30 June 1995

Not so gentle giants, these

GENTLE giants is probably the most hackneyed phrase used to describe heavy horses, and one respected heavy horse woman dismisses it as "piffle" – asserting that there is nothing gentle about them until they are broken to work.

Shes right, of course, but the phrase is usually used with the respect, awe even, that the working heavy horse evokes in the onlooker as it quietly performs its duties with so much might so well contained.

It is also the title of Ralph Whitlocks book (published by the Lutterworth Press at £15.99) on the past, present and future of the heavy horse, and that pent up power is well illustrated on the cover with a horse at grass, exuberantly kicking up his heels.

The power, and the control that a good horseman has on it, is well expressed in one of the illustrations in another recent book from the Lutterworth Press (this one costs £17.99)

The illustration comes from The Graphic published at the start of this century. In it an artist captures the rearing and bucking of in-hand stallions in response to the clapping and cheering around the show ring in the Royal Agricultural Hall.

It is reproduced in the latest book from Keith Chivers, acknowledged historian of the Shire horse. This time he traces the history of one Shire breeding family, a major influence upon the breed, both in this country and abroad.

The Four Oaks is a biography of the Forshaws from the year of Waterloo to the end of World War II. An intriguing read for the wonderful selection of characters introduced and host of entertaining anecdotes as well as its horses.

Clydesdales, Suffolks and Percherons join the Shires in Edward Harts latest tribute to the horses which are one of this well known journalists special interests. In this book he has brought together a collection of what he considers the best writings about heavy horses from the time they came into their own as a source of draught and power up to the present day – a day in which they are once again increasing in numbers and more likely to be the source of pleasure than work power. Heavy horses – an anthology is published by Alan Sutton publishing at £14.99.

The books mentioned here may be ordered through all good book shops. AR