The Magnificent Suffolk Punch

Support the Suffolk Punch at this year’s Suffolk Show

Horses are always a popular attraction at the Suffolk Show but the star of this year’s show is the majestic Suffolk Punch – a critically endangered species which is in desperate need of our support. The Suffolk Punch is rarer than the Giant Panda and the breed could be extinct by 2027 if numbers continue to decline.

This year, the Suffolk Agricultural Association, the charity who run and manage the Suffolk Show, is aiming to raise greater awareness of the Suffolk Punch and to help people to fall back in love with this very special breed.

History of the Suffolk Punch

As Britain’s oldest native horse, the Suffolk Punch can be traced back to 1768 with a long history as a strong, hardworking breed, ploughing fields and pulling heavy carts. As times have changed in farming and agriculture, the breed has gone into rapid decline and it is now critically endangered with only 23 foals born last year and a global population of less than 500.

New to this year’s Show

The Suffolk Show is proud to introduce a brand new Heavy Horse Village – the biggest ever area at the Show which will be dedicated exclusively to heavy horse breeds like our very own Suffolk Punch. Horse-lovers can learn more about these wonderful creatures, and watch the horses being braided and prepared for their grand entrance to the show Rings.

This year we have the first Heavy Horse Village where visitors can get up close and talk to the exhibitors about the preparations they are carrying out. The aim of this area will be to introduce more demonstrations and interaction, which we hope will garner support to protect this very rare breed.

There are now less than 30 four-horse teams left in the country and we are lucky to have so many attend the Suffolk Show for visitors to experience them and learn how they were the backbone of this country, pre-industrialisation.  


Preparing a heavy horse for the Show

Traditionally a working breed, Mark Donsworth, Senior Steward of Heavy Horses, explains how heavy horses get ready for their grand debut in the Ring:

Preparation of all the breeds will start months before the show season so that they are in peak condition and performance on show day.

  1. Before arriving at the Show, the horses will be washed and groomed so that they’re looking their best!
  2. On the day of the show it is very likely that exhibitors will be up at about 4.00am for feeding. Shire and Clydesdale horses will need another wash of their ‘feathers’ (the hair around their hooves) before drying off with sawdust.
  3. Then the comprehensive grooming begins, before the tails and manes are plaited up.
  4. For the harness and turnout classes, the brass will have been polished prior to the show. For a full set this can take up to 8 hours but will be buffed up ready for the ring. You will see Judges with white gloves checking to see whether it is clean behind the face of the brass – in this game, standards are everything down to the very last detail!
  5. The hooves will be brushed with oil just prior to them going into the ring – just to give that final little touch.