‘We didn’t claim the Eurovision title, but we still won that night’: double delight with arrival of rare breed foals

  • Breeders are enjoying a double celebration with the arrival of two Suffolk foals in a “crucial boost” for the UK’s most endangered heavy horse breed.

    Jimmy’s Farm & Wildlife Park, near Ipswich, welcomed a filly and colt in recent weeks. The mares were loaned by their owner to support the Suffolk Horse Society’s breeding programme for the conservation of rare bloodlines.

    Suffolk mare Spearman Annabelle safely delivered a colt and a week later, Spearman Annie gave birth to a filly on 14 May.

    Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) vice-president Jimmy Doherty, of Jimmy’s Farm & Wildlife Park and a member of the Suffolk Horse Society, said he is delighted at the arrival of both foals.

    “When the Suffolk Horse Society asked if we would be able to contribute to this breeding project by hosting the two mares, we were over the moon and jumped at the chance,” he said.

    “We are elated with these two beautiful foals; the result of two successful pregnancies. The Suffolk horse is an irreplaceable feature of our local heritage here in Suffolk and these foals will help strengthen the population.”

    Spearman Bellatrix was conceived at Colony Stud, a stud and visitors’ attraction dedicated to the Suffolk horse, by successful artificial insemination carried out by Bruce Langley McKim of Thorpeley Stud.

    Tracey Pettitt, from the Suffolk Punch Trust and Colony Stud, led the team monitoring the mares in the lead-up to the births.

    “I feel privileged to see the foals be born and honoured that Jimmy’s Farm & Wildlife Park trusted us to do the job,” said Tracey.

    “The mares are both healthy and have taken to motherhood like ducks to the water. This is the first time we’ve had two mares foal side by side. Annie and Annabelle were born on the same day and have spent every day together since, they’re practically sisters.”

    The as yet unnamed colt foal with his mother, Spearman Annabelle, at Jimmy’s Farm & Wildlife Park.

    A RBST spokesman explained that when a breed’s population is so low, the birth of new females is important to guard against inbreeding and protect its future survival.

    The Suffolk horse is categorised as a “priority” on the RBST annual watchlist. Just 16 pure-bred fillies were registered in 2021.

    Stevie Sheppard, general manager of Jimmy’s Farm & Wildlife Park, added: “Just as we came second on Eurovision, I got the call that the second Suffolk foal was being born, Although we didn’t claim the Eurovision title, we still won that night with this rare foal.”

    Suffolk Horse Society chairman Mark Donsworth said the arrival of Spearman Bellatrix is cause for “extra celebration”.

    “The Suffolk Horse breed as we know it today can be traced back to 1768, and there were many thousands of Suffolks throughout East Anglia before the First World War,” he said.

    “But today the breed is the rarest of the UK’s pure-bred heavy horses, and urgent action is necessary to secure its future. Every pure-bred Suffolk foal born is incredibly precious but as a filly foal continuing a very rare bloodline, Spearman Bellatrix gives cause for extra celebration.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits. 

    You may like...