The Household Cavalry Museum was something that I didn’t even know existed until I read about it on a website about the changing of the guard. I knew immediately that we had to go.
It doesn’t seem like it now that the city has grown up, but Horse Guards Parade is considered the entrance to the Buckingham Palace grounds. (You can visualize that on the map above). That’s why there are guards stationed here. I found the guards here more interesting because until 4 PM they are stationed on horseback.
At 4 PM the horses go off duty. There is a Dismounting Ceremony. This was a punishment instituted by Queen Victoria when she found the members of the Guard drunk one day. She said that they had to be inspected at 4 PM every day for the next 100 years. Their punishment time is up now but they still do it because now it is tradition.
After 4 PM, they guard on foot.
There is an interesting small museum here where we learned a lot.
There are two units working here — The Life Guards, in red tunics and white plumes and the Blue and Royals, in blue tunics and red plumes. These are not soldiers whose only job is acting as guards. They are also operational regiments that operate armored vehicles. Most recently they were in Afghanistan.
Most of the soldiers have no idea what to do with a horse. They start with a 10 week intensive riding course. For the first 3 weeks, they ride without stirrups! That will teach you quickly. There are videos to see in the museum about their training. As horse people that amazed my mother and I. We figured these were people who wanted to work with horses and had asked to be in this regiment.
There are also videos about the horses. They are Irish Draughts. They are brought in from Ireland as untrained 4-5 year olds. They go through police horse training and then come to London. They have a vet and a team of farriers on staff. They have summer vacations at the beach and compete in dressage and eventing. Between 16-20 they retire and spend their lives at a retirement farm lounging in the pastures. Because they are horses, sometimes things don’t go as planned. There are stories about horses acting badly like the drum horse who took off during an inspection, jumped a fence, and ran through the rest of the regiment.
The rest of the museum is about the history of the regiment as a cavalry unit. We were there during the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo where they played a large role.
As a kid I like learning about famous horses. That’s why I was a bit taken aback by this.
Marengo was Napoleon’s horse. I remembering hearing that his foot had been made into a snuff box but that seems like a made-up story. Whelp, here it is.
Not to be outdone by a French horse, they also have this.
|Not a snuff box at least|
Sefton was severely injured in an IRA bombing that killed several of the horses and soldiers while they were on parade. He survived. But, when he died someone decided to memorialize his foot. Weird.
They also have a changing of the guard ceremony here at the same time as a Buckingham Palace but this one is better because of the horses. There aren’t huge crowds so you are very close to it.
Honestly, it wasn’t that interesting. One side comes in and stands for 15 minutes. The major entertainment there was the middle horse in line subtly picking on the horses on either side of them and getting them in trouble. Then the other side rides in and they stare at each other for 15 minutes and then we left. The horse in the picture above kept looking towards the Palace where there were drums. He liked the noise.
Underground stations Westminster or Embankment
Cost of the Museum
Adults £7.00 including the audioguide
Included in the London Pass
Changing of the Guard is free
Changing of the Guard
11 AM Monday – Saturday
10 AM Sunday