The future of a historic stud farm which has been under threat of closure since 2001 looks brighter following the Home Office’s decision to offer the Colony Stud at Hollesley Bay Prison in Suffolk a new site within the prison grounds.

Home to the Colony herd of Suffolk Punches, Hollesley houses one of Britain’s largest populations of the rare draught breed, of which there are only about 200 examples in the world.

Although the Home Office is offering the stud an alternative home, it wishes to find a new owner to take on the 24 mares, young stock and the stallion, Fenland Eric, and also run the stud.

Hollesley estate manager Allan Douglass says: “I think that the Prison Service recognises that the horses are important to Suffolk. The stud can remain on the same site and could even be expanded and that is very good news.”

The Home Office has offered the Suffolk Punch Trust, a group of Suffolk owners, breeders and enthusiasts, first refusal on the horses and some land on the estate.

Vet Philip Ryder Davies, who is also a council member of the Suffolk Horse Society, is chairman of the trust.

He says: “Negotiations with the Home Office are progressing well. It is vital for the breed that we save the stud, as it has such an excellent track record for fertility and has been extremely well run, which means that live foaling rates are high.

“We plan to run the stud in conjunction with the prison, so that inmates will still benefit from the experience of working with and caring for such wonderful horses.”

Prison inmates have traditionally provided much of the labour on the stud, accompanying their charges to shows in some cases, and former prisoners speak passionately about how working with horses gives them a sense of achievement and taught valuable lessons for life on the outside.

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