Jimbo steals hearts at Gressenhall

Dashing new Suffolk Punch Jimbo has been described as a bit of a heart stealer so it is perhaps apt that the first time visitors at a Norfolk tourist attraction will get to meet him is on Valentine's Day.

Dashing new Suffolk Punch Jimbo has been described as a bit of a heart stealer so it is perhaps apt that the first time visitors at a Norfolk tourist attraction will get to meet him is on Valentine's Day.

And as Jimbo enjoyed basking in the winter sunshine it was clear he was going to be a real star of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.

The young horse, who will be three in April, is the latest addition to the Suffolk Punches at the museum which aims to help preserve this East Anglian breed - once a familiar sight working on the region's fields these horses are now rarer than the giant panda.

At Gressenhall now it is all boys together as Jimbo joins three other males, George, 18, Trojan, nine, and Bowler, eight.

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Jimbo, whose full name is Horning Hall St James, has been settling in well with the help of George. He will meet his other two work mates in the spring.

As Jimbo and George posed for pictures it was a case of the handsome old stalwart showing the bright young teenager how it was done.

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Gressenhall's farm manager Richard Dalton said: 'Jimbo is very friendly, very inquisitive. He is very outgoing, very keen and takes everything in. He is a happy chappy. George has been there done that. He is a steady, calming influence, a mentor and ideal to work with a young horse like Jimbo.'

He said George will help show his young friend the ropes as he trains to be a working horse for the museum. His training programme will begin later this year, when he will learn to pull tyres to help him get used to pulling weight before he will progress to harrowing alongside another horse. Once he has built up his strength he should be ready to take families on cart rides and doing other work in the fields.

Jimbo was bred at Horning before moving to South Burlingham. He will not be fully grown until he is about five - at the moment he is 15.2 hands but should grow to about 17 hands.

He certainly has big horse-shoes to fill for he is following in the footsteps of Gressenhall legend Queenie.

Mr Dalton had hoped the popular 17-year-old Suffolk Punch mare would help their newest arrival learn the tricks of his trade before she retired but the popular Gressenhall character died suddenly in November after developing serious colic.

With only 100 breeding mares left, the Suffolk Punch is high on the critical list and breeders have warned that without ongoing support Suffolk Punch horses could be extinct within a generation. Jimbo's arrival at Gressenhall is the result of an appeal launched by the Friends of Gressenhall in October to buy a younger horse and fund its training and harness.

Friends chairman Christine Walters, who described Jimbo as 'a heart stealer,' said his arrival had only been made possible thanks to the generosity of people donating to the appeal which has now raised about �10,500. In the future the appeal wants to buy a female Suffolk Punch horse.

She said: 'The fund is about helping to preserve Suffolk Punch horses because they are very, very special.

'A lot of people talk about how Suffolk Punches are rarer than the giant panda, but what people need to understand also is that Suffolk Punches are ours. They belong to East Anglia and to be able to be in touch with these horses everyday at Gressenhall is just fantastic.'

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse is open from February 14 to 22 from 10am to 4pm. The museum opens for the new season on Sunday, March 22.

Donations to the Friends' appeal can be sent to Friends of Gressenhall, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Dereham, NR20 4DR. Cheques should be made payable to Friends of Gressenhall and envelopes marked Suffolk Horse Appeal.

To get involved with fundraising or learn how to Gift Aid your contribution contact Christine Walters on 01362 860967 or email cmjwalters@btinternet.com

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