Meet the Household Cavalry’s new drum horse learning his trade at HOYS

  • The new drum horse in the Household Cavalry musical ride, currently appearing at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), had “big shoes to fill”, but is “performing immaculately”.

    Fellow Shire Perseus has been learning the job fast as there was a gap to fill. Captain Will Long of the Life Guards, officer in charge of the musical ride, and drum horse groom Trooper Kieran Philpott talked H&H through the drum horses’ training process.

    “Perseus had big shoes to fill,” Capt Long said. “Our Shires go through the training, and he’d been doing that, and on The Queen’s birthday parade, but he’s now been promoted to our number one.

    “He’s been having some pretty intense training, and practising with the Household Cavalry band and the drums, the intensity of the music — as well as being the centre of attention.”

    The 13-year-old gelding was slightly spooked at first by the huge atmosphere of the Andrews Bowen international arena; it was his first time anywhere like it.

    “You can put the noise through a speaker system but you can’t train for the vibrations of the crowd clapping,” Capt Long explained. “It’s quite an intimidating atmosphere — for the showjumpers, everyone stays quiet till they’ve finished but with him, he’s the centre of attention from the start — but he’s done wonderfully.”

    Capt Long said the whole routine depends on the beat and cues from the drum horse and drummer, who uses foot reins to communicate with his horse.

    “There have been some interesting training moments when in London, getting him used to the sound and weight of the drums led to some interesting training days!” he aid. “But Perseus has been immaculate since then.”

    Trooper Philpott, who described Perseus as a “gentle giant who loves attention”, explained that the training takes about four years. The drum horses are introduced to saddles first.

    “Then we start long-reining, to get them used to the foot reins,” he said, adding that the next step is a drum saddle, without the drums, and then “standing-out training”, where the horse learns to stand with his front feet slightly forward and hind legs further back, for better weight distribution in preparation for carrying the drums.

    The horse will then learn to carry the copper drums, weighing 10kg each, first without and then with a rider, and lots of rewards. The final step is carrying the silver drums, the Blues and Royals set at 50kg each and the Life Guards drums, at 52kg each.

    Capt Long explained that the silver drums are priceless.

    “The silver was taken at some point after the American Revolution, then the cast was broken. For this reason they are irreplaceable,” he said.

    Capt Long added that all the soldiers taking part in the Household Cavalry musical ride are operational, adding: “It’s the only regiment in the world with soldiers that do both roles; ceremonial and operational. On Monday, it’s very likely these soldiers will be outside Horse Guards Parade acting as the sovereign’s bodyguards.

    “They all enjoy doing this, and I think the horses do too, including Perseus, and I think he’ll enjoy it more as he gets used to it. He just wants to get out there and show off.”

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