In racing journalist and former jockey Brough Scott’s latest book, Churchill at the Gallop, he delves into the often-unknown part of the Prime Minister’s life: his prowess in the saddle and deep affection for horses. Here are 10 things that may surprise you...
1. Winston Churchill rode more extensively than any other Prime Minister before or since. “Don’t give your son money. As far as you can afford it, give him horses,” he said.
2. For a while Churchill lived at Banstead Manor, now the home of one of the most famous racehorses in the world, Frankel. “Here I am at Banstead, leading what to me is an ideal existence,” he said.
3. As a young man, he was very small – just 5ft6 and three-quarter inches with a 31-inch chest — riding was the one thing that he excelled at whilst at Sandhurst. “Horses were the greatest of my pleasures,” he said.
4. He rode in a race which was later found to be fixed and could have ended his career — “It was very exciting and there is no doubt about it being pretty dangerous.”
5. On his 21st birthday Churchill was on horseback, in Cuba, and being shot at for the first time. “We are soldiers and should see some fighting… It might be better than hunting or polo,” he said.
6. He fought in the ‘last great cavalry charge’ at the Battle of Omdurman – “I had first to return my sword into its scabbard, which is not the easiest thing to do at the gallop.”
7. He scored a polo hat trick at the Inter Regimental Polo Championships in India with only one working shoulder.
8. During the Boer War in South Africa, his life was saved by his ability to mount at the gallop. “I shouted to him… Give me a stirrup,” he recalled.
Whether you were a horse-mad child who raced…
9. Churchill hunted (many animals as well as foxes) all of his life into his 80s both at home and abroad. He kept company with the likes of Coco Chanel and Charlie Chaplin and at one stage he owned four hunters.
10. In his sunset years, Churchill enjoyed much success as a racehorse owner and breeder.
Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (26 October 2017), with our exclusive extract from the new book Churchill at the Gallop by Brough Scott, published by Racing Post Books