Queen Elizabeth's horses
From an early age, Queen Elizabeth II has had a keen interest in horses. Into her reign this has developed into one of her main leisure time activities, with a particular emphasis on the breeding of thoroughbreds for horse racing.
As a child, Elizabeth was given her first horse, a Shetland pony named Peggy, at age 4, which she was riding by the age of 6. By age 18 she was an accomplished rider, and has continued to ride for pleasure into her Diamond Jubilee year.
In her role as monarch, Elizabeth has also ridden in a ceremonial role. From her first appearance as princess in 1947 and throughout her reign as queen until 1986, she attended the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on horseback. For eighteen consecutive years from 1969 to 1986, the horse was a black mare named Burmese. From 1987 onwards she has attended in a carriage.
Elizabeth owns many thoroughbred horses for use in racing, having inherited several on the death of her father King George VI, in 1952. Her registered racing colours (termed silks), as worn by the jockeys riding her race horses, are the same as those used by her father and great-grandfather, King Edward VII; a purple and scarlet jacket with gold braiding, with black cap. As of 2013, horses owned by the Queen have won over 1,600 races, including every one of the five British Classic Races, some multiple times, with the exception of the Epsom Derby. She was named British flat racing Champion Owner in 1954 and 1957, the first reigning monarch ever to do so twice.
She has had a 2nd place runner in the Derby, Aureole, in 1953, the year of her coronation. Her horse Dunfermline won two of the classics, the Epsom Oaks and St. Leger Stakes, in Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee year of 1977. While she doesn't gamble and is instead said to derive more interest from the outcome of a successful breeding match, she is said to read the Racing Post over breakfast every morning.
Other notable horses owned by Elizabeth include:
- Game Spirit
- Hopeful Venture
- Magna Carta
- Pall Mall
Horse races named after Elizabeth II include:
- Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes
- Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup
- Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
Elizabeth II takes a keen interest in the breeding of her horses, and is the patron of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association. She makes regular visits to observe and assess her animals first hand from birth and beyond. Her horses are foaled at the Royal Stud in the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, England. As yearlings, they are raised at Polhampton Stud in Hampshire, before being passed on to the training facilities of any one of five trainers. Once they finish racing, they remain in her care into retirement. Her bloodstock and racing adviser is John Warren, who took over the role from his father in law, Henry Herbert, 7th Earl of Carnarvon, on his death in 2001. He had held the post since 1969.
As well as thoroughbreds, Elizabeth also breeds Shetland ponies at Balmoral in Scotland and Fell ponies at Hampton Court. In 2007 she opened a full-time Highland pony stud at Balmoral to enhance and preserve the breed.
Pageants and shows
Elizabeth II hosts the Royal Windsor Horse Show every year in Windsor Park, part of the royal estate in Buckinghamshire. In her Diamond Jubilee year, an evening horse themed Diamond Jubilee Pageant was combined with the daytime show.
Elizabeth II is depicted on horseback in statues in the following places:
- Ottawa, Canada (Parliament Hill, unveiled 1992)
- Windsor, England (Great Park, unveiled 2003)
- Regina, Canada (Legislative Building, unveiled 2005)
In 1974, Elizabeth II's interest in horses was the subject of a documentary title The Queen's Race Horses: a Private View, which she herself narrated. In 2013, as part of the 60th anniversary coronation celebrations, Clare Balding presented the BBC documentary, The Queen: a Passion for Horses.