Slideshow: Action Horses are the stars at South of England Show’s first day

Thousands of visitors flocked to Ardingly today (Thursday June 7) for the start of the South of England Show, the region’s premier country show.

Opening day’s early bird visitors had the best of the weather, although scattered showers later in the day failed to damp anyone’s enthusiasm.

BBC TV's weather presenter Carol Kirkwood with Atkinson Action Horses

BBC TV's weather presenter Carol Kirkwood with Atkinson Action Horses

Thursday was the major judging day for all categories ranging from cattle and sheep to flowers, young craftspeople and trade stands.

Agricultural and land-based colleges, Plumpton and Brinsbury laid on displays to outshine the professionals.

One of the most widely anticipated main arena events was the thrilling equestrian stunt team Atkinson Action Horses.

Star of the show undoubtedly was Barney, the tall, dark and handsome Cleveland Bay, best known as the mount of Aidan Turner, TV’s Poldark.

While Barney didn’t shed any clothes, his display caused hearts to flutter in the stands.

Other equines - part of the Atkinson stable - also appear in Peaky Blinders and Victoria. Even they were almost eclipsed by riders in the elegant sidesaddle and showjumping classes.

Expert judges cast their eyes over cattle burnished to a high shine for the day - later they paraded the main ring, demonstrating why British livestock is admired and exported to upgrade bloodlines across the world.

Sheep were ruffled and combed and even elaborately coiffed chickens in the poultry marquee strutted their stuff.

In the NFU’s Discovery Barn visitors were shown how to prepare and cook simple, nutritious and healthy meals for today’s busy families.

The show continues tomorrow and Saturday.