The Suffolk Punch Trust was awarded charitable status last week in an important step towards safeguarding the future of the rare breed’s stud farm at Hollesley Bay Prison.
Philip Ryder-Davies, the chairman of the trust, explains: “Getting charity status was critically important because it means we can start raising money.
“Really though it is just one more step and there is still a long way to go. The next step is getting planning permission, but until we became a charity we couldn’t even get the money to apply for that.”
The stud has been in operation for more than 100 years, and has around 35 Suffolk Punch horses. When the Prison Service announced around a year ago that it no longer wanted to have responsibility for the stud, the Suffolk Punch Trust was set up as a limited company to purchase and run it.
The trust plans to open the stud to the public to help make it financially viable, but Philip states its main focus is to foster the preservation of the breed, which is on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s critical list.
“The Suffolk Punch is a very rare breed, and this stud is an ideal home for stallions which can sometimes be hard to home,” he says. “We also have a professional stud groom, which greatly increases the chances of getting mares in foal.”
Having been granted charitable status, the trust also intends to develop its education and rehabilitation projects.
“The stud is in an environmentally unusual area,” Philip continues. “Horses and carts are already used to transport 500 schoolchildren a year through the marshland to the seashore, but the educational side of this is underdeveloped.
“We want to increase their appreciation of the rare plants and birds, so we’ll be working in association with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
“The prisoners look after the horses as part of their rehabilitation, so we hope to raise the level of their involvement too.”