Britain’s most famous ceremonial horses have hoofed it from the streets of London to the wide-open fields of the Leicestershire countryside.
Some 120 horses from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) are spending six weeks at the Defence Animal Training Regiment (DATR) where they will be able to gallop and frolic from morning to night.
Just like the soldiers, the horses need a well-deserved break from their ceremonial duties. The horses have been on parade for some of this year’s most high-profile events including Her Majesty The Queen’s Jubilee and the rest is beneficial on both a physical and mental level.
Riding Master, Captain Scholes, Royal Horse Guards and Kings 1st Dragoons (RHGD), HCMR said: “Just like soldiers each horse needs to be physically and mentally fit for its role. The long rest at the DATR replenishes their energy and helps increase motivation and enthusiasm, meaning they are less fatigued and more settled when they return to ceremonial duties.”
The annual stay at the DATR is just one of many programmed breaks from ceremonial duties enjoyed by the military horses throughout the year.
Among them are the horses and riders from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, renowned for their impressive Musical Drive performance. They are regular visitors to the DATR where they enjoy a range of activities including show jumping, hacking and cross-country riding as part of a week of equestrian training.
Captain Brooks, Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, said:“The break at the DATR is always fun for both the horses and the troops, and it helps to strengthen the trust and confidence between the horse and rider, so vital when performing ceremonial duties in London.”
The DATR is not the only holiday venue enjoyed by the military horses. The scenic North Norfolk coast is the setting for an annual two-week training camp based at Bodney camp. It includes three days on Holkham beach and whilst it is enjoyable, it is also designed to build trust between the horse and rider.
“The beach ride is the highlight of the camp,” said Capt Lane-Fox RGHD, HCMR. “Being based in the city, the beach is a great environment for the horses. It can be a little unnerving for them when they go in the sea, so they have to put their trust in the rider. It’s also a real test for the soldiers who ride bareback. They must engender confidence in their horse at the same time as maintaining control.”
During the camp, the Cavalrymen and women develop their advanced riding techniques and enjoy cross-country riding and show jumping, which builds a stronger more capable rider for duties on Parade.
An essential support team including veterinary officers, vet technicians and farriers will ensure the horses have the best care and treatment wherever they are. Whilst the farriers look after the horses’ feet, the Regimental Veterinary Officer and supporting Veterinary Officer are responsible for all health issues, everything from vaccinations to teeth.
Veterinary Officer Major Curnick LG said: “What the public doesn’t see is all the work behind the scenes before each parade. The welfare and health of all of our military animals always comes first. They are well fed, well looked after and provided with excellent veterinary care. Each soldier knows their horse better than anyone. They have hands-on contact every day and are quick to notice if anything is amiss. Some of our horses work until they are over 20 years of age and that is a testament to the care we provide.”