Popular Norfolk museum is packing more punch!

They were the powerhouses of the 19th century farm, with thousands of them at work across the east of England.

But as the tractor took over agriculture, the mighty Suffolk Punch went into decline and still remains a rare breed.

Now a Norfolk museum has welcomed two new Suffolk Punch heavy horses after its work with the breed suffered a succession of blows.

Staff, volunteers and visitors at Gressenhall Farm and Workshouse were devastated by the sudden deaths of 18-year-old Suffolks Queenie and George within two years of each other.

A hugely successful fundraising drive by friends of the museum led to the purchase of four-year-old Harvey, but he failed to settle.

Farm staff made the difficult decision to let Harvey go and the youngster left in March on permanent loan, much to everyone's disappointment.

Now, the museum is delighted to have found seven-year-old Casper and Reg, five, who joined the ranks this summer.

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Farm manager Richard Dalton said: 'I had been looking for ages, but couldn't find a suitable horse. After having a bad experience, I was very cautious. Then, out of the blue, two came along at once – they found us really.

'We are in the process of buying Casper now and we'll see how Reg gets on. He's a project, but it's all looking good so far.'

The horses travelled down to Gressenhall, near Dereham, from Scotland, where they were worked by a former Norfolk farmer before his circumstances changed.

Visitors were able to meet the handsome pair and see heavy horses at work in the fields during a Horse Power event at the museum yesterday.

Reg will begin his training in the next couple of weeks and must get used to wearing a heavy harness before he can pull any weight.

Mr Dalton said young horses needed to have their confidence built and learn how to work in time with older horses.

Another important lesson is learning to stop when they are told!

'You can usually get them going without any trouble, but they must learn to stop and stand still. They have to get used to voice commands,' Mr Dalton said.

Casper is already working well in a pair and was entered into his first ploughing competition last month, coming fourth out of eight pairs.

'I'm confident he can do anything I throw at him now,' Mr Dalton said.

The new recruits join the farm's existing Suffolks, Trojan, 10, Bowler, nine, and four-year-old Jim.

Yesterday's event, attended by at least 500 people, also brought together a number of other heavy breeds including Shire horses, Clydesdales, Ardennes and Percheron.

Showing the two Percheron, Boyland Alexis and Boyland Phoebe, was Aimee Jones, from Great Ellingham, near Attleborough.

She was keen to take part to raise awareness of the French breed, known for its intelligence and willingness to work.

Boyland Alexis was dressed in ribbons to hide the damage done by thieves who hacked away her mane and tail in a shocking attack at the family farm three months ago.

'She was very upset, you couldn't touch her mane or her tail. It hasn't stopped her winning prizes, though.' Miss Jones said.

Master saddler Terry Davis demonstrated his work and delivered harnesses he had made using rye straw from last year's crop at Gressenhall, travelling over from Shropshire especially.

To find out more, click on www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk or call 01362 869263.