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Horses and our Royal Family

Horses and our Royal Family
With our Queen’s Diamond Jubilee rapidly approaching, I started thinking about how horses and the Royal family are linked.

The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR)  are a ceremonial cavalry regiment if the British Army who will be on parade for all to see at this year’s celebrations. The regiment carries out mounted and some dismounted duties.

The regiment was formed in 1946 to carry out public duties, based as Hyde Park Barracks. It consists of two sabre squadrons in itself: the The Life Guards Squadron and The Blues and Royals Squadron.

There is also a Headquarters Squadron which includes the Quartermasters Department, The Riding Instructors, The Training Wing, The Regimental Veterinary Office who supervises the Regimental Farriers and the Regimental Medical Staff.

Bearing in mind the regiment has 250 horses, it is their task to carry out the traditional ceremonial role of the Household Cavalry – its duties include providing The Queen’s Life Guard daily the Horse Guards, finding all Sovereign’s and other escorts, providing mounted bands and certain dismounted duties for the Royal Family and visiting Heads of State.

Every day is a busy one for all involved in the HCMR. It typically starts with the thirty minute blanket ride at 6.30am. This means warming the horses and riders up who will be serving the Queen’s Life Guard duties at Horse Guards later on in the day. Then, at 7am is the hour long Watering Order. It sets off from Hyde Park Barracks and through central London to provide exercise for horses and riders (including band members) not taking part in the Queen’s Life Guard. These traditions comes from a time when in battle, horses were taken from camp each morning to find water to drink before going into battle.

Next is the Queen’s Life Guard. This occurs on alternate days by The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals. There are two types of guard – a Long Guard when The Queen is resident in London and a Short Guard when The Queen is not resident.

Should Her Majesty leave London while the Guard is mounted or returning to Buckingham Palace, the composition of The Guard changes accordingly – it is “made up” or “made down” to suit. The Guard requires lengthy preparation each day, followed by intense inspection to ensure the highest turnout possible.

Now, you may be wondering why this ceremony takes place at Horse Guards. This is because in 1753, the Horse Guards building was completed near to the position of the Holbein Gate of Whitehall Palace (destroyed by fire in 1698) – the one and only official entrance to King George II’s residence at St James’ Palace.

It continued to be the official entrance after King George moved to Buckingham Palace in 1762. Queen Victoria then ascended the throne and she retained Horse Guards as  the office entrance to Buckingham Palace, which is still the case today.

The Guard is changed at Horse Guards daily at 11am (or 10am on Sundays), for which the Guard leaves Hyde Park Barracks at 10.30am (9.30am on Sundays).

There is also a 4pm Parade daily at Horse Guards where the Captain of The Queen’s Life Guard if a Long Guard) – or the Orderly (Duty) Officer from the Barracks (of a Short Guard) – inspects the Queen’s Life Guard.

For the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the mounted regiment will provide a Sovereign’s Escort from Parliament to BuckinghamPalace. This will include 116 men and horses riding with the carriage carrying the Sovereign. As well as  this, the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry will be playing fanfares in St. Paul’s Cathedral during the Jubilee Service and the double mounted band (53 musicians and horses) of the Household Cavalry will be marching the processional route in front of the Escort.

So, if you are attending Buckingham Palace or watching the Diamond Jubilee, you will now know a little of what goes on in the background to prepare the horses.
Both I and all at Prime Stables hope you have a lovely Golden Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

The Stable Doctor
Advice is given without legal responsibility
References: Household Cavalry Info, Army.MOD, Ministry of Defence News, Telegraph Newspaper (Horse Guard Inspection Photograph)

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