NORTHUMBERLAND'S Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre is facing an uncertain future and has launched an online appeal asking for support to help its horses through the coming year.

The centre, set up seven years ago, has since been recognised for its work by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and is now the UK's only RBST approved Farm Park dedicated to heavy horses, participating in nationwide semen collection to ensure the future survival of the Clydesdale.

The centre is located on Lord Joicey’s Ford and Etal Estates and is run by Viv Cockburn and her daughter Anna, and depends solely on donations from its 20,000 annual visitors – so it has hit difficulty with being closed for the foreseeable future due to Coronavirus.

Usually the centre does lots of events through the season such as carriage rides, open days, country crafts exhibitions and along with visitor donations, this helps to pay the £120,000 a year costs to run the centre.

The Cockburns have amassed one of the largest collections of equipment relating to the days of the working horse and have stud books going back to Victorian times. It is a major resource for the heavy horse community, but without support could be under threat.

Unfortunately, the centre didn’t qualify for any government or charity lockdown grant, which has obliged the Cockburns to make the online funding appeal.

Anna Cockburn commented: “The current Covid-19 situation is devastating for the country as a whole, and all of us at the centre appreciate that these are really uncertain times. We felt that now the horses are turned away onto grass, we would be able to tick away quietly until lockdown is lifted – however this is not the case.

“The £10K grants that were announced by the government were going to be a lifeline to us, however they do not apply. We have been told that they class us as a 'farm', so we are not eligible. We have no farmland or crops, we don't receive government subsidies, however we have sadly been grouped into this category,” she stressed.

“It is now the case that we are totally reliant on your kind donations to ensure our survival for the future to carry out both our charitable work and operate the centre for all, playing our part in the survival of rare breeds of heavy horses.


The Scottish Farmer:

Less than a week old, this young colt was born at the centre on Sunday, May 10


There are 17 horses to be cared for at the centre, 12 Clydesdales, two Shires, one ex-racehorse and two miniature ponies, plus its newest arrival, a Clydesdale colt foal born last weekend, the offspring of the centre’s huge stallion, nine-year-old Teddy, a rare black example of the breed, who is much in demand among the heavy horse breeding community.

The online appeal to raise funds for the centre has so far received over 400 donations and raised over £12,000. If you would like to make a donation you can visit: