Queen Elizabeth II, who died peacefully at Balmoral yesterday (8 September), was well known and greatly admired for her passion, knowledge of and general interest in all things equine.

When she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year at the age of 96 — marking 70 years on the throne as the longest-reigning British monarch — Your Horse asked some of the riders tasked with training, caring for and competing horses and ponies owned by Her Majesty what it was like to ride for Queen Elizabeth II.

Every person who ever piloted horses for The Late Queen found a supportive and keenly interested owner.

“I’ve always felt very flattered to be riding The Queen’s horses, but while other owners can follow their horses at many shows, Royal Windsor [was] the only one where The Queen can see hers compete. Therefore, I especially loved the days when we take them to Windsor Castle for Her Majesty to see,” says leading show producer Katie Jerram-Hunnable, who rode Her Majesty’s horses for around two decades.

“On those occasions, we discussed the season and talked about each horse individually. I also took them into Her Majesty’s indoor school and, while she stood in the middle, I put them through their paces. At the end of the workout, she liked to reward them with a handful of carrots out of a brown paper bag.”

‘An emotional moment’

Among her myriad successes in the show ring, Katie cites the prolific former racehorse Barbers Shop winning the Supreme Ridden Showing Championship at Royal Windsor in 2017 (his retirement competition) as a real high point.

Barbers Shop was the last horse bred by The Queen Mother, who died shortly after his birth and he was consequently left to The Late Queen.

Her Majesty sent him to Nicky Henderson to be trained for racing and, at the end of that career, he arrived at Katie’s Collins Farm to be retrained for Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) classes.

“Her Majesty was watching in the royal box and he received his prize right in front of her,” says Katie of Barbers Shop’s 2017 Supreme victory. “She was so happy. It was an incredibly emotional moment.”

Following the bay gelding’s retirement, The Late Queen felt that it was important Barbers Shop should continue to live at Collins Farm, a mark of his owner’s keenness to do what is best for every one of her charges, Katie believes.

“I was dreading losing Barbers Shop,” Katie confesses. “But then I felt so honoured when I heard that he would be able to stay with us for the rest of his life.”

‘An incredible horsewoman’

Lizzie Briant produced native ponies for The Late Queen since 1999, including her beloved Highlands, as well as Haflingers and Fells, not least Carltonlima Emma. Lizzie broke in the mare at nine (after Emma had had a foal) and she enjoyed one season under saddle in the show ring before being passed to The Queen for riding due to her quiet temperament and good manners.

“The Queen [was] an incredible horsewoman and she [knew] so much about so many breeds,” says Lizzie.

Richard Waygood, World Class performance director and eventing performance manager, enjoyed several eventing successes with The Queen’s home-bred Dallas geldings, Joust and Peter Pan II, in the early part of the Millennium.

“Her Majesty enjoyed watching her horses train,” recalls Richard. “She was fascinated when I had them jumping skinnies and barrels. When diaries permitted, I would take them to Windsor Home Park and we would hack out together with The Queen’s stud groom, Terry Pendry.

“During our chats it was clear how much she knew about horse sports, and her knowledge of breeding was amazing, both for Thoroughbreds and native breeds.”

One of Richard’s most memorable equestrian moments occurred when he was a part of the winning trio of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment A Team in the Services Team Jumping at Royal Windsor aboard Peter Pan.

“This was at The Queen’s show, on The Queen’s horse, in front of The Queen. It doesn’t get better than that,” adds Richard.

Success in the family

Closer to home, The Late Queen’s children and grandchildren are well known for being successful and very keen equestrians themselves.

Her daughter, the Princess Royal, is a former European Champion in eventing (in 1971 riding Doublet) and was the first member of the royal family to compete at an Olympic Games (Montreal in 1976 riding Goodwill).

Zara Tindall — The Queen’s granddaughter and Princess Anne’s daughter — is a former World and European Champion who also helped Great Britain to team silver in eventing at the London 2012 Olympics.

The Prince of Wales, as well as his sons the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, have been a familiar sight on the polo field while Lady Louise Windsor, daughter of the Earl of Wessex — The Queen’s youngest son — is an avid carriage driver, inheriting the ponies and carriages once driven by her grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, when he passed away last year.

Main image: copyright Getty Images

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