p and down the country farms, smallholdings and agricultural centres are transforming and evolving to meet the latest trends and modern-day demands. In fact, according to the latest figures, more than half of Britain’s landowners have now diversified, whether using land as a glamping site for families, opening office space or even leasing land for festivals. For most, this has meant embracing the future, pressing fast forward by upgrading to modern technology and machinery on-site.

While this is the case for many, one award-winning riding centre and pony club in the heart of the Cotswolds has decided to buck the trend. Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre, located just outside the popular village of Bourton-on-the-Water, has decided to turn back the clock and reintroduce traditional methods of working the land back to Gloucestershire.

Leanne Launchbury, Owner at Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre (BVEC), talks to The Vintage Scene about why they have decided to bring age-old harrowing methods back to the centre, and introduces Belle, the striking Belgian Draſt mare that’s going to help them do it.

“The idea came to us last year when, aſter weeks of heavy rain, we simply couldn’t transport hay out to the fields using the tractor as the wheels got stuck in the mud.

“We have over thirty horses at the yard, all of which live out throughout the year, so it’s important that they have plenty to eat, particularly over the winter months when there isn’t as much fresh grass for them to graze on. When grass is in short supply, we take large bales of hay out to them. If the weather isn’t on our side the land quickly becomes boggy, which means it can become almost impossible to get the tractor out to them without getting stuck.”

Planting the Seed to Use Horsepower

Leanne and her husband, Justin, established the centre over twenty years ago. What started out as a hobby grew into a business and they now use horses for several activities, from tourist rides around the picturesque villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter, to pony clubs, riding lessons and tuition, racing, and the retraining of racehorses.

“It occurred to us that we should also be embracing horsepower to harrow the land and to transport heavy loads across the fields. Where modern machinery was failing, we were confident that horsepower was the way


to beat the winter mud. From there, the seed of the idea had been planted and we started considering it seriously as an option.”

Belle the Belgian Draſt

While initially the centre tried to give the job to its beloved Shire horse, Roo, the gentle giant wasn’t up to the task.

“In January this year, we took ownership of Belle, a striking Belgian Draſt mare, with the hope that she could help us. One of the strongest breeds in the world, Belle weighs the same as a small family car (900kg) and stands at 16 hands from the ground to the top of her shoulders, which is the same height as the average UK woman.

“The Belgian Draſt is descended from the war horse of the Middle Ages, but it has dwindled in numbers since the Second World War and is now, unfortunately, a rare breed in the UK.

“By bringing horsepower back to our yard we hope to support the breed by educating visitors about its use as

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