History to be made at world’s largest gathering of Shire horses in Staffordshire in March

Catwg Black Velvet ridden by Miss Stacey Fletcher. Photo courtesy of Jane Muntz-Torres
Catwg Black Velvet ridden by Miss Stacey Fletcher. Photo courtesy of Jane Muntz-Torres

History will be made at this year’s Shire Horse Society National Show when, for the first time, British heavy horses will be able to qualify for a golden ticket to a ridden class at the prestigious Horse of the Year Show.

Riding heavy horses has become increasingly popular, and now HOYS is adding a British Ridden Heavy Horse championship to its event, which takes place at Birmingham’s NEC from Wednesday 5th to Sunday 9th October 2016.

“The BRHHS have been in talks with Hoys for some time regarding a British Ridden Heavy Horse Championship and we are very grateful to Grandstand Media for agreeing to hosting this new HOYS ridden qualifier.”

Wendy Toomer-Harlow, Founder and council member of the British Ridden Heavy Horse Society

The first ever qualifying round for the championship will be held at the Shire Horse Society’s National Show, which runs 18th to 20th March 2016 at the Staffordshire Showground.

Wendy Toomer-Harlow, a founder member of the British Ridden Heavy Horse Society and a council member of the Shire Horse Society, said: “The BRHHS have been in talks with Hoys for some time regarding a British Ridden Heavy Horse Championship and we are very grateful to Grandstand Media for agreeing to hosting this new HOYS ridden qualifier.

“This championship will give heavy horse riders the opportunity to showcase our four magnificent indigenous British heavy horse breeds, the Shire, Clydesdale, Percheron and Suffolk to both a national and international audience and display to people just what these versatile heavy horse breeds are capable of under saddle alongside their established draught uses.

“The Shire Horse Society National Show will host the first ever Horse of the Year Show Ridden Heavy Horse qualifying round and in doing so the society will take its place in the history of ridden showing. This is a very exciting time for all those enthusiasts who are involved in the world of heavy horses and passionate about the furtherance and promotion of our British breeds of Shire, Clydesdale, Percherons and Suffolk going forward into the 21st century.”

The Shire Horse Society National Show is the world’s largest gathering of Shires, with around 200 due to be put through their paces - shown in-hand, ridden and in harness.

The show, which has been held at a limited number of venues in England over its long history, is believed to be one of the oldest, almost continuous, horse shows in the world, having been held for the first time at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, London, in 1880, when the charity was named the English Cart Horse Society.

This year it returns with a new venue and a new format – running over three days instead of two and being held for the first time at the Staffordshire Showground, to cater for a growing interest in the event. The ridden classes, including the qualifying class for the HOYS championship, are being held on Friday 18th March and will also feature dressage and concours d’elegance to highlight the grace and elegance of the gentle giants of the horse world.

Shires will be shown in all their glory on Saturday and Sunday in the in-hand and harness classes.

Thousands of visitors are expected to attend the show, which is the flagship event of the Shire Horse Society - the only charity dedicated to the protection, promotion and improvement of the Shire horse.

The iconic breed was in danger of dying out just a few decades ago, and even now fewer than 500 new foals are registered every year by the Shire Horse Society.

The charity has been running a Save Our Shires campaign to raise awareness about these gentle giants and numbers have steadily increased, thanks to the dedication of a band of enthusiasts.

Tickets for the show, which also includes stalls and exhibitor stands for the public to browse, are now on sale via the Shire Horse Society’s website www.shire-horse.org.uk. Follow the charity on Facebook or Twitter - https://www.facebook.com/shirehorsesociety and @saveourshires
The event takes place from noon to 6pm on Friday 18th March, from 8am to 6pm on Saturday 19th March and from 8am to 4pm on Sunday 20th March 2016.

Tickets cost £4 in advance and £5 on the gate for Friday 18th March. Tickets in advance are £8 for adults and £6 for under 12s and seniors, and £12 for adults and £10 for under 12s and seniors on the gate, on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th March.

Entry is free for Shire Horse Society members.