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The Horses (part one)
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The Horses (part one)

Warfare companions throughout history.

Throughout history, until very recent years, the horse was central to warfare. From well before Roman times, soldiers have marched with and fought on horses. 'Cavalry' comes from cheval, the French for 'horse', and until the Second World War, cavalry regiments were just that - soldiers on horseback. In battle, the cavalry was the most mobile force, striking rapidly with maximum effect. A military horse had to carry the considerable weight of a soldier and his equipment, sometimes for months.

The Horses (part one)

A drum horse's head kit being checked by a member of the riding staff before a parade.

Horses are no longer used for fighting, but in the same way as their forebears provided a mounted bodyguard for the monarchs of the past, today's Household Cavalry horses remain at the heart of the historic pageantry which captures the imagination of so many visitors to the capital.

The Horses (part one)

Magnificent on parade: black horses doing what they do best.

Traditionally, Household Cavalry horses are draught horses, bred and raised in Ireland. They are ideal for ceremonial soldiering: versatile, strong, steady, and magnificent to look at. Of the 280 horses, 220 are stabled at Hyde Park Barracks in London; the rest are at The Household Cavalry's training wing in Windsor.

The Horses (part one)

The horses are big; a minimum of 16.2 hands (5ft 4ms; 1.65 metres) high at the shoulder. Bought as four or five year olds, most of them are black. Trumpeters, though, traditionally ride 'greys' - their white colour made them easily identifiable in battle.

The Horses (part one)


In 1899, a composite Household Cavalry regiment deployed to South Africa for the Boer War. The horses were completely unused to the harsh conditions of the veldt and the death toll among them was devastating. Only one horse that had embarked originally from England would return. Freddy took part in every action in which the regiment was engaged. On being introduced to Queen Alexandra, she enquired why he had no campaign medal and demanded that he be awarded one. Freddy was thenceforth to wear his medal with clasps on his breastplate whenever he was on parade. He died in 1911 and was buried under the regimental square in Windsor.

The Horses (part one)

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