Today (21 April 2017) The Queen marks her 91st birthday. Just eight reasons seems a bit of an injustice when trying to sum up how indebted the horseworld is to The Queen's passion and commitment to our sport. But to mark her birthday, we've made a start...
1. An encyclopedic knowledge
Her Majesty is intimidatingly knowledgeable when it comes to horses — no detail is spared. So much so that former editor of Horse & Hound Michael Clayton recalls that on a visit she made to H&H HQ with Prince Philip in London, 1978, he found himself caught out. “The royal couple lingered long over a series of equestrian photographs we displayed. Frequently The Queen would study a horse portrait intently and ask the question of the true horseman: ‘Who is it by?’,” he remembers. “All too often I had to cough and admit I did not know. Sometimes one of my colleagues would provide the answer, but usually The Queen was the first to remember the sire of a horse in our collection.”
2. Age is just a number
We’ve always been proud to boast that in equestrianism, a 19-year-old can compete against a 50-year-old. But The Queen takes it to another level. Riding at 91? No problem.
3. Understated glamour
Those wellies. That headscarf. The Queen makes you feel ashamed for slavishly following the equestrian fashion and rinsing your credit card for a pair of the latest Hunters or Musto jacket to don for Royal Windsor. This is understated equestrian style at its finest.
4. No nonsense (whatsoever)
Her Majesty seems to characterise those qualities found in the best of Pony Club DCs or the most long-serving of show stewards: straight talking, no nonsense, down to earth. Showing producer Katie Jerram-Hunnable’s mother Jill, who accompanies The Queen by car when Katie is on horseback, remembers: “The first time I couldn’t open the passenger door to get out. We were alone in the car so I thought it might be security. I said, ‘I’m sorry Mam, but I can’t open the door’. She replied, ‘Oh for goodness sake, pull a bit harder.’”
5. Her offspring
To be the matriarch of a family that can claim a European Champion as a daughter (the Princess Royal) and a European and World Champion as a granddaughter (Zara Tindall née Phillips) as their own is quite some feat. Plus, as president of World Horse Welfare, the Princess Royal has become a linchpin for championing equine welfare issues.
6. Putting natives in the nationals
What better advert for our native breeds than to have pictures of The Queen delighting in her own ponies’ show ring success at Royal Windsor (and across the country), plastered across the national papers?
7. Racecourse magic
Something changes in the mood of a racecourse when The Queen is in situ — and when she has a winner, it can send the crowds into a state of euphoria to see that often steely face light up with a smile. Take Estimate winning the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2013 as a case in point. And what would the Royal meeting be without the grand arrival of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh (plus their lucky Windsor Castle guests) by horse and carriage at the start of each day’s racing?
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8. Patriotic pride
Gleaming horses decked out in regalia for a State occasion, with The Queen sailing by in a coach, has the strange effect of making you want to blurt out with a rendition of “Rule Britannia”… Standby for Trooping the Colour on 17 June.