Meet Big Red: the Household Cavalry’s new drum horse

  • The Household Cavalry band’s new drum horse will meet The Queen and Prince Charles for the first time this week.

    Big Red, a nine-year-old 17.1hh Shire, has been in training for the role since joining the army in February 2013.

    “The first thing that will happen when he’s presented to The Queen is that she will give him a new noble name befitting his role and rank,” explained an army spokesman on social media.

    Big Red

    “Training as a drum horse is a specialist art and takes patience, care and time. He is conditioned to walk only, while on parade, and taught to react to foot reins using a long reining method to start with.

    “Then the riding staff systematically introduce the regalia — his magnificent and elaborate head collar, bridle and accoutrements — to a point where he is quiet and confident in all of it.

    “At each stage the staff also introduce every change and addition in as many different conditions and environments as they can, so that eventually Big Red finds everything, even the tumult of central London, second nature.”

    Staff also play music in the gelding’s stable “from time to time” so the noise becomes familiar.

    The last step is to gradually introduce him to the drums.

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    “The weight and size are enough to make the best of horses apprehensive, so a lot of time and monitoring is spent just riding in them to develop his mind and strength,” adds the spokesman.

    “Playing in them is the biggest hurdle as unlike just being beside the band when they perform, when the drums are struck he can feel the vibrations through the saddle.

    “The riding staff desensitise him by playing softly to start and slowly increasing the tempo and volume as his confidence grows.”

    Big Red drum horse

    Big Red will start his work with the mounted band as an understudy, before progression to smaller parades.

    It is hoped he will have his passing out parade during the Queen’s birthday parade and become a fully-working member of the band.

    “Household Cavalry drum horses carry the rank of major and as such are senior to all other animals of rank in the army,” added the spokesman.

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