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Farewell to passionate breeder who raised the profile of Shire horses


  • Alistair King, the founder of Cotebrooke Shire Horse Centre and Stud Farm died on 15 March, aged 74, from cancer.

    Born in 1947, Alistair was christened William Alistair King after his father, who was from Musselburgh. Being half Scottish gave Alistair a lasting love of Scotland, and he named his fillies after lochs and his colts after Scottish mountains.

    Alistair met his first wife, Sheila, while running the Alvanley Arms in Cotebrook. The couple had two children, Steven and Matthew. He bought his first Shire, Knutsford Sunbeam, from Frank Williamson, starting a lifelong love of the breed. When he bred his first foal, he chose one of the most successful Shire stallions of the 1970s, Hillmoor Enterprise, and later bought a filly, Hillmoor Leah, by the same stallion. With guidance from Alistair’s mentor, Arthur Gardner, Leah went on to win 18 supreme championships and was the first of many to qualify for the Horse of the Year Show.

    Following his divorce, Alistair sold most of his Shires, but with his wife Janet, whom he married in 1990, he bought Moorfield Charles in1995. Charlie became the foundation stallion of Cotebrook Shire Stud, producing a string of exceptional horses before he was put down in 2004 owing to a twisted gut.

    In 2003, Cotebrooke Shire Horse Centre opened to the public and it was made a Shire Horse Society-approved visitor centre. Alistair was passionate about preventing the threat of extinction for Shires, and the continual improvement of the breed. The introduction of Moorfield Edward to Cotebrook Stud proved successful, with Edward’s genes complementing the daughters of Moorfield Charles.

    Alistair’s son Matthew is engrossed in Shires, as is his grandson Cameron. Still a teenager, Cameron is already buying and selling ponies. Much to his grandfather’s delight, he also wears the signature red trousers for which Alistair became famous in the show ring.

    Alistair was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer at the end of October and given a few months to live. He told the doctors he wanted to see his first foal of the season born and see his horses at the national championships in March. Cotebrook Cairnsmore of Fleet was born on 26 January and although Alistair was too ill to attend the national championships, he was thrilled to hear of the stud’s success, which included Cotebrook Arkle taking supreme champion stallion. Sadly, he died 36 hours after the show.

    Janet and Matthew will continue Alistair’s legacy by preserving his vision and the future of Cotebrook Shire Stud.

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