In the Suffolk Horse Society’s Centenary year, 1977, I became a volunteer to help with the Centenary Dinner under the Presidency and Chairmanship of Col Sir Robert Gooch of Benacre who was President from 1953, until he died in 1978. Mr Wilf Woods was the Secretary in 1977, but after 60 years of service and at a great age, he decided to retire due to ill health and in 1979 my husband Philip was appointed Secretary and Roger Clark became Chairman.
The family, Joanna, William and Benjamin, who were then very young, and I, found ourselves roped in to join other volunteers for all the tasks, events and fundraising which began in the early 80’s, especially the first Suffolk Punch Spectacular at Easton Farm Park near Woodbridge in 1981.
We all went to shows and events in different parts of the country and met members of all heavy horse breeds who became friends. In those earlier days, as with today, it was a case of ‘all hands to the plough’. The merchandise for the Society’s ‘stand’ was taken to shows in my or another volunteer’s car, with larger metal stand items taken with the Hollesley Bay horses in the lorry driven by stud groom Bruce Smith, or with Suffolk horse breeders Tom and Sandy Walne. Tom and Sandy transported our horses to shows, sometimes together with our Red Poll cattle, although the latter passengers were not popular due the mess they made in the lorry!
Today’s SHS display has certainly moved on to more sophisticated and successful breed promotion, but it was a small beginning and enjoyable.
The horses we had, three geldings and a mare, were shown in hand and in harness by Philip with help from the family and although I was not part of handling and showing, I hope I was able to understand from observation just what is involved for all the owners, whether at home or in the show ring.
In 1988 I became a Council member and was a member of the Finance and General Purposes Committee until 2004 when I retired. Having attended Council meetings last year in my pre-Presidential year together with Committee meetings and shows this year since my election, I find that the dedication to the Suffolk breed is as strong as ever, which bodes well for its future and I am looking forward to my Presidential year.