Army denies whistleblower claims horses only get one hour exercise from ‘dark, rat-infested barracks’

Quaker and Vida were spooked by falling concrete and ran at top speed through central London during Wednesday rush hour

Barney Davis
Friday 26 April 2024 17:16 BST
Comments
British army provides update after Household Cavalry horses rampage through London

The British Army has denied claims they only exercise their Household Cavalry horses for “one hour a day” after two horses embarked on a six-mile bloody rampage through central London.

It came after an alleged whistleblower, who said they worked with horses Quaker and Vida for two years, claimed barracks were dark and rat-infested and dirty water was regularly given to the horses.

Giving her name as Kate, she claimed she had worked with horses at the barracks for two years, before leaving earlier this year.

“Those horses are so nervous. They are ready to explode. I don’t think it’s a healthy environment. It doesn’t provide what a horse needs, and space,” she told LBC.

Footage captured by London City Walks shows the moment a Household Cavalry horse threw its rider to the ground in a separate incident
Footage captured by London City Walks shows the moment a Household Cavalry horse threw its rider to the ground in a separate incident (London City Walks on YouTube)

Kate said the horses lived in cramped stalls where rats were roaming around loose cables, and said that they were often given “dirty water”, making the mammals sick.

The whistleblower also told the radio station it meant they would sometimes “only have exercise for an hour a day, and very little sunlight, often stuck inside”.

It is believed that the Army give their horses access to clean drinking water as well as an annual holiday in Norfolk.

As well as their daily exercise session, which the seven horses escaped after hearing falling concrete, they are also regularly taken outside the barracks for ceremonial duties such as the Princess Elizabeth Cup, which dates back to 1949 when the then-Princess Elizabeth proposed the idea for the Richmond Horse Show.

Two horses on the loose bolt through the streets of London near Aldwych
Two horses on the loose bolt through the streets of London near Aldwych (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

An Army spokesperson told The Independent: “We take the health and wellbeing of our military working horses extremely seriously. They are well looked after, exercised daily and have 24/7 direct access to world-class veterinary care.”

It is “too early to know” whether two military horses seriously injured after running loose through London on Wednesday will be able to return to official duties, the Army has said.

The animals underwent surgery overnight and were said to be in a “serious condition” by defence minister James Cartlidge on Thursday morning.

Four of the animals who broke loose have now been named: Vida, Trojan, Quaker and Tennyson.

Both Vida and Quaker were operated on overnight, with the latter being moved to an equine hospital in the early hours of Thursday morning for further specialist treatment, the Army said in a statement.

Vida was the grey horse seen in videos and images from Wednesday covered in blood galloping through central London, alongside black horse Trojan.

Vida was lead into the van with what appeared to be an injured leg
Vida was lead into the van with what appeared to be an injured leg (Tom Cahill)

A group of seven horses and six soldiers from the Household Cavalry were on an extended exercise in Belgravia on Wednesday when they were spooked by builders moving rubble.

Now The Horse Trust has volunteered to rescue the injured pair, with the charity adding that they have “many retired military horses” residing at their sanctuary already.

Jessica Tallman, director of fundraising and communications, told The Independent: “If the decision was made for them not to return to work, we would always welcome them into the care of our charity.”

Elisa Allen, of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), wrote in The Mirror: “Tradition is no excuse for cruelty. Just as the practice of using horses to pull buggies has long since faded from our streets with the advent of cars, so must our ever-evolving knowledge of animal sentience spell the end of horse exploitation by our police and military.”

The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment carries out the ceremonial duties from Hyde Park Barracks. It consists of one squadron from The Life Guards, one from The Blues and Royals and one joint Headquarters Squadron.

Members of the regiment take part in many of the great state occasions such as Trooping the Colour and the state opening of parliament. They also stand sentry at Horse Guards, once the official entrance to St James’s Palace and Whitehall Palace.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in