3 July 1998

TROUBLED

TIME FOR THE PUNCH

THE Suffolk Punch also faces a crisis. Unless a fund can be set up to subsidise the keeping of stallions the future of this heavy horse breed will be in jeopardy.

Always chestnut in colour (traditionally spelt without the t), large bodied, with relatively short, clean legs and a good temperament, this powerful breed was the lynchpin of East Anglian agriculture and its allied trades until after World War II. Then its fortunes crashed as mechanisation overtook the large arable farms, and in 1966 only six foals were registered.

When members of the Suffolk Horse Society realised what was happening they set to to remedy the situation. Gradually foal registrations rose to around 40 a year from a population of 80 breeding mares, and interest has been encouraged with ploughing matches and other activities.

During the last crisis there were still landowners and farmers whose enthusiasm for the breed was backed with the resources to keep stallions, buy and raise colts and pay the staff needed to care for them. While people with knowledge, skill and enthusiasm are still to be found, they lack the financial resources required. To safeguard the future of the breed the society needs to increase the contribution it makes towards the keeping of stallions.

Donations/inquiries: Suffolk Punch Appeal, Suffolk Horse Society, The Market Hill, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4LU (01394-380643).

Bernard, the three-year-old gelding owned by Jeff Briscoe, took the Suffolk horse breed championship at the 1997 Royal Show. At this years Royal, classes for Suffolks and other heavy horse breeds will be judged on the Tuesday morning (July 7) in the equine arena.