Heavy horses may be best known for their pulling skills, but they face a new challenge on Saturday 2 June when they’ll be proving their skills around dressage and cross-country driving courses.

The competition is being held at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, near Chichester, West Sussex.

Gail Kittle, marketing officer for the museum, says: “We are one of the pioneers of the event in this country – it’s our third year.

Thisyear, though, the cross-country course has had to be adapted because of foot-and-mouth so we can’t get access to some estate lands.

Normally, the course has similar obstacles to other cross-country. The main difference is the distances between the fences and the spaces allowed for turning.

” There are around 15 entries in the competition for pairs and singles at the moment.

The number is comparatively small because there aren’t that many people with the right skills.”

On Sunday 3 June, there will be a display by 30 Shire, Clydesdale, Suffolk, British Percheron and Ardennes horses.

” We try to introduce something different each year to show off the different skills of the horses, ” says Gail.

“There is a growing interest in the heavy horse, although the numbers being bred has levelled off after the increase between the 70s and 90s.

In some cases the heavy horse is being re-introduced on to the land because it can get on muddy areas sometimes a month before a tractor can be used.

And they’re environmentally friendly for horticultural and agricultural work.”

For more details on the competition on 2 June and the Summer Heavy Horse Spectacular on 3 June( tel: 01243 811363) or visit www.wealdown.co.uk