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Suffolk Show 2019: Show pays tribute to heavy horse great Roger Clark

PUBLISHED: 17:39 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 06:43 31 May 2019

Suffolk heavy horses wore black bands on both days of the Suffolk Show as a tribute to the late Roger Clark, who died just before the event  Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Suffolk heavy horses wore black bands on both days of the Suffolk Show as a tribute to the late Roger Clark, who died just before the event Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Andy Abbott

A moving tribute has been paid to one of the Suffolk Show's heavy horse stalwarts at this year's event.

Roger Clark walking with his Suffolk Punch in the Grand Parade on the final day of the Suffolk Show 2018  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNRoger Clark walking with his Suffolk Punch in the Grand Parade on the final day of the Suffolk Show 2018 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Competitors at the Suffolk heavy horse events on both days of the show tied black bands onto harnesses in remembrance of farrier and horseman Roger Clark, of Stoke-by-Nayland, who died in May.

Mr Clark, who was a big supporter of the Suffolk Horse Society and showed at events all over the country, was well known across the horse world.

MORE - Tribute paid to Suffolk heavy horse stalwart

Before his death, the Suffolk Agricultural Association, the organisation behind the Suffolk Show, made a special presentation to him in honour of his numerous achievements.

A special citation provided by Mark Donsworth, senior steward for heavy horses at the Suffolk Show, and long-time friend, Philip Ryder-Davies, paid tribute to him as "a most loyal supporter of the Suffolk Show", and "ambassador for the Suffolk countryside".

Roger Clark walking with his Suffolk Punch in the Grand Parade on the final day of the Suffolk Show 2018  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNRoger Clark walking with his Suffolk Punch in the Grand Parade on the final day of the Suffolk Show 2018 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

One of an elite group to pass the Fellowship, the highest examination run by the Worshipful Company of Farriers, with honours, he sat on its examination board for many years.

In his early years he was helped by farrier and shoeing expert Les Finch of Martlesham, and later became an authority on shoeing all breeds of heavy horse, even giving a shoeing demonstration at a conference on veterinary and farriery aspects of heavy horses in Boston, USA.

He ran demonstrations at schools days run by the Suffolk Agricultural Association, and was known throughout the country for his passion for and knowledge of Suffolk horses, which was kindled when he was a teenager.

He became a horseman for George Coulson of Long Melford - one of a handful of breeders who kept the Suffolk horse alive in the 1960s and 70s - before settling down as a tenant at Weylands Farm, Thorrington Street, on the Tendring Estate. He set up his forge on the 200-acre farm and started to acquire Suffolk horses with which he farmed the land.

He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of agricultural work with horses and the implements used. He broke in cart horses for clients over a wide area and, with limited resources, started showing horses, specialising in stallions, geldings in hand and in turnouts including four horse teams.

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At that time, major brewers were showing teams, and all had Shire horses except for Truman's, which used Suffolks. There were also two private teams of Suffolks run by Charlie Saunders, and Harry Hall.

Roger's ability to compete against these was a measure of his abilities. The Suffolk Show was his home ground and winning there was especially important. At one Suffolk Show, he showed a six-horse team and his triumph was to show a four horse team at length - the custom for all Suffolk team exhibitors until the Second World War. He caused a sensation when he showed using the technique, pulling a Pauls Millers Wagon at all the major shows that season, including the Royal Show.

Roger's stallions were always available to breeders and as he was always keen to learn, his stallions were used with modern breeding routines.

In 1980, it was clear that the Suffolk horse was badly in need of being reinvigorated. A group of people came to the rescue, including Roger, a leading light, and the fortunes of the breed took a turn for the better. Roger spent the next 20 years as an adviser with the Suffolk Horse Society, eventually becoming its president.

As well as horses, Roger also bred Red Poll cattle, Suffolk Sheep and Large Black pigs. Another of his passions was hunting, dating back to when he was a teenager in Saxmundham. Captain Marriot of Sandpit Farm, Bruisyard, started a pack of Basset hounds with Lady Blanche Cobbold. The Bassets were hunted on foot, other than the master who rode, and Roger whipped in to him. Many years later, he became Master of the Essex and Suffolk when George Paul retired.

After three seasons, he too retired and started the East Anglian Bloodhound pack which rapidly became an established feature in the county, and he hunted this from 1994 to 2016.

While he was Master of the Essex and Suffolk he paraded its hounds at the Suffolk Show, and when Master of the Bloodhounds, these were also paraded at the show and brought to the schools day.

He drove a team of Welsh Cobs, a passion which dated back to his teenage years when he joined the late James Hewitt, who made his living carrying paying customers on his coach to Woburn Abbey when it first opened up to the public. For several weekends Roger travelled there by train and impressed his tutor so much that he would leave the coach to his pupil when taking a weekend off. He became an outstanding driver of heavy horse teams.

Paying tribute to him, Mark Donsworth and Philip Ryder-Davies described him as a "one-off", who inspired others.

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