The Shire Horse Society will mark its 140th birthday next month (16-18 March) at one of the world’s oldest horse shows.

The Shire Horse Society National Show was first held at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, London in 1880 —run then by the English Cart Horse Society — and is one of the longest-lived, almost-continuous horse shows on record.

This year, the event will be held at Staffordshire Showground, where several special celebrations are planned for the organisation’s landmark anniversary.

The Countess of Wessex, who is patron of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO), will be attending the show on the first day, where she will be introduced to some of the Shire society exhibitors.

She is also expected to meet 2015 and 2016 national Shire horse champion Cotebrook Loch Anna, who has been the model for a special vase created by Moorcroft to mark the 140th birthday.

On the Saturday, 17 March, and Sunday, stable tours will also be run to give visitors an insight into what it takes to prepare a Shire for the ring.

Shire Horse Society secretary Victoria Clayton said: “We are thrilled that the Countess of Wessex is joining us for our three-day event, which is the world’s largest gathering of pedigree Shire horses.

“We are very much looking forward to explaining how we are working to preserve this wonderful breed of horse, which is still considered ‘at risk’ despite a resurgence of interest in Shire horses since a very low point a few decades ago when the breed was in danger of dying out.

“Even now, fewer than 300 pedigree Shire horse foals are born and registered every year, so it’s vital for the breed that we promote these beautiful horses.”

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Around 250 horses from across Europe are due to attend the event, where classes include ridden, in-hand and in harness. The show is open to the public, who are invited to find out more about these “gentle giants” of the horse world.

Tickets are discounted in advance from the Shire Horse Society’s website.

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