The History of SESHA
A small number of Shire breeders in the South East felt that the area needed some sort of assistance by forming a Stallion Hiring Society.
A meeting was then arranged and took place in that October at the George and Dragon public house, Lamberhurst. Well attended by approximately twenty people, all shire enthusiasts, the meeting was a success and everyone was in agreement that this idea should go ahead, thus an interim committee was formed comprising Graham Bournes (Chairman), Brian Searle (Secretary) and Mike Lingard (Treasurer).
The first committee meeting was held shortly afterwards and it was soon realised that we would have to have some method of raising funds to support our intentions.
The Association made reference to The Shire Horse Society who contributed £200 in approval of our formation, plus £200 annually.
With the small amount of funds we had from a small membership, the first show was held at Mount Pleasant Farm, Marden, by kind permission of Brian and Betty Searle and astonishingly a profit of £3,500 was raised, making it a wonderful success and at the same time the Association was most fortunate in having Mike Lingard as its Treasurer. He was most shrewd with our investment, and being a bank manager, invested at the best possible rates. In the meantime, Brian Searle was of the opinion that some rules had to be put in place and with the help of Roy Bird (Secretary of The Shire Horse Society) it was recommended that we apply for charitable status at the same time to avoid tax. Our rules were then submitted and approved by the Charity Commissioners and 98% of these rules still apply to this day.
Shows were held annually and always successful, some being more profitable than others.
We were by this time getting recognised as a hiring society, to the point where we were invited to send a member of the Association to represent SESHA at the council meetings in Peterborough.
Our first residential stallion Metheringham Joseph (Bay) stood at stud at Town Farm Brenchley, Graham Bournes being stallion keeper. Joseph had been three times champion stallion at the society’s spring show at Peterborough and reserve champion twice, but when he came South we were unable to obtain the premium payment which was difficult to understand at the time. He was used for some three years and when returned back to Derbyshire he again picked up his premium payments. On the first year he covered 15 mares, at this stage we found he had a problem he would not cover ‘milky’ mares. The second year he covered 27 mares and on the third year 22 mares.
The Association’s second stallion was Blackden Prince Regent (Black) from Mr Williams in Wales. This stallion was difficult to handle but a good stock getter. The Association hired him for four years, covering an average of 15/16 mares a season. Unfortunately Prince was sold without our knowledge to a breeder in Essex and he was favoured by some of our members who continued to use him in Essex.
The Association was now quite strong financially and it was decided to purchase a stallion from Mr. Ambrose in Sheffield; Metheringham Duke (Black). He was purchased in the autumn and kept by the Association through the winter. He was inspected for approval at the next Spring Show, but much to our consternation he was turned down due to excessive side bone for his age (six years). Although he was vetted prior to purchase, this was a hard financial blow to the Association as he had won the Walter Gilbey award for siring the best get of foals at the previous year’s spring show. This left the Association in an awkward position with no stallion for the following season. We were however rescued by one of our members who purchased a stallion from Mr Wood of Halifax; Ruskington Edward (Black) and we were allowed to use him for three seasons.
The stallion keeper had now moved to Oxley Farm, Smarden.
Edward was a real gentleman and a pleasure to handle, but his fertility was somewhat questionable. The first year with Edward was not very successful, however he threw some reasonable foals eventually. Unfortunately his owner died suddenly and therefore Edward had to be sold.
The last stallion hired by SESHA was Cotebrook Majestic (Bay) owned by John Dean in Derbyshire. We had him for one year, covering just ten mares. The hiring of stallions became a problem as a) No one would take on the job of Stallion keeper and b) Members were not happy regarding colour and what type of stallion the Association should hire.
The idea was raised that we looked at the stallion situation from another angle and was decided that in the future the Association would not hire a stallion. Our Secretary at that time (Lesley Mannington) proposed that in future a subsidy should be offered to assist mare owners towards the cost of keep, travel and covering fees when visiting a stallion of their choice. This was agreed and a sum of money is agreed annually and set aside for the covering season. This system has worked well and has been fine tuned as the years have gone by. This all relates to the aims and objectives of the Association, which is to encourage and improve the breeding of Shire Horses. A condition is that a mare owner wishing to apply for mare subsidy has to be in membership for a period of three years. The subsidy system has now been adopted by many other hiring societies throughout the country.
Any other activity that the Association does in the way of welfare, holding shows, seminars, BBQs, Ploughing Matches, Social Events & Annual Dinners is to further the Association’s finances.
The first three or four shows were held at Mount Pleasant Farm, Marden, and after the successes of these shows which all made a profit but due to a lack of physical help in preparation and help on the day of shows, it was decided that another format would be tried i.e. on a sharing basis. The following year a show was held at White House Farm, Linton, Maidstone, in conjunction with the Maidstone Rotary Club, which regrettably showed a poor result owing to the bad weather and a poor relationship with the partners. Three shows were subsequently held at Whitbreads Farm, Beltring, again in partnership; the first show resulted in a small profit, the second broke even, the third show was cancelled twenty four hours before the event owing to Equine Herpes Virus which was given as the reason for cancellation at the last minute. Regrettably this last minute cancellation resulted in a loss to the Association. The next year a show was held at Brook Farm, Hildenborough, Tonbridge, in conjunction with their theme park. This was troubled by health and safety issues and a dispute over numbers through the gate, another loss to the Association. The Association again returned to running an independent show, owing to past experience of loss of identity caused by forming a partnership to hold a show. The following two shows were held at Gate Court Farm, Northiam and both shows were a success.
