Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adventures in London part 3- Tuesday

a.k.a. Wordful Wednesday

a.k.a. real horses finally! 

With my hotel situated about a five-minute walk from the HouseHold Cavalry, it was inevitable the family would have to wake up and watch the changing of the horse guards at some point.  Unfortunately, our morning got away from us over a leisurely breakfast, and we arrived barely before it started, meaning a large crowd had accumulated.  We did manage to find a decent spot to wait and watch.  

The first horses we spotted were police horses, reminding people to stand behind the marked lines because the horses would by no means stop or avoid their tourist toes.  

I took a few pictures of this big bay police horse.  What a cute face! 

Finally we heard several more hooves approaching, and the cavalry guards were visible at last!

Not that they were terribly visible over the tourists.  

Business in the front, business in the back.  These were very businesslike horses.  

"What are you looking at?"
 Then this guard came out mostly to move the guests out of the middle alley.  Check out those boots!
I bet you could impale yourself on the point of those boots.  

If not the boots, the sword would definitely be capable of impaling you.  

The guardhouses here are naturally much bigger than the famous Buckingham palace ones.  These ones need to fit a horse! 

Close up of this horse's cute face! I suspect my expression mirrored that of the small child in the stroller's. 

This horse was very fidgety with his bit and kept sticking his tongue out

"Psst, human! I think that kid in the stroller might be a security threat." 
Ever vigilant.  

Notice the VERY fluffy sheepskin saddle cover
 The newly arrived horses did some synchronized cavalry-esque stuff, none of which I could really see in all honesty. It was very crowded.   If you scroll back up you'll notice the incoming guards all had red coats with white sheepskin saddle covers(? I can't imagine what else you would call them), and those who left were already there with their woolly black saddle covers (and matching black coats).

Look how woolly

So.  Woolly. 

This might possibly be the most awkward picture I've ever taken of a horse.  It's got the mid-blink going on with the teeth sticking out.  Majestic creatures, horses.  

Those are some serious boots.  

Seriously serious boots.  

"Help there's tourists in my face"
 Then, the guards in the courtyard gracefully dismounted at the same time on a command.
A view of the saddle sans rider.  That's a serious pommel.  

That is one unimpressed looking tourist.  
 Of course, the main event was yet to come.  The household cavalry has a MUSEUM!

Dem boots.  

"Practise makes perfect

A trooper takes at least 10 hours to prepare for daily inspection.  Cuirasses (breastplates) and helmets are cleaned with Brasso and chalk brushes.  Leather straps fixing the sheepskin cover to the saddle are brushed with shoe whitener. Each buckle hole must be cleaned out with a nail. 

Breeches are 'whit-sapped' while worn; jackboots are soaked in beeswax before being smothered in layers of black polish.  Wire wool is used to rub out any imperfections on the leather surfaces.  

The horse's hooves are brushed with oil and their white legs chalked up.  Using a furnace, farriers make and fit shoes for each horse.  The whole kit including saddles, collar chains, sword slings, plumes and cuirasses must be fitted correctly.  If the helmet is too loose, it tips back.  Too tight, it causes an unbearable headache.  The inspection is taken by the Adjutant. The trooper graded best is awarded guard duty in the sentry boxes, with the worst carrying out guard duty dismounted."  

Apparently it's top honors to stand out front in the guard houses! I guess that dismounted guard from earlier had an unsatisfactory kit.  

"Shabraque (saddlecloth) with a black sheepskin cover, as worn on an officer's horse of The Blues and Royals.  These are only worn when the Sovereign or members of the Royal Family are present.  They are made from fine red cloth and cut to a regimental pattern with pointed ends (those of the Life Guards are rounded) with a gold lace border. The Monarch's Crown and Garter Star, with battle honours richly embroidered in scrolls appear on each corner." 

So wooly.  I really wanted to touch them and probably easily could have, but I've had too much 'don't touch anything in a museum' programmed into my brain.  

