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Drum Horses - A Potted History
Drum Horses - 1st Life Guards
Drum Horses - 2nd Life Guards
Drum Horses - The Life Guards
Drum Horses - Royal Horse Guards
Drum Horses - The Blues And Royals
The Farriers And Their Role
Common Questions - Some Answers
"Freddy", South Africa Campaign

The Regiment's Horses

The Life Guards on Horse Guards

The Household Cavalry are renowned worldwide for superbly-turned-out men and horses . . . indeed,
there can be no more splendid spectacle than a Sovereign's Escort on its way to or from Buckingham
Palace (especially on a fine, sunny day).

However, it would just not be the same without the horses.

Fortunately a very rare occurrence, but there have been occasions when sickness among the horses
has led to the disappointing sight — for London's tourists — of The Queen's Life Guard being mounted
as usual at Horse Guards, minus the horses!

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Household Cavalry Horses - The Background

During the early years of The Life Guards and Royal Horse Guards (The Blues), private gentlemen supplied
their own mounts, so uniformity must have been virtually impossible.

It is hard to determine exactly when the Household Cavalry opted for black horses.

They were certainly known to be used by the 2nd Troop of Life Guards in 1692, but it is hard to find evidence
of similar use of blacks by other Troops of Life Guards.

There is a print which illustrates a member of the 1st Troop of Life Guards, mounted on a black horse, at the
Coronation of Charles II (23 April 1661). Although the print was published some years after the coronation,
it appears to be the earliest known association of The Life Guards with black horses.

Suffice to say, by 1681 black horses seem to have become the standard, although records would indicate that
they used generally smaller horses than would be acceptable today.

As for the greys, it is known that Trumpeters were mounted on grey horses at the time of the Napoleonic
period - which was also the case for many other cavalry regiments.

A useful record - Description Book of the 1st Life Guards - (also see Drum Horses, below), quotes the majority
of the horses used by The Life Guards as being between 15 hands and 15.2 hands, with some even less than
this, so they were smaller than today's Household Cavalry mounts.

Right up to the Second World War, Officers were required to buy their own chargers.

An order by the Prince Regent, in 1813, commanded Officers of The Blues to ride black chargers, although
this order seems not to have been given to either Regiment of Life Guards. Nevertheless, Life Guards Officers
probably rode black chargers from around 1830 onwards.

The blacks and greys used by the Regiment (blacks for the majority of the Regiment, greys used by Trumpeters)
are largely of Irish draught-horse stock — indeed, over 95% come from Ireland.

Preferably, a horse should be black all over, but some white markings on head and legs are acceptable.
Responsibility for purchase lies with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

Most horses are purchased when between 3 and 4 years of age, and then are sent to the Royal Army Veterinary
Corps Depot, at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, from where they are forwarded to the Household Cavalry
Mounted Regiment, in London, for selection by Squadron Leaders.

Training then commences under the overall direction of the Riding Master.

Ideally, the Riding Master (who oversees all selections) looks for animals that are not less than 16.0 hands high,
preferably unbroken, of good weight, good attitude, clean-limbed, good outlook, no blemishes, and straight movers
(however, without too much movement).

They have to be sufficiently well built in order to carry a dutyman wearing Mounted Review Order and saddle.

Once they are delivered, they are broken, then ridden - with the rider progressively building up the furniture,
together with increasing degrees of dress and accessories up to the maximum weight with full ceremonial uniform.

They are also trained not to react to noise (crowd and traffic), and are taught to accept the sound of the Regimental

Once a horse has done all of this, and satisfactorily participated in a major parade, it "passes out" and joins the
Regiment proper.

Unlike the drum horses, the blacks and greys are all named with a common letter for each year, advancing annually
by another letter — recommencing with A once Z has been used.

Also, since 1997 — in deference to technology — all Regimental horses have been fitted with a microchip, for
identification purposes.

The average age of retirement for Regimental horses is about 17 or 18 years of age, although a few make it
well into their 20s.

Incidentally, horses for use within Mounted Bands tend to be selected from among the older, and therefore
(hopefully) quieter mounts.

There is, however, the occasional horse that just dislikes the sound of a Band, and can be very quick to make
this known!

Want to know more about our horses?

"Freddy" — Wonder Horse

2nd Life Guards Badge

D36 "Freddy"
- Household Cavalry
horse awarded the
South Africa
Campaign Medal

The photograph on the
left, which was taken in
1906, shows 'Freddy'
wearing his South Africa
Campaign medal, and
being ridden by Trooper
Lovell, who joined the
2nd Life Guards in 1901

Freddy's Remarkable Story

The Boer War saw some 550 men of the Household Cavalry, with their horses, leave for South Africa in
November 1899. HM Queen Victoria had interrupted her holiday in Balmoral to travel back down to Windsor
to travel back down to Windsor to bid them farewell.

