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Public 'needs to get close to working horses' claim

PUBLISHED: 17:37 28 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:14 12 July 2010

Roger Macey has a rest and an icecream after working in the heat, ploughing through the hard dry ground with his heavy horses Beau and Zebebdee at the match at Besthorpe.

Roger Macey has a rest and an icecream after working in the heat, ploughing through the hard dry ground with his heavy horses Beau and Zebebdee at the match at Besthorpe.

Giving the public the chance to get close to working heavy horses in order to attract new blood will become more and more important in the coming years as the pastime faces an increasing generational challenge.

Giving the public the chance to get close to working heavy horses in order to attract new blood will become more and more important in the coming years as the pastime faces an increasing generational challenge.

That was one of the key messages from the Eastern Counties Heavy Horses Association autumn ploughing championships and horse show.

Association chairman Neil Syrett, who hosted the event on his land at Old Hall Farm, near Attleborough, said many of the people who took part in the activity because it was part of the daily agricultural scene when they were young were literally dying out or becoming too old to work the animals.

Instead the current generation of early retired or recently retired people, who once would have been interested in buying and keeping heavy horses, was turning to vintage tractors, a reflection of their own key youthful memories.

“Getting the public to shows like this to see the horses working is going to become even more important,” said Mr Syrett.

“We need young people to get interested. If we have 1,000 people through the gate to an event like this, perhaps two or three of them will decide they are interested enough to get involved.

“The more we can do that, the better.”

It was difficult to get youngsters interested as a rule, said Mr Syrett, because keeping a working horse was time consuming and required regular handling.

“Obviously it's not like a tractor, you can't put it in a shed for a few weeks and forget about it.

“It's not a cheap option and keeping a working horse is a big commitment, the animal is a creature of routine and needs to be worked regularly.”

Sunday's championship was made very difficult by the dry ground conditions, which have been causing problems for farmers across the region, although the weather was a positive in terms of getting people along for a day out, added Mr Syrett.

There was also a chance to see the East Anglian Shetland Pony Group and tractor ploughing.


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