Link To Mounted Regiment Page
Home Page Button
Horse Furniture Button
HC Badge




HC Badge
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!

  Top Of Page Button  

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 hard 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

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 bands.

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?

Click Here!

"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

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 Balmormal 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
where 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 most 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
  Top Of Page Button

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'.

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

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).

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

  Top Of Page Button

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


  Top Of Page Button  
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.

  Top Of Page Button  
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

  Top Of Page Button  

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).

  Top Of Page Button  
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!

  Top Of Page Button  
Mounted Button
Home Page Button
Horse Furniture Button