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East Anglia Future 50

Suffolk Show harnesses up for rare spectacle with great gathering of heavy horse teams

PUBLISHED: 17:16 09 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 09 May 2018

John Fleming with Suffolk Heavy Horse Eyke Amber at the Suffolk Show back in 2009. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

John Fleming with Suffolk Heavy Horse Eyke Amber at the Suffolk Show back in 2009. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

Suffolk Show-goers are set for a heavy horse extravaganza this year, with unprecedented access to the kings of the field as they are prepared for their big moment in the ring.

Woodbridge Horse Show director Mark Donsworth. 'I'm a frustrated (would-be) farmer,' he says. Picture: STEVEN RUSSELLWoodbridge Horse Show director Mark Donsworth. 'I'm a frustrated (would-be) farmer,' he says. Picture: STEVEN RUSSELL

Heavy horse head steward Mark Donsworth, who has been in the role for the last six years or so, said he wanted to bring visitors closer to the majestic animals and their handlers so that they could understand more about working horses and their role.

Attractions this year include the increasingly rare spectacle of horse teams, with up to eight such teams competing - an unprecedented number in recent years as their numbers dwindle nationally.

Visitors will be able to talk to handlers and see horses being prepared for competition inside specially-designed 12ft square rings.

“It’s always my passion to enable people to get closer and to ask questions. Watching horses in the ring being judged in hand is not that interesting so when I first started I put a commentator in,” said Mark. “We are trying to create a heavy horse ‘village’. People can get close and actually find out in depth what’s going on and the reasons. Adults and children can ask the question directly to the owners and get a very one-to-one experience.”

Suffolk Show crowds watching heavy horses on display in the Presidents Ring

. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERINGSuffolk Show crowds watching heavy horses on display in the Presidents Ring . Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

They will be able to watch farriers at work, and horses being cleaned, groomed, harnessed and manes braided.

During his time in the role, Mark said he had tried to get the public more involved in what they were doing, by introducing expert commentary explaining what is happening and why.

Also, with the “fantastic” support of sponsor Cherry Grover, a heavy horse expert from Yaxley, near Eye, on board this year, some of the country’s top teams of drays will be arriving at the show, he said.

“Across the country there are 24/25 people running these teams. We have managed to get eight teams to ours. It’s amazing in little old East Anglia,” he said.

Heavy horses at the Suffolk Show.Heavy horses at the Suffolk Show.

With fewer breweries now supporting teams of heavy horses, they were becoming a far rarer sight, he explained. The heavy horses competition have attracted healthy numbers this year with 21 competing in just one class. “I’m really excited,” said Mark.

Tickets for the show are on sale. Save £5 per ticket by purchasing in advance. Advance tickets cost £23 while children aged under 15 will once again receive free entry. Visit www.suffolkshow.co.uk or call 01473 707117.

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