London: The Horse Side of History

After the War Rooms I found myself at an impressive building that housed the Horse Guards.  I’d never visited that museum so I rushed in and spent another hour studying the history of the Horse Guards.  They were founded basically in a reaction to the Civil War and the beheading of Charles I.  The rooms were filled with uniforms and mirror bright cuirasses, sabers, elaborate gold and silver helmets.   And tack.  The horses wear doubly bridles for their parade duties, and the curbs have very long shanks which would put a lot of pressure on a horse’s mouth.  Given the size of the horses and the fact they have to cope with bands and flags and cheering crowds I suppose you’d want that much control.

There was a mock up of the stables with boots and helmets and jackets for kids to try on.  The boots extend well over the knee.  I’d thought that just the lower portion of the boot would be stiff, but they are stiff all the way up.  They must be incredibly uncomfortable to wear much less walk in them.  I thought my Konig’s were stiff — they feel like velvet next to the Horse Guard boots.

The members of the guard spend ten hours a day carrying for their kit and their tack.  I do wish I knew the secret to getting that mirror bright shine on their boots.  I need to buy some black shoe polish and a brush when I get home and apply a little elbow grease.  Maybe that’s all it would take.

There was a large display of actual armor and weapons from Waterloo including the tail of the bay mare that belonged to the man who captured the French Eagle.  I was shouted to learn that Britain lost more men at Waterloo then in WWI.   This small country has certainly endured more than it’s fair share of deadly battles.

After the Horse Guards museum I walked to Trafalgar Square in search of lunch.  I went past the big iron gates that now guard 10 Downing Street.  The last time I was in London you could still walk past the Prime Minister residence.  This is what the “War on Terror” has brought us.  Maybe it is prudent, but it’s depressing and a bad trend when leaders are more an more separate from the people they govern.

After a bite to eat I walked back through the park to Buckingham Palace, bore left and went in search of the Royal Mews.  There I saw the royal carriages — the great gold State Carriage that is over 250 years old and only used for Coronations was amazing.  They have a nice indoor arena.  It’s not as impressive as the one at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, but I think Vento and I would look pretty spiffy in that arched windowed space.

They had a few horses actually in stalls.  Two of the Windsor Greys, but you had to stay well back from them, and two of the Cleveland Bays.  They were older horses.  Concord was a 17 year old gelding and he was cranky as could be.  He kept nipping at his next door neighbor a 21 year old mare named Mary Tudor.  Concord even tried to bite his groom when he went in to clean the stall.

I had a nice conversation with the young woman guard/guide/docent (I’m not sure what to call her).  She actually knew nothing about horses so I was explaining to her horse ear, nose and tail language.  I had a bit of a visit with the groom, and we laughed about Concord being such a crabby bastard.  By then it was four thirty and I decided to head back to the hotel.  I’m not sure how far I’ve walked today — a long way, but at least I got a horse fix that should hold me until Wednesday when I can finally hug my kids.

5 Responses to London: The Horse Side of History

  • JaniceG says:

    Regarding boot shining, have you ever tried champagne as recommended in many Regency novels? :->

  • Steve Halter says:

    Concord and Mary Tudor were there when we toured the Mews on the 12th. I found it interesting that the grooms and such live at the Mews.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      You have to have people living on site so they can respond to an emergency — colic, fire, etc. I always did a bed check on my horses at 10:00 or 11:00 at night, and saw them by 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning.

  • Steve Halter says:

    Yes, that totally makes sense–one of those details that a non-horse person wouldn’t think about but that absolutely make sense in retrospect.

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