A rare Suffolk foal is capturing hearts at a Dorset sanctuary.
Lilly Rose, who was born on 12 June at Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park, is helping educate visitors about the rare breed.
Taya Street from the centre told H&H it has gone from having no Suffolk horses to three in a matter of months.
“We were looking for a Suffolk punch at the start of the winter,” said Taya, explaining that the park had recently lost its old Suffolk due to old age.
“We found a pair together in Liverpool — Abby Rose, who was in foal, and another Suffolk named Uno.
“We brought back Uno to work on the farm and by the time we got back we thought ‘we can’t leave the other behind’.
“We went and brought Abby Rose back and are able to offer them a home for life.”
Abby Rose and her foal (Lilly Rose) are both doing well. Once she is weaned, Abby Rose will return to work at the farm.
Taya added that while these are working horses, staff do hope they will breed again.
The centre promotes heavy horses and educates visitors about the history of the breeds.
“Working heavy horses aren’t an everyday sight these days,” she said, adding it is important to teach children about why these horses are special.
“To them these are just horses — they have no idea of the history.
“It is a real eye-opener for them. We plant the seed of interest to the young generation in the hope they do come on board.”
The Suffolk is rarer than the giant panda, with an estimated 73-75 breeding mares left in the UK.
The Rare Breed Survival Trust and Suffolk Horse Society are planning significant investment in genetic research to help preserve the breed.
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The Suffolk Punch Trust also welcomed a filly in April — Colony Dot, known as “Little Dot”.
“We have had other foals born this year, but this is the first one belonging to the trust, so we are very excited,” said Suffolk Punch Trust manager Tracey Pettitt.
Dorothy will stay with the Suffolk Punch Trust breeding program to help boost the numbers of this critically endangered horse.
Emma Grace, stud groom at the trust, said she Little Dot is “very kind natured” with a laid-back temperament.
“Within an hour of labour she was born and up on her toes, she is a shy but curious little filly; often wondering what is going on and sticking her nose into places,” she said.
“Visitors are so pleased and excited, we are over the moon.”
Jackey Phillips, who has been involved with the breed since the 1990s, has started a Suffolk breeding programme with her two mares.
Sadly her first homebred died this year due to a heart problem, but Mrs Phillips has had confirmation that this was not congenital or genetic and hopes to breed from the mare again. She is also hoping to have a foal from her other mare next year.
“We as Britons — as humans — owe them an awful lot,” she told H&H.
“They were pulling gun carriages for us in both wars and keeping the country going with farming — it would be criminal if we did not keep our end up and try to keep the breed going.
“We would lose something precious if we lost the Suffolk Punch.”
For more news on Suffolk horses and what recent shocking statistics mean in real terms, don’t miss this week’s H&H — out Thursday (6 July).