5 September 1997

RETURN OF HEAVY HORSES

HEAVY horses are making a comeback after years of decline.

But the traditional skills needed to make the tackle for working them are scarce.

One of the last expert harness and collar makers is Terry Davis. Based in his small workshop at Wistantstow, Shropshire, Terry makes only to order, sending the collars all over the world.

"I start with the leather, which is heavy, but supple enough for me to work and fill with the long rye straw grown for me," he says. "The collar has to take the strain of the load evenly across the horses shoulders rather than on its neck."

An important part of the collar makers craft is the fit. Each one is made for an individual horse, all by hand and eye, with only a few measurements taken. The collar is made up of parts with old names like wale, hames, housen, tug and afterwale.

"I have been a collar and harness maker all my life, and it is nice to see the return of the heavy horses to the land," says Terry.

"I think the trade has a future, with some farmers making effective use of working horses on their land, along with breweries and the London parks," he adds as he works on his next collar.

Paul Felix