In the run up to Friday's parade down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (SCOTS DG) to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of their creation, there is a significant amount of preparation that takes place, from polishing boots to ironing kit. One of the more unusual pre-parade activities taking place this week, and one that harks back to the regiment’s mounted history is the watering of the horses.
The watering of the horses is a historical right whereby British Army cavalry have been allowed to exercise and feed their horses early in the morning in a major city, usually a maximum thirty minutes’ walk from their stables. This has been traditionally done most often in London.
In this special case, ten soldiers from the SCOTS DG proceeded around a route through central Edinburgh early this morning. Not only did this serve to reacquaint the regiment with its history and show early morning Edinburgh residents the beautiful horses but also serves as a training exercise for the horses to give them some experience in marching through the streets of Edinburgh prior to the main parade tomorrow.
If they were not given this access the unusual noises, smells and activity of the parade itself could startle the horses and make them uncontrollable, so it is important to allow them to acclimatise beforehand, so they are comfortable on the day.
Captain Alex Humphries, from B Squadron, one of those who took part this morning said ‘it is important to allow the horses time to experience these unusual conditions prior to the parade itself, it also gives the mounted troops some fresh experience, particularly as we have not been able to parade in the last two years due to the fight against COVID.’
At 0600 the SCOTS DG set off from the Castle Esplanade, proceeding down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, they then turned left and carried on to the Balmoral Hotel where they were greeted by the Colonel of the Regiment, Brigadier David Allfrey MBE, for coffee.
Following this brief pause they moved along Princes Street, much to the surprise of many early morning commuters, and then back up to finish again on the Esplanade, being met by Major General Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, the Governor of Edinburgh Castle, at 0800.
Each time the mounted troop passed a War Memorial during their tour an eyes left was given and they saluted the memory of the fallen. The last salute was particularly poignant as it took place in front of the grave of Ensign Charles Ewart, the Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys), who as a Sergeant won an Eagle at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The SCOTS DG have inherited the tradition of the Scots Greys, as seen by their grey horses, and that act is one of the outstanding events from their shared history that is remembered to this day.
The horses themselves are from the Tower Farm Riding Stables in Edinburgh and have been lent to the SCOTS DG for the Parade. Members of staff from Tower Farm were present to assist and help look after the welfare of the horses.
Following this unique experience, the soldiers have returned to Leuchars Station in Fife and gone back to kit prep and rehearsals ready for the main parade to step off on the Royal Mile tomorrow at 1130.