Suffolk Punch hero praised for service

A LEADING horse enthusiast who is the ''public face'' of the famous Suffolk Punch stud at Hollesley has been praised for his loyal service over 30 years.

A LEADING horse enthusiast who is the ''public face'' of the famous Suffolk Punch stud at Hollesley has been praised for his loyal service over 30 years.

Bruce Smith, the stud's head groom, received a surprise presentation yesterday to mark his commitment to preserving the endangered species.

He was given a model of a Suffolk Punch horse made by Mary Keeble, of Little Totham, near Maldon, and he was made an honorary member of the Suffolk Punch Trust.

The 63-year-old head groom said: ''I always enjoy my work. I could have retired three years ago but I enjoy it here so much that I didn't. I want to be around for as long as I can.''


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Last year Mr Smith, of Felixstowe, was diagnosed with bowel cancer and he reluctantly had to take a back seat from his role at the stud.

However, he often cleaned sets of harnesses to keep him busy. Each set takes five hours of cleaning and it was vital that they were kept in pristine condition during the busy show season.

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Mr Smith said a recent scan revealed no problems and he was hopeful that the next scan in six months would also be successful.

Chris Miller, a spokesman for the stud, said: ''Bruce's knowledge and commitment to the breed are first rate and he is an excellent communicator and ambassador for Suffolk Punch horses in general, and the Suffolk Punch Trust in particular.''

Mr Smith has used his expertise and knowledge to assist mares get into foal and he has brought many foals into the world, often staying up all night at the birth if necessary. In 2007 the stud's stallion Fenland Eric sired more foals than any other Suffolk stallion.

Mr Smith used to help on farms in his school holidays and his first job was as a stockman on an approved school farm in Hertfordshire.

He later worked at Rochester Borstal before starting at Hollesley in 1978 as a stud groom.

Mr Smith and the Trust are one of the few organisations who still show a four-horse team. Many brewers, including Truman, Whitbread, Courage and Youngers, who once had show teams have gradually disappeared.

Mr Smith is now passing his skills on to the assistant stud groom Tracey Pettitt. Meanwhile, the Trust is raising £1million for a visitor centre, the refurbishment of existing stable areas, new landscaping, parking and a road at the stud.

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