Christmas with the cavalry

  • Your routine on Christmas Day?

    At 6am I’ll go round with the Commanding Officer (CO) to wake all the soldiers up with a shot of gunfire — or rum.

    The CO will inspect the 12 officers on guard to pick who stands in the sentry boxes on Whitehall, as there is a fancy dress competition. Instead of being graded for turnout as usual, we grade for creativity. Last year even the CO was dressed as Darth Vader.

    Among the officers you get the usual ones in drag and last year there was a fireman on a green goddess rather than a horse. After this they change back into uniform and do the guard as normal.

    At 4pm I go back to Whitehall for the afternoon inspection, and there’s quite a light-hearted atmosphere. Although they are still doing their job, they tend to play pranks on me.

    At 6pm, its back to barracks to feed and check on the remaining 40 horses who aren’t on guard. My brother and Dad were both in the army so they know the deal. Horses have to be looked after whatever the occasion, so it goes with the job.

    What about Christmas dinner?

    I celebrate in style with a normal Christmas lunch and all the trimmings. Last year I had a big lunch with some of the sergeant majors at the barracks, which was a lot of fun.

    Any especially memorable Christmas?

    One year in the fancy dress competition, a guy painted four horseshoes on the ground, put a pile of horse dung where a tail would be and blared Queen’s Invisible Man out of the window – quite brilliant.

    And new year?

    The regiment organises it so that you have your leave either over the Christmas or the New Year period. I like to go to Scotland to celebrate New Year, so Christmas is a good chance to give some of the others a holiday.

    Your ideal present this year?

    For one of the horses my mother bred to win a four-star three-day event. She died four years ago, but Ian Stark has got some of them and it would be a fitting tribute.

  • To read how an equine vet, ILPH yard manager, jump jockey Jim Culloty, Cottesmore huntsman and the clerk of the course at Kempton Park spend their Christmas Day, see the 13 November issue of Horse & Hound. To purchase a back issue contact (tel: 020 8532 3628).
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