The Working Horse Trust is the only charity of its kind in this country in as much as it is a volunteer-only organisation and it was formed to help preserve and promote all traditional breeds of Heavy Working Horse – the populations of which had become decimated by the 1960s and which today are all classified as rare breeds.
The Trust has 15 horses, and a team of over 40 volunteers. Throughout the year they attend as many external events as possible to keep the horses in the public eye, to highlight the danger that the breeds are in and to help encourage wider interest in owning, breeding and working with heavies – particularly among the young.
In addition the Trust holds open days on its farm and stages the highly popular Eridge Heavy Horse Show, which it launched in 2005 to showcase all draught breeds and demonstrate their versatility. The trust also undertakes contract work using the horses in traditional ways to carry out tasks that cannot be done mechanically for various reasons, usually environmental and conservation concerns – for example in forestry, grassland management and bracken control.
It has done work for organisations such as the Woodland Trust, the RSPB, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Corporation of London, East Sussex County Council, The Royal Botanic Gardens and the National Trust, as well as for smaller groups and private individuals.
Breeding is an important aspect of the Trust’s work.
Most of its horses are home bred, including two lovely Suffolk mares, which the Trust hopes to breed from in the future. It also has a fine Ardennes stallion.
The Trust relies on its own efforts to fund its activities. At present funds are raised via annual membership, a sponsorship scheme for individual horses and fundraising events such as the annual Sponsored Ride, Barn Dance, Sponsored Walk, Race Night and Quiz Night, as well as through the open days, show and its external activities. Donations and legacies also make an important contribution to the Trust’s funds.