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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I’m enjoying your travel Blog. Inspiring me for my next journey. Thank you.
Thank you, that’s great to hear!
So interesting! I had no idea you could train horses to be so focus ont their task that they would totally ignore the mess around. Bah, they must have this Brit phlegmatic attitude in their DNA..
Royal house, every day SPA and 2-month holidays in a resort. Good package! THanks for sharing 🙂
I’m glad you found it interesting! And you just reminded me…I’ve noticed the Brits like to tease the French, like one time, we had a French couple in our tour, and the guide said something like, “History is full of courageous acts. That’s why you find many blank pages in French history books.” She was just kidding, of course. I know it’s probably a reference to something in history, but I have yet to look it up.
France fought many wars against GB, especially under Napoleon. When you take the Eurostar from Paris to London, you arrive in Waterloo station. Waterloo being the battle the Brit won against the French Emperor. Talk about a welcoming note 😛
Plus their “food” is terrible 😉
Haha! They even use train stations as a subtle dig huh? 😀 Have to agree with you on the food though, or at least the fish and chips.
Have you tried their pudding or their cucumber jam? brrrrr… 😉 But they have great sense of humour and .. Colin Firth!
And Tom Hardy. 😀
😉 they know how to make up for their food !
They are so gorgeous!! I understand the fascination. I grew up ridingand one of my favorite scents in the world is a horse stall. I don’t even mind stall mucking even though it can be hard work though I haven’t done it in 5 years. MMM I wish I could smell the horse smell now, not even kidding!
The carriage looks beautiful too. I love that that guy’s name is Daniel! Daniel the horse.
What did you skip from your itinerary for Daniel?
That’s so cool. I think I’ve only ridden a horse 2 or 3 times and of course I’ve never had to muck stalls. If you don’t mind me asking, did you have like a farm or something where you grew up riding? It’s so interesting to me, I guess partly because it’s so foreign to me, there aren’t that many people here in the Philippines who have their own horses, just the real (and rich) enthusiasts, and then there are these parks where you can ride a horse for a few minutes at a time. I don’t know if you’ve read Dick Francis books, but I love them. They aren’t that complicated or deep but he’s good at getting into the psychology of his characters, particularly with his protagonists. And before writing, he was a professional jockey and was even champion jockey in England at some point, so most of his books are set in the horseracing world. It’s so fascinating.
For Daniel, I skipped the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. I don’t know, I think the Tower of London would have been interesting, but I’d already been inside for the Ceremony of the Keys, and I really, really wanted to see the horses, so by the time I finished with the Royal Mews and then the cruise up the Thames to the Tower of London, it was time for me to head back home (we were flying out that night).
I don’t mind! I’ll try to keep the explanation simple. First, I grew up almost next door to a horse farm. My neighbor’s home was in-between but it was a 30 second walk to the farm from my front door. My friends (sisters my age next door) and I would stand at the fence between their yard & the field and feed the horses crabapples we picked and we’d climb over to be with the horses whenever possible, when nobody was watching us. Second I went to a day camp called Liberty Farms for a few years as a kid with my brothers during the summer. We attended an art class there and then the rest of the day was playing with and riding horses and before going home everyone had to clean up and take care of the horses (all the saddling stuff, picking hooves, brushing, mucking, water buckets ect) and they taught English and Western style riding. Lastly I worked in a stable during the summer in 2010. The end!
That’s so cool. Thank you! You’ve just given me an idea for the future…maybe I can look for something like Liberty Farms but for grown-ups and plan a trip around it.
Nice! That’s a great idea.Which country do you think you’d want to mix that with? You could go back to Scotland!!
Gosh I would LOVE to go back to Scotland. For any reason. I think New Zealand would be nice too.
New Zealand is superb choice! I was looking at Scotland fares last night (and Ireland fares)…not that I’m going to go but once an idea sets in…