The following two years we returned back to Mount Pleasant Farm, Marden, when a small profit was made, but again we ran into labour problems. All these past shows were held in the late spring (i.e. May).
A new site was found at Staplecross, East Sussex, and this was our first summer show held in July. The first show was a great success, incorporating a dog show for the first time and possibly the last, dogs everywhere !!!!! The second show however was a complete disaster, it rained from 6.30am to 3.30p.m., however we completed the programme and no one got stuck due to a good free draining site and everyone went home soaked to the skin but the Association still managed to break even.
Returning back to a Spring Show and our first ever two day show was held in conjunction with The Brenzett RAF Museum, next to an A Class road. The show went well with the help of a generous sponsorship and a good profit was made between both parties. It was held there for a second year, and although this time the show was bigger, the site was just too small. There was a lack of public parking limiting the amount of attendance, although fortunately profit was secured.
A further two day show was held at Cobtree Museum of Kent Life, Maidstone. The same old problem occurred again regarding sharing of the site, which resulted in a disappointing final financial agreement.
Finally, regarding shows, at least one if not two were cancelled due to a Foot and Mouth outbreak, and again one or two by failing to find suitable sites. In the latter years sites have been found on a sharing basis, which already have public attractions. These tend to take away the Association’s identity and look after their own interests (financially) thus the Association suffers. It has always been found difficult to find enough people to prepare and man a show and always falls on the regular few.
I have been asked to record the history of SESHA in its first twenty five years and I have done this with the best of my ability, belief and memory. If there is something missing or incorrect, I apologize and perhaps this could be added or corrected at some future date.
In 2008 the SESHA Chairmanship was taken over by Paul Bower. He was joined shortly after by Show Secretary Jackie Shearman and Secretary Steve Roper. Everyone involved is keen to retain and promote long held values and to encourage younger generations to also become involved, something which is essential to its continuance. The show moved from the Museum of Kent Life to our own show held at Blue Anchor Fields on the A22 at Blindley Heath, then since 2013 just a short distance away and still on the A22 at East Bysshe, a location which we have found to be an ideal venue and we hope will continue for future shows.
It was discussed at an early committee meeting that some sort of identity ought to be made by way of a logo, which would be on our letter heads, pin badges and flags etc: to be recognised immediately.
No agreement could be met so it was decided that it would be put out to members in a form of competition. There were five entries, all good but one stood out which we have to this very day.
The winning design was an entry by Louanna Winter (Gerald & Angela’s eldest daughter) symbolizing exactly what the Association is all about, A stallion standing over the South East of England. With this design, Louanna has given the Association a very successful logo.
Author G E & C A. Bournes.
He was joined shortly after by Show Secretary Jackie Shearman and Secretary Steve Roper. Everyone involved is keen to retain and promote long held values and to encourage younger generations to also become involved, something which is essential to its continuance. The show moved from the Museum of Kent Life to our own show held at Blue Anchor Fields on the A22 at Blindley Heath, then since 2013 just a short distance away and still on the A22 at East Bysshe, a location which we have found to be an ideal venue and we hope will continue for future shows.
The Society has maintained a healthy budget and strong membership, the main forms of income being the Spring Show and also the Annual Dinner and Dance / AGM each February. Profits raised continue to support breeders to take advantage of the best blood lines by means of subsidies. Although we do remain as a hiring Society we have found many breeders now have their own stallion, negating the need to hire in.
I think we’d all agree that the aims of SESHA when it was first formed back in 1983 can now be seen by the real quality of Shire Horses from the South Eastern area. The Association encourages and supports competitive endeavour, responsible ownership and breeding, our members are often found at shows with their animals showing in hand, turnout and ridden. You do not have to be a horse owner to join the Association; enthusiasts are welcome for their input and support.
SESHA are keen to continue to support all aspects of the Shire Horse, including ploughing. Our annual ploughing match is held – ‘The Weald of Kent Ploughing Match’ each September.
SESHA greatly appreciates all the strong support in the past and for the future.
Very sadly we must report the death of Mr. John Roper in October 2016. He was an ardent supporter of SESHA for very many years and a genuinely nice man; a true gentleman. Our thoughts go to Steve, his son, who is our Secretary, and also to all John’s family. He will be greatly missed.
Margaret Cyster, P Gallagher, Gerald Winter, Graham Bournes, John Johnson, Kate Smith, Will Langley.
Graham Bournes, Dave Goodwin, Gerald Winter, Graham Hasemore, Paul Bower.
Brian Searle, Lesley Mannington, Nara Stevens, Derek Underwood, Steve Roper.
Mike Lingard, Lesley Mannington, John Johnson, Jacquie Gardiner, Jackie Shearman.
Patricia Briggs, Linda Hasemore, Cherry Bournes, Graham Milgate, Margaret Teasdale, Yvette Warburton.
Health & Safety Officers:
John Mannington, Kate Smith, Chris Gardiner, Gerry Hillman- Smith.
Graham Bournes (Live) Lesley Mannington (Subsidy,) Dave Littler (Subsidy), Graham Bournes (Subsidy), Jacquie Gardiner (Subsidy), Steve Roper.