Give the Queen a horse not a yacht

I read with some interest Barbara Goulden’s article on Les Gibbins and his life with the heavy horse stallions. Those who have lived to tell the tale in this dangerous work are always interesting. I myself never handled a stallion, just as well as I was only a teenager when working with cart mares, who looked kindly on this youth who, when asked to “tackle-up” had to jump up into the manger to put the collar on.

Many of those work horses had a dire life, the end in some cases worse, when shipped to the continent. (for meat). Grief was evident from the housekeeper at the farm where I was when one mare left the yard for the last time because it was said to be too clumsy when hoeing, another came that was lighter in the bone and a good mover, another that would take a piece out of you given the chance.

One farmer did have a big shire gelding which had feet like butchers’ blocks - seldom seen today. The owner could do nothing with it, not surprising my father and his mate had their work cut out for them. They did make a good job of that horse so that it would take a cart to Radford brewery for a load of grains. Going through a Shire stud book for 1920 I found some things of local interest. For instance the Warwickshire Show was held at Leamington on 3 and 4th of September, 1919, when there were nine classes and 28 entries with a good representation of breeders in the locality.

New House Farm in Warwick had five stallions going under the Tachbrook prefix. Entries included stallions kept at Shipston, Ladbrook Hill, Barford Hill, Wellesborne, Fenny Compton, Wedgnock Park, Fernill, Ashow and Stoneleigh.

The Duke of Westminster had more stallions than you could shake a stick at - or would want to. Then there was Chivers of Histon, the jam people, who had four stallions.

One final thought: Suffolk Punch horses - the best I have seen by far at ploughing matches in the last two years - are in need of more breeders.

As the nation debates what to get the Queen for what many would think of as 60 years in the collar, may I suggest the Suffolk Society offers her some Suffolk Punches for the Sandringham estate where her father once had a stud.

It may even be more appreciated than a yacht. - Roger Fisher, Southam Road, Long Itchington.

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