Looking back to a bright, warm Sunday afternoon in mid October. We drove up the Avon Valley road to farmland just north of Braemore village, where the Southern Counties Heavy Horse Association was holding the 39th Great All England Ploughing Championships and Show of Heavy Horses.
The event was held in a vast field with flat stubble land by the road and a gentle slope of stubble rising towards the west. A field that once would have been many smaller fields, separated by hedges. On the slopes, vintage tractors were ploughing. Down towards the road were the furrows of the morning`s ploughing with Heavy Horses, and a few teams still pulled their ploughs in the last few hours of the afternoon.
We made our way down through horse transporter lorries and trailers. Horses in their show finery stood , tied to the lorry sides and munching their haynets.
Ploughs, trailers, carts and vintage farm machinery were parked all around.
A farmer checking the harness of his beautiful dapple grey .
....and two Shire horses at the end of their ploughing, still in harness to the plough.
The fine brewers dray of Fullers Brewery from Chiswick, London, competed in the Trade Turnout class in the Show........
.....drawn by a pair of magnificent Shire horses.
Competing in the Leisure and Pleasure Turnout Class.
The Fullers Brewery Horses again.
A pair of Percherons in harness.
A horse and his man.......
At the end of the afternoon came the Grand Parade. All competitors paraded in their finery around the ring. A truly magnificent sight. Here were the old breeds of working horses that previous generations depended on for working the land and for transport. There were Shires and grey Percherons, the now rare Suffolk Punches and Clydesdales, French Comtois horses and the Ardennes and Brabant Drafthorses originally from Belgium.
Farmers, still using these horses on their land, had travelled from all over Britain, from Scotland in the north and from Cornwall in the far South West. Their love of their horses was evident and the atmosphere of friendship and support had made this a happy day for all.
One of our local farmers was there with the Clydesdale x Cob horses who are used to plough his land . They also pull wagons of tourists on New Forest rides through the village lanes.
The stunning greys of the Percheron herd from Harbridge Farm were there. They would have only a few miles to travel home along the river valley.
Shining chestnut Suffolk Punches...
....and the Percherons again.
At the end of the day, waiting to go home......
Awaiting their journey home.....
At the end of the Grand Parade, we listened to the Heavy Horses` Prayer as the fine, beautiful animals stood patiently together, their coats shining in the evening sunshine. There were few dry eyes on the field as the words, so well deserved, rang across the company of horses.
A Tribute to the Horse
Where in this world can man find nobility without pride, friendship
without envy or beauty without vanity?
Here, where grace is laced with muscle, and
strength by gentleness confined.
He serves without servility; he has fought
There is nothing so powerful, nothing
There is nothing so quick, nothing more
England`s past has been borne on his back.
All our histories are his industry,
We are his heirs, he our inheritance.