A special visitor trotted into Stafford Farmers’ Market to help promote the world’s largest gathering of Shire horses, which takes place at Staffordshire Showground from 16th to 18th March.

Stunning Shire horse Bobek and the Robinsons Brewery dray, along with representatives from the Shire Horse Society, were on hand to meet and greet shoppers and explain more about the National Shire Horse Show.

The Mayor of Stafford Councillor Aidan Godfrey welcomed the team to the town, ahead of the big show, which is expected to attract around 250 of the gentle giants of the horse world from across Europe.

Open to the public, the show is the perfect place to see these magnificent horses in all their glory and being put through their paces – in hand, in harness or being ridden.

This year’s event is a special one for the Shire Horse Society, as it marks the charity’s 140th birthday. On Friday, it will be hosting a Royal visit when The Countess of Wessex tours the show in her role as Patron of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO). The Shire Horse Society – the only charity that is devoted to the protection, preservation and promotion of this magnificent British breed of horse – is a member of ASAO.

Shire Horse Society secretary Victoria Clayton said: “We are thrilled that The Countess of Wessex is joining us during the first day of our three-day event, which is the world’s largest gathering of pedigree Shire horses.

“We are very much looking forward to explaining how we are working to preserve this wonderful breed of horse, which is still considered ‘at risk’ despite a resurgence in interest in Shire horses since a very low point a few decades ago when the breed was in danger of dying out. Even now, fewer than 300 pedigree Shire horse foals are born and registered every year, so it’s vital for the breed that we promote these beautiful horses.”

During the visit, Her Royal Highness will tour Bingley Hall at Staffordshire Showground – meeting some of the Shire Horse Society members who are showing their horses and a number of traders who have taken stands at the event. The Countess is also due to watch some of the horses in action in the ring and will present awards in one of the classes.

The Shire Horse Society’s National Show has been held at a limited number of venues in England over its long history, and is believed to be one of the oldest, almost continuous, horse shows in the world, having been held for the first time at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, London, in 1880, when the charity was named the English Cart Horse Society.

This is the third year the flagship event of the Shire Horse Society has been held at Staffordshire Showground.

Tickets to the show are discounted in advance up until the end of Thursday 15th March from the Shire Horse Society’s website www.shire-horse.org.uk or are available on the gate. Gates open on Friday 16th March at 8am and at 7am on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th March.

For more details and ticket information about the show, visit http://www.shire-horse.org.uk or follow @saveourshires on Twitter or at www.facebook.com/shirehorsesociety

Photo by Paul Milgate-Scarrott.