An equestrian centre has invested in a special kind of horsepower to help beat the winter mud and bring back a traditional way of working to the area.
Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre, based near Bourton-on-Water, Gloucestershire, welcomed 16hh 11-year-old Belgian draft mare Belle last week.
Leanne Launchbury, who owns the centre with her husband Justin, said the idea came after weeks of heavy rain when they were unable to use tractors in their fields owing to the mud.
“We weren’t able to transport hay out to horses in the fields as the wheels got stuck in the mud,” she told H&H. “Belle had been imported from Belgium and we bought her from a nearby breeding centre which has a herd of Belgian drafts. She wasn’t suitable for breeding so we decided to buy her to work on the land.
“We have a Shire, Roo, who we bought a few years ago to work but he hasn’t been sound enough to work so after another wet winter we were keen to try something else.”
Leanne said Belgian drafts are rare in the UK and they make good work horses owing to their build.
“Being that bit smaller in height but broader and wider than some of the other working breeds she’s ideal for pulling a harrow and getting into smaller spaces, without being as deep as a tractor or quad bike,” she said.
“By bringing horsepower back to our yard we can demonstrate a traditional method of agriculture to visitors, support a rare breed, and make sure we don’t get stuck ever again. It’s something we’re immensely proud to be doing.”
The project manager said the heavy horses were a perfect fit for the work at the sensitive woodland site
‘Horse logging is a really environmentally sensitive way to move felled and fallen timber while reducing damage to flora and
Leanne said Belle is broken to ride and will also be used in the riding centre, which offers tourist rides and hosts the Cotswold Riding Opportunities Project, a not-for-profit scheme that uses interaction with animals to help children grow in confidence.
“Belle is built like a tank but she doesn’t know her size or use it against you, a child could handle her. She takes everything in her stride and we’re thrilled with her. She’s a very sweet mare,” she said.
“A horse-drawn harrow is due to arrive soon so she’ll start by levelling the arena, and then she’ll be used to harrow as well as taking hay out to the fields. If it works out well we could mean us buying another Belgian draft to join Belle in the future.”
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