600 visitors enjoyed the sunshine at Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre as it held its first Championing Shires Weekend, aimed at showcasing the plight of the breed.

During the First World War, 1 million horses were sent to the frontline and only 62,000 returned home, and the breed was driven further to extinction by the mechanisation of the farming industry.

Visitors were treated to working harness and decorated harness displays, a number of riding and handling displays of shire horses, as well as parades of stallions, mares with foals and vintage tractors.

There was also a special appearance by the Robinson’s Brewery dray, pulled by their shire Trooper, who also took part in the riding display and junior handling display during the celebrations.

The centre donated half of the admission fees from the weekend to the Shire Horse Society – the only charity in the UK dedicated to the protection, promotion and improvement of the shire horse – and presented it with a cheque for �1638.29. Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre is one of only two centres in the country officially approved by the society, and is the UK’s only working stud farm open to the public, operating a full breeding and conservation programme.

 

David Ralley-Davies, secretary of the Shire Horse Society, said: “We are delighted that Alistair and Janet raised such a fantastic sum for us, and their effort and dedication means we can help ensure the future of the shire horse for years to come.

“We’re very proud to have Cotebrook as one of only two approved centres in the country and look forward to working with them for many years to come. Events like this show they are doing their bit, and the weekend was a huge success. I would like to say thanks to everyone who came, on behalf of the charity, and extend a warm welcome to all the new members who signed up over the weekend.”

Highlights of the two-day event, which were held as part of the First World War commemorations, included a “ladies cart” pulled by a shire horse, which was used in the USA for ladies to travel to church and their husbands to go to and from the pub after church, and a dressage display by a Clydesdale horse who also galloped round the centre’s specially-constructed arena with a St George’s flag. There was a bouncy castle and pony and donkey rides for the younger visitors to enjoy.

Janet King, who runs Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre with her husband Alistair, said: “The Championing Shires Weekend was absolutely fantastic.

“Our car park was overflowing because we had so many visitors and the weather was brilliant. Everyone who came to the centre told us they thoroughly enjoyed it and it was very emotional watching the parade of all our mares, foals and stallions.

“Thank you to everyone who came to the weekend and helped make it a success. Without all the visitors and volunteers, we couldn’t have made it happen. It was also wonderful that we could raise some much-needed funds for the Shire Horse Society. We even had collection boxes around the stables and our visitors were very generous in giving to the charity.

“The feedback was so positive; we’re thinking of making it an annual event,” added Janet.

For more information on Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre, see www.cotebrookshirehorses.co.uk. The Shire Horse Society can be found at www.shire-horse.org.uk