A Royal Obsession - All the Queen's Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   11th Apr 2014   •   2,448 views   •   0 comments
A Royal Obsession

On April 21, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II will turn 88 years old. She is certainly not your average 88 year old, and that's not just because she may be the most famous woman in the world. Outside her queenly duties, HRH enjoys spending time with her horses. They are, in fact, her passion and she in a 1954 Time Magazine, is quoted as saying, “I should like to be a horse."

Toy horses are seen in pictures of her as a toddler and she and her sister Margaret were given their first pony, a very shaggy Shetland named Peggy, when HRH was four years old. It was only a short while before she was riding on her own, and early in life, she became an accomplished horsewoman. Since then, she has had several favorite riding horses, including a mare named Betsy and a black mare named Burmese that was presented to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969. On a visit to Britain, then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan enjoyed a ride alongside the Queen and Burmese on another RCMP horse, Centennial. Over the years, the RCMP has presented her with several horses, each specially selected for their calm demeanor and excellent behavior.

Perhaps one of the most iconic images of the Queen are the photos of her riding aside on Burmese while 'Trooping the Colors'. This ceremonial inspection of the royal foot and horses guard is just one of the ceremonies that includes horses as part of the regal pageantry. She continued to ride Burmese during the ceremony until 1987, when the mare was retired. The Queen, herself 61 at the time, rode in an open carriage thereafter.

Her stables at the Royal Mews contain her favorite riding horses, ponies and the ceremonial greys and Cleveland Bay horses used to pull various horse-drawn vehicles and carry the guards when on parade. However, her passion extends beyond pleasure riding.

On the death of her father, King George VI, she inherited several of his race horses. She has cultivated a thorough knowledge of bloodstock, and her meticulous breeding program has consistently produced winners — 1600 wins between 1952 and 2013. While the Queen normally appears conservative and undemonstrative in public, photos taken in the stands of Ascot, Newmarket, Epsom Downs or Doncaster, show a most unrestrained and enthusiastic race fan. In the near future, BBC will be releasing a documentary called The Queen: A Passion for Horses, a behind-the-scenes look at the spring season in the Sanderingham stables, from foaling to racing.

HRH continues to ride, and in 2011 was photographed riding a sturdy black flanked by two grandchildren astride ponies, one of which she is holding with a lead line. As much as the queen is to be admired for staying in the saddle as long as she has, she has been criticized on one point. She customarily wears a silk scarf, rather than a helmet. The explanation: there is little time in the busy royal schedule to repair a squashed hair-do.
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