Among the horses was D36 "Freddy" of the 2nd Life Guards. Little did The Queen — or anyone else for that
matter — realise that "Freddy" would be the only surviving horse when she greeted the Regiment back home,
on the lawns of Windsor Castle, at the end of the war.

"Freddy" was purchased in England (although from precisely where is not known), and records state that he
was a strong, black gelding with a single white marking on his near hind leg. At the time he was acquired,
the army were buying as many as 10,000 horses per year — to supply the cavalry regiments, the artillery,
and various supporting services.

After joining the 2nd Life Guards (at the age of four) in 1897, "Freddy" experienced his initial training at
Hyde Park Barracks, in Knightsbridge, before transferring first to Combermere Barracks, in Windsor,
and then on to Regent's Park Barracks, from whee he was shipped out to South Africa — by train as far
as Southampton, then aboard the troop ship "Maplemore". Sad to record, many such troop horses did
not survive the voyage to Table Bay, South Africa, which took a very uncomfortable month to complete.

Obviously, horses were the transport of the army in those days, and the demise of so many makes for
depressing reading. The Royal Dragoons lost 3,275 horses in just three years, and most of the 550 horses
belonging to the Household Cavalry died from disease or sheer exhaustion (heat being a major contributor).

Once offloaded from the ship, men and horses left Cape Town by train for the battlefield, and were almost
immediately embroiled in action near Kimberley — during the hottest period of the African summer —
and straight away lost two mounts to exhaustion. Lack of water for a whole day, in February, led to the
deaths of another 30 horses.

As for "Freddy", in a little over six months, he covered 1,780 miles — ridden at all times by CoH Stephens,
during which time he had only 48 "rest days". For a horse in a constant battle situation, this is remarkable.
Furthermore, for the first nine months in theatre, the Regiment had to do what it could to feed the horses,
until — eventually — supplies from England finally arrived where they were needed. Throughout this time,
"Freddy" played his part in five major actions and several charges — at the Relief of Kimberley, and for the
capture of Bloemfontein and Pretoria.

The Household Cavalry were relieved in November 1900, whereupon they handed over their horses
(all of them "replacements" which had had to be acquired locally, in South Africa), with the exception
of "Freddy", who returned with his Regiment to England. Almost exactly a year since he was shipped
out, he was back on English soil, on a train first to Paddington Station, and then on the final leg taking
him back to Windsor, and Combermere Barracks, where he soon settled back into army life again.

The next year saw him as the leading horse inthe Musical Ride, which took its usual place in the Royal
Tournament — for which Queen Alexandra took the salute. Upon seeing and hearing about "Freddy",
she inquired as to why he had no campaign medal, and then ordered that he be awarded one immediately.
The War Office reluctantly agreed, and "Freddy" was duly awarded the medal with five clasps —
one each for Wittenberg, Kimberley, Paardeberg, Driefontein and Transvaal.

"Freddy" took it all in his stride, and became a Squadron Corporal Major's horse, carrying the Standard
of the 2nd Life Guards. He finally retired in 1905, and lived out his days in comfort in Combermere Barracks,
Windsor until his death in 1911 at the age of eighteen. He is buried at Combermere Barracks in a plot
alongside the former parade ground.

To See Former Household Cavalry Drum Horses
Enjoying A Happy Retirement . . . Click HERE
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The Drum Horses

Coronation of King George V

The Drum Horse leads the Band, Coronation of King George V, June 1911

Drum Horses — Background Information

There is a work entitled Description Book of the 1st Life Guards, in which it is recorded that — on 12th November
1812 — a four-year-old gelding was purchased, for which the description was given as 'Pye Ball'.
for which the description was given as 'Pye Ball'.

It is just possible that this is the first reference to a coloured Drum Horse.

The horse was sent abroad during April 1813, after which no other references to him exist.

The Drum Horses are currently Clydesdale crosses.

Her Majesty The Queen takes a keen, personal interest in the Regiment's Drum Horses, and has bred horses for
the Regiment, for this purpose.

Selected by the Riding Master, the Drum Horse must be of good temperament, well developed, at least 16.3 hands
high, strong, and fit — as the combined weight of rider, ceremonial uniform, silver kettle drums, and horse furniture
is quite considerable.

