Good signs for Suffolk Punch at county show

Suffolk horse supreme champion Florence of Easton, with owner Jane Groom, handler Karen White and Na

Suffolk horse supreme champion Florence of Easton, with owner Jane Groom, handler Karen White and Naimh at the Suffolk Show after the competition Picture: DAVID VINCENT - Credit: Archant

The magnificient Suffolk horse was celebrated in a day of keen competition at the Suffolk Show.

Best Gelding class in the Presidnt's ring Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Best Gelding class in the Presidnt's ring Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

And there was a poignant moment when the supreme champion of the breed was crowned. It went to a mare, Florence of Easton, owned by Jane Groom of Bungay.

It was the second year in succession the female champion, handled by Karen White, had won the overall title, having been entered in the show last year by John and Jane Groom.

Mrs Groom said: "My husband John died in January. We are really pleased to have won again. We are carrying on for him, and this is a tribute to him."

This impressive horse is six years old and was born in Suffolk, at Easton Farm Park.

Mrs Groom said Florence also pulls carriages and does some ploughing. "She does a bit of everything," she added.

Competitive show entries for horses on day one at the show were up on last year, with Suffolk breed numbers remaining steady.

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Other breeds competing include Clydesdales, from Scotland and the North of England, with more horse classes on Thursday.

Thousands of Suffolk horses used to work on the land before being replaced by machinery. Now the powerful breed it is an endangered species.

There are a few signs of recovery however - and instead of pulling ploughs, some are now used for riding or pulling carriages.

President's ring commentator Jim Wyllie said there had been positive signs.

"Back in 1998 there were only 12 foals born," he said. "This year there have been 22 foals born.

"It is still an endangered species. There are 170 mares registered and 24 licensed stallions. We have had 22 foals born, 12 colt foals and 10 filly foals."

That total was already out of date. Show steward Paul Smith was on duty in the President's Ring, having been up until the early hours delivering a Suffolk colt on his Cambridgeshire farm. Lockspit Robert was born at 11.30pm and is named after his father, he said.

There was a another poignant moment when a memorial bench was presented to commemorate Suffolk Horse Society president Michael Tollemache, who died last year. The bench will sit in the President's Ring on show days, for people to sit and watch the horse competitions.

One of Michael's former horses, Tollemache Frederick, was present for the ceremony.