The Chief of Service Staff
Consistently, in November, “auntie” Maggi would send me my Christmas present . it had been always the same: a thick, leather-bound Smythson diary with gilt-edged paper. She would buy one for each of her six godchildren and, before posting them, made her own entries for events she felt we should always realize.
She included her birthday on April 1, followed by those of Her Majesty the Queen and thus the heirs to the throne. She wrote a reminder about the date of the State Opening of Parliament, the Sovereign’s Birthday Parade, the Garter Ceremony, the Cheltenham Festival, the opera season at Glyndebourne and thus the Isle of Man TT Races (which she visited every year).
On my birthday page in February she would write exhortations concerning courtesy, fitness and recommended reading matter. once i used to be 10, she wrote: “Learn to ride and find yourself an honest hunter.” She always slipped a theatre ticket and a fiver into the pocket at the rear . These diaries were kept together on their own shelf and she or he or he would inspect them whenever she came to travel to , expecting to determine an entry for every day.
On my 12th birthday she took me to Trooping the colour , that she had seats at Horse Guards. i wont to be entranced by the mounted bands and thus the refore the magnificence of the Life Guards and therefore the Blues and Royals – the regiments that structure the Household Cavalry. it had been the start of my fascination with military horses.
In the 1960s, once I lived in Chelsea and thought of myself as a budding boulevardier, I found the Household Cavalry rehearsing early at some point at 5am. The sun was rising which i used to be strolling home through Hyde Park. it had been the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s birth, and thus the Blues and Royals were already out on Rotten Row.
These troopers were fully state kit, tall in their saddles, the chargers kicking up the dust. I could hear the clink of harnesses and thus the thud of hooves. there are 50 horses, all black, beat perfect harmony. it had been a vivid spectacle, with the plumed helmets glinting within the first light.
I remember feeling ashamed that I had spent most of the night drinking in some club and had emerged kind of a rat into the West End to hunt out myself within the presence of the guardians of the sovereign. They’d already polished their high boots and armour and were out doing their jobs, while I hadn’t even been to bed. I sat on the grass, lit a cigarette and wondered what it must wish to have a charger or ride during a cavalry charge.
The last serious mounted engagements were within the ultimate days of the first war when squadrons from the Blues and Royals were sent into villages in northern France to flush out teams of enemy engineers laying mines. During the 19th century, squadrons of cavalry galloping towards guns protected only by light armour and sabres were a logo of human and equine courage. It’s almost unimaginable now, but the British employed quite 1m horses within the primary war, and only 65,000 returned home.
Today, the closest one can get to a cavalry charge is to travel hunting with hounds in Ireland. The horses are bred to be bold and fearless and happy to thunder hell for leather across rough country with no idea of what lies on the other side of hedges and in rivers. the military also prizes these qualities and still sources many of its horses there, mostly Irish draughts and hunters. they’re bought from dealers who concentrate on animals with the right colour, conformation and temperament for ceremonial duties. When the time comes for them to retire, the unit’s records bear witness to the multitude of events they have attended.
Horses that are retired from the military are much in demand, as are people that have left the police and thus the turf. Amanda Soden takes care of Strobilus, a handsome eight-year-old gelding previously owned by Godolphin (the stable of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum) and trained by Michael Jarvis and Saeed bin Surroor. An injury put an end to his promising career, but only after he had won races in Dubai and Italy and earned, during a couple of short months, £102,000 on the flat.
Strobilus came to Soden through Darley Rehoming, an organisation dedicated to retired racehorses that wanted to form sure he was taken care of properly in his later years. Now he lives in rural comfort in Suffolk, where she rides out on him, and Darley involves check on him from time to time. Personally, I’d consider before acquiring a high-octane racehorse like Strobilus. These animals are the Ferraris of the equine world, and you’d wish to make certain about what you’re taking up before even considering putting your foot within the stirrup.
British police forces employ horses during a kind of roles, and sometimes retired animals will come on the market. relying on where they’re based, tasks might include control at football matches in Strathclyde or formal duties on The Mall, so their training possesses to be wide-ranging. Like cavalry horses, the police’s are getting to be beautifully taken care of throughout their lives – although there is no centralised scheme determining where they end up after retirement.
The rarest and most beguiling of all equine acquisitions remains the Household Cavalry charger, and there is now a clear-cut procedure for people who aspire to become owners. Chargers are fundamentally important in state ceremony, which they’re strong, impressive, biddable animals which can serve for up to twenty years. Shortly before they retire, they’re available up purchasable.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Pope is commandant of the Defence Animal Centre (DAC) in Melton Mowbray and is responsible for acquiring and training the horses employed by the British army. In 1902, the War Department procured 360 acres of land for the use of military horses and thus the lads and ladies who lookout of them.