It takes something like 18 months to fully train a Drum Horse, and the Household Cavalry prefer to have another
Drum Horse in training, as potential replacement for either of those currently in service.

They also occasionally take on the task of training Drum Horses on behalf of other cavalry regiments.

Household Cavalry Drum Horses are traditionally named after Greek heroes.

Unfortunately, information on early Drum Horses is hard to come by, despite the fact that they have been a feature
of The Life Guards as far back as 1660.

Also, according to the text of George Lawn's excellent book entitled Music In State Clothing, the identities of the
first Drum Horses to be recorded for posterity were by Squadron/Regimental number (e.g. D54, in service around
1897, indicates that it was in D Squadron).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

To see the next generation of Drum Horses, click HERE

Drum Horse of The Blues And Royals

Blues And Royals Drum Horse on parade

Drum Horse of The Life Guards

The Life Guards Drum Horse in Barracks

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Drum Horses - 1st Life Guards

Kettledrummer of First Life Guards

Kettledrummer of the First Life Guards
(from a watercolour by A I Sauerweid, 1816).

Name or Number Service Dates Description Regimental Number
D54 1897 -  
Paddy I 1909 - 1916 Skewbald  
Paddy II * 1916 - 1922 Skewbald  
Whitewash 1917 - Grey  

Drum Horse "D54"

D54 c. 1895

Drum Horse "Paddy I"

Paddy I c. 1910

Drum Horse PaddyII

Paddy II



Drum Horses - 2nd Life Guards
Name or Number Service Dates Description Regimental Number
Sandy 1895 - Sandy  
Coronet 1921 -1922 Cream  

Drum Horse "Sandy"

Sandy c. 1896

Drum Horse Coronet


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Drum Horses - The Life Guards
Name or Number Service Dates Description Military Number
Paddy II * 1922 - 1929 (approx) Skewbald  
George 1929 -1938 Skewbald  
Jimmy 1938 - 1940 Skewbald  
Bonaparte 1950 - 1954 Skewbald  
Emperor 1954 - Black LG 85
Hadrian ** 1955 - 1956 Piebald  
Zombie 1954 - 1956 Black 87
Alexander The Great 1956 - 1969 Piebald LG 130
Horatius 1962 - 1967 Skewbald LG 150
Hector 1967 - 1981 Skewbald LG 1
Cicero 1969 - 1983 Skewbald LG 98
Claudius 1973 - 1986 Piebald LG 3
Coriolanus *** 1977 - 1986 Iron Grey LG 47
Leonidas 1986 - 2002 Piebald LG 4
Constantine 1992 - 2008 Blue Roan 7138 [LG 72]
Horatius 1998 - 2008 Skewbald Died while serving
Achilles 2005 - Black 8189
Adamas* 2012 - ? ? ? ? ? ?

* Adamas was named by HM The Queen during a visit to Combermere Barracks
in November 2012. "Adamas" is a Greek term with various interpretations —
invincible, unconquerable, and 'mineral hardness' (diamond).

Drum Horse PaddyII

Paddy II

Drum Horse "George"

George (and pal Marksman) c. 1935

Drum Horse "Jimmy"

Jimmy c. 1939

Drum Horse "Bonaparte"

Bonaparte c. 1951

Drum Horse Emperor

Emperor c. 1956*

Drum Horse "Hadrian"

Hadrian c. 1955

Drum Horse Zombie


Drum Horse "Alexander The Great"

Alexander The Great c. 1960



Drum Horse "Hector"


Drum Horse "Cicero"




Drum Horse "Coriolanus"

Coriolanus c. 1985

Drum Horse Leonidas


Drum Horse Constantine


Drum Horse Horatius


Achilles with Drummer Paul D'Arcy


Drum Horse Adamas


* Emperor pictured in 1965, while on loan to the Scots Greys.

Drum Horses - Royal Horse Guards (The Blues)

Name Unknown

Drum Horse RHG

Unidentified Drum Horse of the Royal Horse Guards
(reign of King Edward) — 1901-1907

Name or Number Service Dates Description Regimental Number
Charlie 1924 - Grey  
Caesar 1931 - 1938 Skewbald  
Pompey 1938 - 1953 Skewbald  
Hannibal 1958 - 1972 (?)   7594 (Sqn No 20)

Drum Horse "Charlie"


Drum Horse "Caesar"

Caesar c. 1932

Drum Horse "Pompey"


Drum Horse Hercules


Pompey was a handsome and very popular Drum Horse, and (so I am told) long after his
death the Farrier Major of the time was known for selling 'Pompey' hooves to new recruits
— so many, in fact, that 'Pompey' must have been a centipede!

