March 22nd, 2016

The Eye of Achilles ~ Echoes of Suffolk Punches in the Land

In the late nineteenth century there were several tens of thousands of Suffolk Punch horses in the county. They worked the land and carried crops. It is probably no exaggeration to say that they trod almost every acre of productive farmland in Suffolk, and helped make the land what it is today. We owe these animals such a lot: but so few remain.

Many Suffolk farms still bear the signs of horses. Some old stables still have harness posts jutting out of walls; others may have hay racks and chewed mangers tucked into the quiet corners of shady rooms; in a few, rotting collars and harness hang from hooks and posts. Huge rust-encrusted horseshoes occasionally turn up in ploughed fields and on some farms; and on others, the names of the last Punches to work the land or haul the carts are still remembered, like the denominations of a redundant currency.

The fact that we measure the power of internal combustion engines in ‘horsepower’ reveals the full extent of our previous dependence of horses in our daily lives – and their contribution to our development. “The Eye of Achilles” is an ongoing project that integrates the practice of drawing living Suffolk Punches at Hollesley [the home of The Suffolk Punch Trust] with local oral history.

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