex won the open pairs and teams turnout classes and the Bass Museum from Burton-on-Trent, Staffs won both the open single heavy horse class and the turnout championship.
Stallions were judged on the first day of the weekend event and 43 premiums awarded to approved stallions from funds provided by the Horserace Betting Levy Board. The stallion championship and the King George V champion challenge cup, the shows premier award, were won by beef and sheep farmers C J & S Leverett from Tyn-y-Morfa, with Gronant President, a three-year-old bay by Herswell Premier. Reserve was E R Williams four-year-old bay Moorfield Edward. Among the host of awards scooped by Gronant President is the honour of being the first to qualify for the Equivite Shire Horse of the Year competition at Wembley. Seventeen other qualifying events will take place during the course of the summer.
The female championship was decided on the Sunday and won by W T Jones of Llanfihangel-y-Pennant whose eight-year-old bay mare Caerberllan Gold Gift took the title for the second year running. Reserve was G T Brownlows and K C Parrishs year-old filly Sandalwood Lincoln Locket.
The champion gelding was Ermine Jack, a four-year-old bay exhibited by Ermine Farms Ltd of Gainsborough, Lincs. Reserve was E R Williamss Moorfield William Henry.
The Fox Valley Farms-Thomas Smrt best feet and best shod horse award, for which all in-hand Shires are considered, was won by Mr M P & Mrs J M Pinions mare Hullocks Pool Lady Jane, reserve was Mr D Williamsons colt Hillmoor Magic.
carriageways side-by-side on the same level without shifting vast amounts of earth," said Ken. "So they decided on splitting on the east side of the farm and joining up again a mile to the west. This created the motorway island."
A short country lane still leads to the farm and there is a small pattern of dry stone walls. But step outside the house, on to the worn and weathered stone setts and slabs, and the whole world is rushing by in two directions only yards away.
At night the endless flow continues, a ribbon of red lights lead to one horizon and streams of white ones emerge from another. Six lanes of traffic on one of the countrys busiest motorways make a lot of noise but over the years Ken has grown accustomed to it. Thick stone walls and double-glazing are so effective at blotting it out inside the cottage you could be back in the 18th century.
Living on a motorway has its hazards. Lorries lose wheels which bound dangerously on to the island, which sheep still graze, and stranded motorists climb the fence and ask to use the phone. One morning Ken and his wife, Beth, woke to find a 32-t articulated lorry loaded with books lying outside the front door.
Ken suffers the occasional theft and the odd sheep has been killed. A tup worth nearly £200 which jumped through a gap in the fence opened up by a crashing vehicle was a recent casualty.
Pollution is a worry, some days there are clouds of exhaust gases. Ken admits he doesnt know if it is health threatening but there is little he can do about it.
Ken and Beth are now celebrating 25 years as carriageway castaways. They are alone at Stott Hall. Their son Allan now farms in Manitoba, Canada, and daughter Ann lives nearby in Ripponden.
At 67 Ken has no thoughts of retiring or moving. "They say you can get used to anything in time and we have. The motorway doesnt really interfere with the day-to-day running of the farm."
On the other hand it hasnt brought any benefits, either, and there is talk of adding extra carriageways in the future. The only time traffic stops is when it is snowbound. Ironically while the ploughs are clearing it Ken is also digging himself out.
Even joining the rush isnt easy for a motorway Robinson Crusoe. Ken has to go three miles to the nearest intersection.
Top to bottom: Tracey Pugh, Matthew Burk and Alison Hasemore at work.
Tchaikovskys Sleeping Beauty was the music Christine Mogli-Scharer chose for her dressage performance.
Gawin Holmes, accompanied by Tony Pearson, of Park Nook Farm, Beamish with Balla Prince Henry and Hillmoor George to a four wheel farm lorry.
Tom Brewster of Bandirran Clydesdales, Dumfrieshire and Brit McLin of Midnight Stars Shires, California, judged the open turnout classes. The championship was won by the Bass Museums single turnout.
Top: Steven Leverett with Gronant President, the three year old bay which took the stallion championship. Above: William Jones with his eight year old mare Caerberllan Gold Gift which took the female championship. Left: Shire Horse Society secretary Tonie Gibson, organiser of the first World Shire Congress.
Sophianne Flint collected two trophies, a wooden shield, several cash prizes and a commemorative medal in the young handler competition.