Army reveals what roles cavalry horses who ran through streets of London will play at Trooping the Colour

Exclusive: Tennyson will be taking part in the main parade for the King’s birthday

Emma Guinness
Tuesday 11 June 2024 21:24
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Household Cavalry horses escape and weave through London traffic during rush hour

The army has revealed what roles the escaped Household Cavalry horses will fulfil at this year’s Trooping the Colour ceremony.

Dramatic scenes unfolded when the horses were spooked by noise from a nearby building site in April, which prompted them to throw off their riders and gallop through London, injuring themselves and a number of pedestrians in the process.

The incident prompted widespread public concern for their welfare, despite experts insisting that such incidents are rare.

Following professional assessment, Tennyson, “who was not badly injured”, will be taking part in the King’s birthday parade, while “Trojan and Vanquish will have supporting roles with the King’s Life Guard but will not be on the parade itself”, The Independent can reveal.

Two of the horses who were more badly injured, Vida and Quaker, will continue their recovery in the countryside.

The revelation comes after an animal rights charity warned against the animals’ participation in the parade, claiming that “noisy, unpredictable crowds” would create a risk to the public and the horses.

Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has called for the five horses injured in the panic to be retired from duty and not made to return for the King’s birthday parade, in a letter to the regiment’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Woodward.

The warning comes days after the army said three of the injured horses – Trojan, Tennyson and Vanquish – are already back on duty and “against all expectations, are looking likely to take part” in the annual parade on 15 June.

Military horses caused chaos in central London after they were spooked by builders moving rubble
Military horses caused chaos in central London after they were spooked by builders moving rubble (PA Wire)

The other two horses – Vida and Quaker – are also expected to return to work in due course.

However, as Trooping the Colour is a large-scale military event involving guns and soldiers, Peta has argued that the horses should not participate and that all five of them should be retired permanently.

The animal rights group says that should the horses participate in Trooping the Colour, they could be a danger to themselves and other people.

Kate Werner, Peta’s senior campaigns manager, wrote to Lt Col Woodward: “Clearly, these horses are easily agitated and sensitive to noise.

The five military horses that bolted and injured themselves as they ran loose through central London in April are all expected to return to duty, the army said
The five military horses that bolted and injured themselves as they ran loose through central London in April are all expected to return to duty, the army said (MoD/Crown Copyright/AP)

“Forcing them to perform at a crowded event marked by drums and a 41-gun salute would place them and the public at risk.

“The whole world was rightly shocked to see images of scared, blood-soaked horses running through the streets of London after getting spooked during April’s failed exercise.”

The group also took the opportunity to argue that the military’s continued use of horses is no longer a necessity in the modern world.

“Tradition is never an excuse for animal suffering, and each horse deserves to live free from the stress they endure when paraded through a busy, loud capital city with a human on their back, all for the amusement of noisy, unpredictable crowds,” the letter added.

Two military horses bolt through the streets of London in April this year
Two military horses bolt through the streets of London in April this year (PA Wire)

As revealed by the army, over 200 horses will take part in this weekend’s event as well as one “extremely large dog” – an Irish wolfhound who is the official mascot of the Irish Guards.

Although the King typically rides on a horse, this year, because of his ongoing cancer treatment, he will inspect the soldiers from a carriage instead.

The army said in a statement: “After weeks of gruelling rehearsal and painstaking preparation, 250 musicians, 20 pipers, 240 military working horses, an extremely large dog, and almost a thousand dual-role soldiers of the British army’s Household Division will deliver a magnificent spectacle for the King, the nation, and the world in London on Saturday 15 June.

“The King’s Birthday Parade is a gift from the British army’s Household Division to His Majesty on the occasion of the King’s official birthday. Held traditionally on the second Saturday in June, regardless of the sovereign’s actual date of birth, the parade is an opportunity for the Household Division to demonstrate their professional excellence and loyalty to the crown.”

A spokesperson for the Household Cavalry told The Independent: “Our horses undergo a thorough process of treatment and rehabilitation before their suitability to return to work is carefully assessed. We would never allow them to do so unless they were absolutely ready, physically and mentally.”

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