Preparing Cavalry horses for the crowds
Lance Corporal of Horse (LCoH) Dan Ridge will be one of 200 immaculately attired riders, trotting behind the royal coach.
LCoH Ridge will ride Vengeful, an ebony horse almost 20-years-old and fast approaching the end of his Army service:
The Army matches horses to riders in terms of build, weight, height and natural ability,” he says.
With just days to go, LCoH Ridge’s diary is crammed with dawn rehearsals to practise riding manoeuvres through the silent streets of the capital. He says:
We get London to ourselves, and, over each rehearsal, it builds up, drawing in more and more guys.
To prepare horses for the wall of noise, the Army enlists the help of what they dub ‘rent-a-crowd’:
We put them through their paces, through the streets of London, around buses and people, gradually getting them used to the noise,” says LCoH Ridge. “They clap, cheer, wave flags, play symbols and drums, anything so that the horses aren’t scared on the day.
The proud soldier glows as he describes the honour of taking part in a spectacle watched by billions:
My mum has set the video and she and my grandparents will be able to follow it all on telly and hopefully recognise me,” he says.
Riding in the royal procession
At the Royal Wedding this Friday, Captain James Hulme will be riding in one of four divisions of the Household Cavalry which make up the Sovereign’s Escort.
With the hours ticking down until the big day, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) press officer, Captain James Hulme, admits that the sheer scale of fielding hundreds of phone calls from news-hungry reporters is tricky. Or, as he puts it, “Journalists are a nosey bunch and have ways of making you divulge!”
Capt Hulme will ride his favourite steed - aptly named William - on the big day, an elegant ebony horse who exudes real character:
William is an intelligent, inquisitive horse,” says Capt Hulme. “He has seen it all before and even though he is 20, he has so much energy, he is like a young horse.
For the HCMR, Trooping the Colour, and Changing of the Guard are “regular fixtures” but a military history buff, Capt Hulme discovered that the Life Guards have been escorting royal weddings since 1661, and, 349 years later, they are still at it.
The biggest surprise for strangers, says the Captain, is learning that all officers and soldiers on horseback have served in Afghanistan within the last 12 months, or are about to go:
Throughout time, people think we just ride horses, look smart, and wear medals,” he says, “but they’ve earned their place since the 1660s.
Captain Hulme is especially savouring the moment the newly-weds leave Westminster Abbey, when he commands 4 Division to ‘form the escort’ when the couple step into the glass carriage for a stately trot back to Buckingham Palace.
Although the eyes of the world will be firmly fixed on the couple, Capt Hulme knows he has bagged a plum role riding just behind the royal carriage:
Anyone doing that will be on every china plate marking the royal wedding for the rest of time,” he beams.
This report by Lorraine McBride appears in the May 2011 issue of Defence Focus magazine - for everyone in Defence.