After painstakingly mapping out an itinerary that would let me make the most of my one-day London Pass, I bailed and went to a place that wasn’t even on my short list: the Royal Mews, the Royal Family’s stable/garage/carriage house right beside Buckingham Palace. And while most other people there flocked to the grand and fancy state coaches — there’s a free guided tour for everyone — after a cursory glance at the royals’ rides I went straight to what I was really interested in: the stable.
I can’t accurately call myself a horse afficionado because honestly I’ve only been around them a couple of times in my entire life, but I’ve always found the idea of them fascinating. I’m a big fan of Dick Francis books and horses almost always figure prominently in them. They seem like such strong, noble creatures and it’s interesting how they can form the closest bonds with humans.
The Royal Mews doesn’t stable all the royal horses but I got to meet a few of them.
This is Meg:
This guy totally ignoring me — food is much more interesting, of course — is Daniel:
And these are Coachman and Tyrone:
They’re all Windsor Greys and their job is to pull Queen Elizabeth’s carriages. When I held out my hand to Meg, the gentleman in charge called me out, but when I still stood there staring at the horse, he said, “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
There weren’t too many people so we stood there chatting for a while. He told me that the horses are trained to ignore people, as it would be all sorts of chaos if horses paid attention to the crowds during parades. At the training school, parade music is played (and maybe some crowd noise too) and the horses learn to disregard all those stimuli and keep their course.
Windsor Greys are chosen not for their speed but rather for their strength, steadiness and stability, qualities they need to pull the heavy royal carriages. They tend to have broader backs than usual and consequently aren’t the most comfortable horses to ride. That said, they are exercised everyday, sometimes even in the streets. And every summer, they get two months “off” — their shoes are taken off and they roam the fields off Hampton Court Palace freely. Meg and the rest had actually just gotten back to the Royal Mews from their brief summer vacation.
Back to reality (sigh).
The coaches are so shiny, it’s hard to get a decent photo of them. Here’s the back end of the Scottish State Coach:
If you have the London Pass, I would recommend you drop by the Royal Mews as well.
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