‘It’s been an honour’: farewell to former police horse who led guards at Buckingham Palace

  • Bransby Horses has paid heartbroken tribute to a former police horse who led the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

    The welfare charity said former Metropolitan Police mount Saratoga had to be put down aged 12, on vets’ advice, owing to a longstanding lameness issue. A spokesman said the 16.2hh gelding was a favourite with staff and visitors, and that it is an honour to be able to care for such horses.

    “We are heartbroken to have lost the wonderful Saratoga,” Bransby press officer Maria Thompson told H&H. “He came to us after a short career with the police as we were able to provide the specialist care he needed. It’s credit to all those who’ve looked after him that he had so many happy years with us.”

    Maria said Saratoga had a short but “illustrious” career in the police; he joined the force as a four-year-old in 2015 and enjoyed taking part in parades. He worked at football matches and leading out the changing of the guard.

    His trainer and rider, PC Claudia Breen, said he took to the job quickly, and loved his work.

    “He was a cracking little horse,” she said. “He was everyone’s favourite, the sergeants used to argue over who would ride him because he was so easy. Normally it takes a few years for a police horse to be able to cope with the crowds at Buckingham Palace but Saratoga was doing it within months.

    “In fact he was operational within seven months, which means anyone in the force could ride him – this usually takes a couple of years to achieve. He did two years with us and then one day his hind leg locked out.”

    Saratoga had veterinary treatment but investigations found a ligament tear in his stifle, and he was retired to Bransby. The charity commits to taking in up to two former service horses every year; their temperaments mean they are good “nannies” for some more anxious horses and ponies.

    “Being such friendly horses, they also enjoy meeting the thousands of visitors to Bransby Horses each year,” Maria said, adding that Saratoga, with his “sweet, laid-back nature”, became a “Sponsorship Star”. This meant supporters who made regular donations in his name would be sent regular information and updates on him.

    “Saratoga thoroughly enjoyed his retirement at Bransby Horses and we have many happy memories of him,” she said. “It’s an honour for us as a charity to be able to offer these beautiful working horses retirement and we are for ever grateful to our loyal supporters whose donations made this possible.”

    Bransby still has one former police horse in its care, grey gelding Steele.

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