Hannibal was well remembered by soldiers serving in the 1950s to 1969s, especially his
regular groom, Tpr Milliechap, and his usual rider, drummer L/Cpl 'Dolly' Gray.

Drummers George Lawn (LG) on Alexander, and 'Dolly' Gray (RHG) on Hannibal.

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Drum Horses - The Blues And Royals
Name or Number Service Dates Description Regimental Number
Hercules 1967 - 1980    
Claudius 1973 - 1986 Piebald  
Belisarius 1983 - 1995 Blue Roan  
Caractacus 1987 - Skewbald  
Janus 1989 - 2005 Skewbald 7280
Spartacus 1997 - 2010 Piebald 7594
Mercury 2010 - Grey 7796

* Paddy II and his rider are the subject of "The Drum Horse"
- painted by Sir Alfred Munnings.

** More generally known within the Regiment as "Muffin".

*** More generally known within the Regiment as "Bumble".

Drum Horse "Hercules"




Drum Horse Belisarius


Drum Horse Caractacus

Caractacus (Image copyright of Bob Langrish)

Drum Horse Janus


Drum Horse "Spartacus"


Drum Horse "Mercury"


If you have any other
— especially
good-quality photographs
of Drum Horses (of either
Regiment) — please send
them to the following:

Many Household Cavalry horses have found a new home at The Horse Trust's
Home of Rest for Horses, Speen, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire

Constantine, Leonidas and Janus

Constantine, Leonidas and Janus
enjoy each other's company

Janus and Leonidas

Janus and Leonidas "chilling out"
in a peaceful, happy retirement

Janus, Constantine and Leonidas

Janus, Constantine and Leonidas
saying "Wish you were here!"


Constantine still looks like he could
tackle a parade or two

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The next Drum Horses have already begun their Army training . . .
once they Pass Out, they will receive names befitting their roles

Stable name: Big Red

Stable name: Bradley Wiggins

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The Farriers And Their Role

A distinctive figure - when in ceremonial uniform - is the Farrier, and one is on call around the clock,
twenty-four hours per day, at Hyde Park Barracks.

The Farriers on Horse Guards

Also, a duty horse-box - known as the Veterinary Aid Post - follows every major parade, with a specialist
team equipped to deal with any emergencies.

When participating on ceremonial parades, the Farriers — carrying ceremonial axes — bring up the rear
of the Household Cavalry contingent.

The Farriers regularly inspect every horse, at least once a week, to ensure it is in top condition.

Farrier's Axe, RHG

Originally the axe had two functions - the spike on the axe was used to humanely put severely injured horses
out of their misery, and the sharp axe blade was used to chop off the deceased horses' feet.

The purpose of this was to account - in Regimental records - for animals killed in action.

On Household Cavalry horses, three of the hooves currently carry the horse's army number (near hind),
Squadron number (near fore), and Regimental initials (off fore).

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Answers To Some Common Questions Asked Of Us

Where do we find our black horses?

98% are purchased in the Republic of Ireland.

Household Cavalry Horses

Who selects the horses for the Regiment?

The Riding Master, and Regimental Veterinary Officer attend all buying commissions, together with
members of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

What height are they?

Every black horse must measure over 16 hands, and greys must be at least 15.2 hands.

At what age are the horses when we buy them?

Between three and four years old.

Why do we have Greys?

The greys are ridden by State Trumpeters.

What are the numbers on their hooves?

On the front hooves are their Regiment's initials and Regimental number. On the hind hooves are
their Army numbers.

How long does it take to train a horse?

On average, between eight and ten months, depending upon the horse's temperament.

Why do you have coloured cart-horse type Drum Horses?

It is Regimental tradition to have a heavy coloured horse with plenty of feather mane and tail, capable
of carrying the weight of the drums.

How long does it take to train a Mounted Dutyman
(after initial general training)?

Sixteen weeks - twelve weeks in khaki; four weeks in full ceremonial dress.

Do we prefer men who have ridden before?

Not necessarily - it takes longer to correct bad habits, than to teach someone from scratch.

How long can men serve with
The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment?

A normal Mounted Dutyman will serve between two and three years, then he will move to his Armoured
Regiment for further trades and promotion. However, the men picked for a Mounted trade job — Saddler,
Farrier, Tailor, Riding Instructor, or Forage Master — will serve longer.

At what age can one join?

A recruit must be seventeen years old.

How much do the drums weigh?

The silver drums weigh 68 lbs each.

Is the Drum Horse deaf?

No more than the Drummer. No cotton wool is used in horses' ears!

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