A £6m refit is planned to begin this autumn at the stable block of the Household Cavalry’s Knightsbridge barracks to make living and working conditions more comfortable for the regiment’s human and equine members.
Cavalry horses have been stabled at the site on the edge of Hyde Park since the 17thcentury, and the block has been rebuilt three times since. The horses’ present day duties include ceremonial processions, as well as the Queen’s Life Guard at Whitehall.
Commanding officer Lt Col Stuart Cowen explains: “In the 1970s, health and safety was not seriously policed, horse welfare was in a different era, and they were using modern techniques and design on buildings with traditional requirements.
“We have a huge duty of care towards the horses, and it’s the soldiers’ working environment, too – both horse and human issues are important.”
About 340 soldiers are based at the central London barracks, including in-house farriers, saddlers and vets, and the building has facilities to stable 240 horses, as well as indoor and outdoor schools and a horsewalker.
The forthcoming refurbishment is expected to include air conditioning and heating systems, dust extractors, better flooring and flexible partition arrangements to allow better use of the space when the stables are not all in use.
Outside peak ceremonial periods such as April to June, it is common for only about half the stalls to be occupied and while the barracks’ horses are exercised daily, many spend only a few weeks of the yearturned out so would benefit from loose box style stables.
Now that the Ministry of Defence has authorised funding and permission has been applied for to erect temporary stabling nearby on the edge of Hyde Park, plans will be drawn up shortly.
Research has begun with visits to high capacity racing stables, and a look at how the European military keep their cavalry.
Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (13 March), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.