For many it instils the “awe” for what used to be — these lovely giants with heart’s to match who used to work day in and day out until the job was done, and then take us home to our families! Almost all of these working horses have been replaced by the modern car or truck; while efficient in doing the task at hand I don’t think modern day transportation will ever replace the connection one gets from working with a such a giving animal as the horse.
A few weeks ago I spotted a lovely video featuring the Wadworth Shire horses, who still work regularly pulling a dray and making deliveries for Wadworth, a beer (and other fine beverage) brewing company who have been partnered with Shire horses since their establishment in 1875.
After further researching the Wadworth company I was pleased to find a whole page dedicated to their beautiful working horses (you can find that page here: Wadworth Shire Horses), but I just had to know more about these great horses and their role in modern times.
I was lucky to catch Tricia Hurle, the Marketing Administrator for Wadworth and PR for the Shires (and their Horsemen!) just as she came back from vacation and she was able to answer a few questions about the horses for me. Tricia isn’t just the PR for the horses though, she is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the Wadworth Shire horses and was excited to share with me (and our Barnmice readers) about them.
Questions And Answers About The Wadworth Shire Horses
NS: What role or roles have the horses played throughout the Wadworth Brewery history, including their modern role?
TH: Max, Monty & Prince are the latest in a long line of Shire Horses which, apart from a brief interruption, have served Wadworth for over 120 years. In their heyday (before cars and lorries took to the roads) more than 40 Shires were used by the Brewery to deliver their beer to local inns and hostelries (and ponies and traps were used by the Brewery Representatives!). Being three of the very few remaining‘working’ Shires in the brewing industry in Britain today, they deliver our beers, plus wines and spirits, cider, minerals and soft drinks to our pubs and free trade customers in Devizes, within a 2 mile radius of the Brewery. At present, they work as a pair and a single with work drays, each dray carrying a load of up to two tons. We usually have four horses, but at the moment are working with three (a pair and a single) due to one recently being retired – we will be looking to add a fourth one as soon as possible. They are an integral and much loved part of the business, and are our ‘Carbon Hoofprint’!
NS: What does the daily routine of the horses consist of?
TH: The horsemen (of which there are four) arrive at stables at 6am, when the horses get their first feed of the day (they have six buckets of chaff, bran, molasses and supplements a day in total, plus haynets, each). They are then mucked out and fed again at 7am, when they are groomed and then left to settle for ½ hour before being harnessed up for work. Both the pair and single turnouts are then loaded up at the warehouse for their daily deliveries, and after that they are exercised outside the centre of the town before returning to the stables at about 12 noon for their next feed. During the afternoon, the stables are open to the public, where visitors can see the Shires and also look around the dray sheds and the harness room – there is always a horseman on duty to answer any questions! ‘Bedtime’ is around 9pm, when they have their final feed. They are bedded down on peat, which we have found to be the best bedding for them, and which we recycle as garden compost and sell to members of the public and garden centres!
NS: What sort of farrier and veterinary care do the horses receive routinely to keep them sound and healthy for their day-to-day routine?
TH: The horsemen check each horse thoroughly every day as part of the grooming routine, so any problems are quickly dealt with, and the vet called out if necessary. The equine dentist visits at least once a year, and an equine physiotherapist also visits if needed. They are regularly wormed and receive all the necessary inoculations when required. The farrier visits every week, and each horse has new shoes every 3 to 4 weeks, due to the amount of road work that they do.
NS: How often do the horses show or go to promotional events, how far in advance do you begin the preparation work for these events?
TH: The Shires ‘Show & Event’ schedule for the year is decided by the Chairman, the Head Horseman, the Distribution Manager and myself in early January. Although they are essentially working horses, they do attend many show, events and pub appearances throughout our estate each year, mainly during the summer months, as well as continuing with their daily work schedule. A huge amount of preparation goes into each event, with show harness and show dray cleaning and polishing beginning up to a week beforehand, and several hours of bathing, grooming and plaiting for the horses prior to travelling.
NS: When the horses are on holiday, how do they enjoy their down time?
TH: They spend just over 2 weeks each year (normally at the end of July / beginning of August) out in a field owned by our Chairman’s father, where they can rest their legs and enjoy the freedom of being outside. They are fed both morning and evening throughout their summer break to supplement their ‘self-catering’ diet of grass, and at those times are checked over by the Horseman on duty. As there is a public footpath through the field, they often receive visitors with treats of apples and carrots as well. Although they enjoy the break from work, they are usually more than ready to come in at the end of their holiday, as they do enjoy working and the comfort of a warm stable and ‘waiter service’ for meals!
NS: What role will the horses play in the future for the Wadworth Brewery? Will we see them for generations to come?
TH: The Brewery have no plans to stop using the Shire Horses – they are part of our heritage, and part of the family business. We hope that we can continue this wonderful tradition as long as possible for future generations of people to enjoy.
You can learn more about the Wadworth Shire horses and Wadworth & Co Ltd at the link below. Be sure to check back on the Wadworth site as the Brewery and their lovely Shire horses are going to be featured on an upcoming documentary called To The Manor Reborn, currently being filmed by BBC and the National Trust. Wadworth & Co Ltd