Everything at Knightsbridge starts early

In his first blog, Captain Anton Lin writes from Knightsbridge about rehearsals for the Major General’s Inspection, and an upcoming performance at the Royal Tattoo.

Late last night I managed to finish the planning details for the Royal Tattoo, which I sent out to the relevant parties.  I was glad to have this burden removed and it allowed me to concentrate better on this morning’s rehearsals for the Major General’s Inspection.  This is a parade we carry out at the start of the season in order to demonstrate to the Major General that the Household Cavalry is ready to perform its duties to the high standard expected.

Rehearsals are always early – in fact, everything at Knightsbridge starts early. A normal working day starts at 0600hrs for us all so we can have the roads and parks as much to ourselves as possible when we ride.  This morning’s rehearsal was a mix of exercising the horses and walking through the parade to learn the words of command.

Upon returning from riding and breakfast I saw that I had a hundred questions arising from my email last night.  Most of them relate to logistical details concerning the French Garde Republicaine – our mounted counterparts in Paris – who are riding with us at the Royal Tattoo this year.  What time will they take over their accommodation?  Are our vets allowed to treat their horses or will they bring their own vet? And so on.

Luckily I am off to Paris this afternoon to watch them perform and hopefully have some of my own questions answered.  Once I get back I will need a long meeting with our Riding Master to come up with a routine that will best demonstrate the varied skills of our Ride and their mounted band.  Our two groups together will number nearly sixty horses and we have only 14 minutes each night…

23 days to go

In his second blog, Captain James Hulme from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment details another rehearsal (and an even earlier start to the day!) ahead of the Royal Wedding.

Reveille was at 0430hrs, so an even earlier start to today (6 April). I am now getting slowly more fatigued even though the Royal Wedding is still over three weeks away. A quick walk to work, a change into ERO ‘Escort Review Order’ (khaki service dress jackets, breeches, field boots, my sword, and our famous state helmet with plume), and I arrived at the stables to get my horse ready.

London is still sleeping, but at the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, the Blues & Royals Squadron were preparing for a major rehearsal. It was all hands on brooms, pitchforks and wheelbarrows to get the indoor stables clear of the overnight mess. Mucking out was followed by grooming. Each man picks out the hooves of his horse for that morning, removing scurf from the horse’s coat, brushing the mane, forelock and tail, sponging-off eyes  etc. Horses get their hooves oiled for shine, a quick shave with a safety razor and chalk dust is applied to brighten their white ‘socks’.

Today I was on my trusty charger, a horse called William. Standing at 17 hands high, he is an elegant beastie with great ‘head carriage’, and at 19 years old he is a real veteran. He was in a better mood today, and was easier to tack-up as a result. Most of the horses are Irish Draught crossed with an element of thoroughbred, a mixture that we call a ‘cavalry black’. William definitely has more thoroughbred in than most of the horses, and therefore has a lot more speed and stamina than most – or so I thought.

We mounted-up on the Regimental Square (we are taught how to vault onto the horses ‘quickest and best’, but for parades we use a mounting block) and position ourselves into two ranks. The thinking behind this is, that in battle, a gap in the front rank can always be covered by someone in the second rank who would step forward. The trumpeter sounds “March on the Officers”, and four us take up positions at the front of the Squadron.  I am No. 4 Division Commander, that is, in charge of 24 soldiers and horses acting as a sort of a rear-guard to the whole parade.

“From the right, form sections, walk march”, and we left the Regimental Square, out of the Ceremonial Gate into Hyde Park for our drills. It was a beautiful morning, with the sun just rising over the Serpentine, with commuters passing by, and joggers getting in their own form of morning exercise. I am glad to say that our riding was okay too, straight, and precise.

The morning was almost complete when I noticed a distinct change in William’s rhythm at the trot. Something was definitely up. William, for the first time ever is not quite right. He’s happy enough, ears still forward, but he is definitely not firing on all four cylinders. I leave the rehearsal a little prematurely, to prevent any further aggravation. Getting back into barracks he is quickly seen by one of the Farriers and the Regimental Veterinary Officer, Major Ann O’Flynn. It was difficult to diagnose conclusively, but poor old William is going to need a bit of rest and remain under observation for the next few days. He’s going to need to be doted on a bit.

A little concerned that I was going to need to choose another charger to use for rehearsals, I set about the rest of my day as a Troop Leader and Unit Press Officer. Having spoken to my troop (30 soldiers & 40 horses) about the strains of the ‘silly season’, I felt that it was time to tackle today’s Royal Wedding media request inundation. As it is in the rest of the British Army, an Officer in the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment also remains largely deskbound in the afternoons.

After a pleasant evening meal with a guest speaker, my old Brigade Commander from Afghanistan, I contemplated the next day. We were due to conduct another, even bigger rehearsal, to be completed on a horse that I had never ridden before. Enter stage left: Cornet.

You can like the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment on their official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HCMR.