Today, this is often the situation of the DAC, which trains riding instructors and farriers for the mounted regiments, in conjunction with veterinary staff who are attached to them (plus dog handlers and trainers for bodies just like the RAF Police). it is also home to up to 230 dogs and 400 horses. The younger horses marked for a lifetime of ceremonial duty are set to work with older, experienced chargers. they’re trained to affect the noise and alarms that occur during state events and thus the crowds who come to watch them.
On average, 18 to twenty horses have retired annually from the Household Cavalry and thus the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. the first step to acquiring a retired officer’s charger is to put during a written request to the commanding officers of those ceremonial units or the DAC (the sale itself must be authorised by the centre). The DAC, in conjunction with the unit employing a horse that’s on the brink of retire, discusses the applicants to identify good matches.
As a neighbourhood of the vetting process, they might also ask applicants to hunt out how experienced they’re , check backgrounds, examine stabling and paddocks, decide whether or not they’re able to handle the responsibility of taking care of a military horse, and ensure they know what they’re taking up.
After an application is approved, the potential owner is invited to a minimum of one among the ceremonial units to determine the horse, because they’re prepared for retirement while they’re still working within the regiment. The officers’ and troopers’ mounts, the cavalry blacks, are highly wanted, as are the greys ridden by the trumpeters who would accompany the world commander in battle.
The Shires and Clydesdales used as drum horses tend to not be sold after retirement (there are only a few of of them, which they aren’t suited to riding). Irish hunters and cavalry mounts are a special matter, however. “They’re solid, reliable, scared of nothing and need minimum maintenance,” says Pope. “These animals are thoroughly trained in ceremonial duties. they’re versatile and intelligent and brush up well if you’d wish to means them or use them for dressage or hacking out.”
The buying process is often tense. The DAC may have a dozen or more people interested by a selected horse. most are given full disclosure on the animal, which includes health and training reports from the veterinary and riding staff of the DAC. At that point, after the survey and when all gatherings are upbeat, they run fixed offers.
Pope is tight-lipped about the prices buyers pay but says sealed bids are the only practical and fair because of making the sales, which are generally held after the ceremonial season ends in late autumn. people who are unsuccessful the first time and wish to undertake again may stay the list.
Horses that have injuries or veterinary conditions or aren’t any more fit be ridden are retired to charitable organisations just like the Horse Trust at Speen in Princes Risborough. One horse there stands out. Commando was, in his day, the classic officer’s black charger. He was born in Carmarthenshire in 1997 and clearly bred for hunting. Five years later the military bought him for £4,500 on the advice of the DAC, and he joined the Household Cavalry as a “remount” (reserve mount) within the Blues and Royals.
In 2003, after the Queen’s Birthday Parade, he completely dropped into the troop.
Commando partook by and large the stately processions attempted by the regiment. He was positioned at the Household Cavalry preparing wing in Windsor, where he was set on “Khaki Ride”, a course that each Household Cavalryman has to wrap up.
“This implied,” as indicated by Pope, “that Commando assisted with instructing and effectively pass out numerous newcomers to the Household Cavalry.” The regiment likewise utilized him for the “Unit Ride”, which is that the last an area of mounted dutymen’s preparation, when they ride completely state pack just because.
He participated inside the Royal Wedding, Gold and Diamond Jubilees, and has been a normal carrier and an official’s charger. He resigned when he started to call attention to indications of joint inflammation, following 10 years with the Blues and Royals.
As per Pope, “despite the fact that he will, in general, be hot-tempered about horseboxes, Commando includes an awesome stable attitude”. At the end of the day, he’s an agreeable creature, which is the reason he was so chic 1 Troop of the Blues and Royals. he’s an extremely enormous mammoth, at 17.3 hands, and includes been a benefit inside the Richmond Cup, where troopers contend to chase out the most astute man on march inside the regiment.
“He brightens up the shabbiest of paddocks,” says Catherine Napper, fundraising manager at The Horse Trust.
As i wont to be leaving Melton Mowbray with my form and sealed bid-offer ready to be filled in, Pope told me that personnel serving in Afghanistan are trained the thanks to using horses as pack animals.
Perhaps there’ll always be a requirement for horses within the British army. They’re a national asset, expertly trained and beautifully taken care of . which I would like one.