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The King’s Coronation: The life of a royal horse

King Charles III’s coronation is taking place on Saturday, May 6th, 2023, and this momentous occasion is sure to involve plenty of ceremonies, elaborate decoration and age-old traditions.

Equine enthusiasts will be glad to know that many of these time-honoured practices will also involve the palace horses, which have been an integral part of the British monarchy for centuries.

The royal family is known for their enduring love of horses. If you share this passion, the equine experts at Horse & Country are here to help you get inspired by the life of palace horses and learn how to give your four-legged friend the royal treatment.

The Royal Mews

The stables at Buckingham Palace are one of the finest working stables still in existence and are known as the Royal Mews, writes Katie Allen-Clarke from Horse & Country.

Here, the palace horses are trained, exercised, and looked after, ready to perform royal duties, such as pulling state carriages or coaches during special occasions.

One such occasion will be the coronation of King Charles III this May when eight horses will be tasked with pulling the iconic Gold State Coach.

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This coach was built in 1762 and has been used for every coronation in the British Monarchy since 1821.

It has also been used for jubilees and to transport brides during royal weddings, but as it weighs four tonnes, it must always be pulled by horses at a walking pace (Royal Collection Trust).

As an institution, the Royal Mews goes back as far as the late 14th century under Richard II, and as a result, they have not always been in Buckingham Palace.

In fact, for approximately 100 years, the King’s Mews were located at Charing Cross, which is the current site of London’s National Gallery.

It was in 1825 that the stables were built into the gardens of the palace and became the equine institution we see today.

Caring for palace horses

The royal family have two home breeds at the palace stables, namely the 30 Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays, who pull the state coaches and carriages.

According to one of the Royal Mews’ liveried helpers, their day starts at around 5:30 am with mucking out and tacking up the horses ready for the morning’s activities (The Royal Family).

This tends to include two sessions of exercise to keep them fit, healthy, and well-trained and is followed by a thorough grooming of their coat and cleaning of their tack.

Liveried helpers also get the opportunity to ride out for official occasions like collecting new ambassadors to present their credentials, Royal Ascot processions, and the Trooping of the Colour, and must help the horses look their absolute best.

This requires plenty of grooming, such as trimming and braiding their mane and tail, as well as making sure all their tack, such as the bridle, reins, and blinkers are all sparkling clean.

After all, these are some of the most photographed horses in the world!

Royal training starts once the horses are between four and five-years-old and entails a combination of harness training, driving, and riding sessions.

Once they meet the standards of the coachmen, they are ready to participate in occasions like state visits or more large-scale events like jubilees or coronations.

The trainers even introduce the horses to music and background noise over speakers to help them get accustomed to the crowds and loud environments they will soon be working within.

Giving your horse the royal treatment

Royal horses might live in premium stables and be trained by a team of experts, but you don’t have to live in a palace to give your four-legged friend the best possible care.

The queen’s love for horses meant they became a huge part of palace life during her 70-year reign, and if you share this passion, there are plenty of ways you can elevate your horse’s quality of life.

One of the main areas of focus when caring for a horse is their long-term health, as you no doubt want your equine friend to live a long, happy life.

As well as keeping up regular contact with their vet and administering any medications they may need, one of the most important things to invest in is high-quality feed.

Just like us, horses need a balanced diet that suits their age, size, and exercise routine, so try to make the investment in good quality forage, hay, salt licks, supplements, and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Facilities and nutrition

Another way owners can give their horse the royal treatment is by giving their stables a bit of a makeover.

Whether you fix water damage, block draughts, or add more ventilation during the summer, creating the most comfortable environment for your horse will make their stable feel like their very own palace!

Equine enthusiasts will no doubt be looking forward to seeing the palace horses at their best during the ing’s coronation.

Horse lovers know just how intelligent these animals are, and palace breeds such as the Windsor Grey and Cleveland Bay play an important role in many of the time-honoured traditions in the British monarchy.

If you are inspired by palace horses and want to treat your own horse like a king or queen, investing in high-quality, easily digestible feed with plenty of added vitamins and minerals is a great place to start.

You can also try establishing a more regular, early-morning exercise routine, as this will not only help your horse stay in peak physical condition but also help you form an even stronger bond together.

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