Heavy Horse Camp 2021


 Lyn Thompson the artist and founder of Whistlefish loves heavy horses, she owns six of her own heavy horses and has a baby foal that was born earlier this Spring. Lyn loves to support and be a part of the events and charities that take place for these elegant giants.

 Usually, events for horse breeds, such as Clydesdale and Shires, are shown in separate events until the Heavy Horse Camp was created in 2019. This Camp is the first of its kind to bring all 4 main heavy horse breeds - Shire, Clydesdale, Suffolk and Percheron - together over a weekend. This event gives the owners and horse enthusiasts an opportunity to socialise, learn new skills and find confidence in riding and caring for these rare horses.


There was joy and excitement as the Shire Horse Society-organised 2021 Heavy Horse Camp got underway at Arena UK, Grantham, from 28–30 May. Following the easing of Covid-19 curbs after Lockdown 3, this was the first Society event in over a year where people could get together with their Shires in any numbers.  It felt great!

Created by the Society’s Victoria Clayton in 2019, Camp enables people less experienced and newer to heavy horses to learn and practice a wide range of skills. They bring their own horse or work with horses loaned for the weekend.

With 45 student “campers,” Camp 2021 proved even more popular than first time round. It was laid on with volunteer organisers and supported by generous sponsors.  For three days, campers absorbed knowledge from “presenters” - deeply experienced heavy horse people giving expert sessions in show preparation, braiding, in hand, long-reining, harness, driven, ridden and much more. It culminated in a chance for campers to take part in a show with judges on the Sunday.

 Education is an important part of the Society’s work. Steve Ledsham, presenting on harness, said, “We need to pass knowledge on to people newer to heavy horses. Its critical to preserving the future of the breed.”  Ken Young added, “We’re here to help because it can be hard on your own. If we can inspire people, it gives them confidence and gets horses working. That first step is key.”

Bob, a self-confessed “happy hacker” at camp for the first time with his mare Rose, said, “Its brilliant, I’m really enjoying it, especially trying things like driving and braiding that are different to what I’ve done before.”  And Jo’s confidence was boosted beyond her expectations. “I’ve had Ellie for over 5 years. We’ve done groundwork and built trust, and I came to camp to meet other Shire people and learn new things. Now I am thinking about showing when I wouldn’t have had the confidence before.” 

 Jo added, “One thing I’ve noticed at Camp is how proud everyone is of their Shires and how the presenters take pride in everything they do. I now want to be part of that through showing, not to win but to showcase a rare breed.”

For some people, it was their second Camp. They came to build on what they learned first time round and renew friendships.  Sally, camping with Shire mare Missy said, “It’s so rare to have a place where so many people are sharing their experience and knowledge. I wanted to take in more. I’ve had lovely comments from presenters on how I’ve improved from last time.” 

Camp is for all the heavy breeds, learning from each other. The presenters are versatile in their teaching. Cheryl Grover, presenting on fitting agricultural harness, said, “We’ve had a lot of campers in the sessions with a variety of Shires and Clydesdales asking a lot of questions. We’ve done shaft harness, tug harness – a bit of everything.” And Dusty, a Suffolk with second-timer mother and son team Sally and Toby, was put to in shafts for the first time with Kevin Morris and Peter Young. Sally said, “All the help and encouragement here means so much. After last time, we trained Dusty for driving but this is her first time in the agricultural tip cart. We’ve achieved what we have because of the presenters and the Shire Horse Society.”

Victoria Clayton said, “The Society extends warm thanks to everyone who made Camp possible, and congratulations to our fabulous campers on what they learned and achieved this year. We’ve had really positive feedback and are already looking forward to Camp 2022.”

The next Heavy Horse Camp 20, 21 and 22 May 2022.

If you are interested in this article and would like more information regarding this event please contact info@shire-horse.org.uk or 01536 771611

 - Article by Libby Archer



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