This was the best I could do picture-wise.  The saddle rack was significantly taller than I was.
"Officer's Pattern Saddle

This design was in use from 1918 until it was replaced in 2003.  It has extended fans at the rear and broad points at the front arch which help to distribute the weight of the rider and his kit evenly across the horse's back.  Saddle panels are stuffed with wool and made of leather which is stained brown on top but left unstained on the underside where contact is made with the horse.  The seat is made of hog skin and the skirts and saddle flaps are made from solid skirt hide with hog skin print."

This was the matching bridle.  It was essentially the same as the current one, but simpler.  Still had the fancy crownpiece and bit shanks.   

"Life Guard Officer's Saddle

Life Guard officers wear a bearskin over their saddle while Blues and Royals officers wear an astrakhan cover.  At the front of the saddle under the bearskin there are two rubber pistol pouches where the officer would have kept his pistols when mounted but pistols are no longer carried on parade today." 

Mmm that's good photography.  
"The Other Ranks Saddle

The saddle on display has been in service since the early 1900's.  It has a laminated beech wood tree with steel arches at the front and rear.  The saddle is webbed and has a blocked seat made from the same kind of tough leather that you would find on the soles of your shoes.  The girth attachments can offer slight adjustments to the unique curves of each horse.  The various brass fittings were used to attach swords and rifle buckets."

"Saddle used at the battle of Waterloo by an officer in the Blues.  Officers had to provide their own horses and saddlery for military duty."

I really don't want to re-write all three captions when this photo is clear enough to read anyway. 

"The Zetland Trophy, 1874

When Lord Zetland left The Blues in 1874, he failed to give the customary leaving present to the Officer's Mess.  When he was asked about this omission, the wealthy Zetland casually remarked, 'Oh, buy a piece of silver and put it on my bill'.  The officers took him at his word and duly commissioned this enormous table centerpiece. It took four men to lift it and cost them the then astronomical sum of £1000.  The central column depicts The Blues at the Battle of Waterloo, topped by a figure of Mars, the god of war."

This was definitely my favourite non-horse memorabilia in the museum.

"Officer's winter dress frock coat

Worn by Colonel Frederick Burnaby while serving with the Royal House Guards (the Blues), 1859-1885.  He was a giant of a man, 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing well over 20 stone. He was extraordinarily strong, and worked out regularly in a London gym lifting weights, something that his brother officers found rather odd."

I can't imagine wearing something so fancy to ride a horse, but then I'm not a 19th century cavalry officer.

"Universal Pattern Saddle

with sword and Lee Enfield rifle, 1902-1914.  This saddle was designed to spread the burden more evenly across the horse's back.  Each man carried the .303 Lee Enfield rifle in the rifle bucket on the off-side, with thirty rounds of ammunition in a bandolier over his right shoulder.  A further sixty rounds were carried around the horse's neck.  A highly effective new sword, introduced in 1908, designed for thrusting, was also carried on the saddle."

There was a display of little cavalry figurines in formation.

One in particular caugt my eye. 

That is a little tiny miniature Queen Elizabeth II

For those not fans of miniatures, there was a slightly larger scale figure for the measly sum of  four hundred and twenty pounds ($685)


  1. What awesome pics! Gives me lots of things to check out when I get a chance to head over to London :)

  2. I laughed at the awkward horse picture. He kind of looks like he's giving a big grin for the camera. Those boots are something else...I can't imagine trying to walk in them! Actually...I can't imagine swinging up onto the horse while wearing them!

    I've really been loving these London posts. Thank you for taking the time to share all of this! Both the photos and typing out the captions for the pieces you're showing us! Very informative and it really makes it feel like we are visiting the exhibits with you!

    1. *or rather, re-visiting the exhibits with you, since you've been back from this trip for a while. :) Really: great blogging!

  3. Thanks Kate and Saiph! These posts are a ton of work (hence the looooong gaps in between them), so it's AWESOME to hear positive feedback about them! :)