All the Queen’s Horses: A Profile of Queen Elizabeth’s Equestrianism
In continuing celebration of Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee, as well as to mark the Queen’s official birthday this Sunday, we at Groomers Equestrian have decided to profile our monarch’s love of horses.
The Queen is renowned for her passion for all things equine; she even kicked off this year’s jubilee celebrations with a trip to the Epsom Derby. The Queen’s love of horses started from an early age with her first pony called Peggy, a Shetland that was a gift to her and Princess Margaret from their grandfather King George V. The Queen learned to ride on Peggy from the age of four, and continues to ride to this day.
The Queen as a Rider
The Queen is well noted for her enjoyment of the racing scene, but she is also a passionate rider herself, who loves the company of horses. Arguable, the Queen’s favourite horse was Burmese, a black mare donated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969. The Queen rode Burmese for the trooping of the colour every year from 1969 – 1986, when the horse was put out to pasture. The Queen now completes the trooping of the colour in a carriage rather than train a new charger. Indeed, such was the Queen’s fondness for this horse that she even had a statue of Burmese erected in Regina, Canada, after the mare’s death in 1990.
The last horse the Queen personally rode was Sanction, who died in 2002. Since then Her Majesty has chosen to instead ride ponies. She currently rides a highland pony named Melody, and a fell pony called Carltonlima Emma. A notable quirk of the Queen’s riding habits is that she refuses to wear a helmet, typically opting for a silk scarf instead.
The Queen as a Breeder
The Queen is a devoted thoroughbred breeder, who keeps approximately 30 horses at the Royal Mews in London. On any given day, Her Majesty will have around 20 horses training. She reportedly reads the Racing Post every day, and pays particular attention to her horse’s mental and physical development. It is even rumoured that the Queen will not wear perfume when she visits the yard, as the scent can excite young colts.
The Queen has bred many successful racing horses over the years, including Pall Mall, Dunfermline and Highclere. She has won all the major British classics, with the exception of the elusive Epsom Derby. Her horse Aureole came second in the Derby in her coronation year of 1953, and in 2011 her bay colt Carlton House came in third. The Queen has spent much of her life working towards breeding a winner of the Blue Riband of the racing world.
The Queen continues to be ardent about her equestrian activities, even though she is well into her eighties. This enthusiasm has now also been passed down from the Queen to her grandchildren, with Princes William and Harry keen polo players, and of course Zara Phillips, who is a world class events rider. It would certainly be safe to say that a passion for horses will continue to be a part of our monarchy for years to come.