Heartbreak as the ‘ultimate Household Cavalry horse’ dies in retirement aged 33

  • Tributes have been paid to the “ultimate Household Cavalry horse”, who has died in retirement aged 33.

    Union retired to the Horse Trust in 2012 after 17 years’ military service. During his career the gelding took part in every Trooping the Colour from 1995 as either a trooper or band horse, and attended “countless” state openings of parliament and state visits in London and Windsor. He was part of The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations and attended the 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

    Household Cavalry

    A spokesman for the Horse Trust said Union, fondly known as Onion, had the right temperament for an experienced rider or a beginner, and he was a favourite of the corporal major. He was remembered by many for appearing on television in 2010 during The Queen’s birthday parade with his tongue out while standing behind Her Majesty.

    “Onion was described as the ultimate Household Cavalry horse. When speaking to those who knew him, the flurry of praise and outpouring of love for him is truly heart-warming and just shows how incredibly special he was to both his former military colleagues and to all of us here at the Horse Trust,” said the spokesman.

    Mark Avison, the charity’s director of equine care, knew Union during the gelding’s working career and retirement.

    “Everyone who had the privilege of riding Union on ceremonial parades would have thought they had won the lottery,” he said. “With the ride like sitting in your luxury armchair, slippers on and putting on your favourite film, knowing that once you and Union would walk out and through the famous ceremonial gates at Hyde Park Barracks and turn right you didn’t have to worry about anything else.

    “He wouldn’t put a hoof wrong, in every ceremonial parade, commitment and every position possible. He was one in a million.”

    The spokesman said during his retirement Union had been treated for arthritis, but he was recently suffered a bout of colic.

    “The colic on its own wasn’t too serious, but the combination of this with his arthritis made him very miserable and the incredibly sad decision had to be made to let him go,” he said.

    “Union had such an incredible working career followed by such a long and leisurely retirement and one that he deserved so much. We are so honoured to have had the pleasure of caring for him for close to a decade of his extraordinary life.”

    The spokesman said the news of Union’s death would be “devastating” for the charity’s supporters, adding that the gelding was “such a big character” and one of the kindest horses.

    “He was well known to many of our supporters and he became a firm favourite with the public on our visiting days over the many years, as he also had with so many of our grooms and the wider Horse Trust team,” he said.

    “Union, we cannot put into words how devastated we are to have had to say goodbye to you. We knew this day would come but somehow every year you pushed that day back and we had become so accustomed to you defying the odds and continuing to live your retirement far into your twilight years.

    “You are missed so incredibly much and we know your friends like Yeti and Empress will also be missing your presence, as we do every day too. Sleep tight now Union and gallop free over the rainbow bridge to so many of your friends and colleagues. You are a heartbreaking loss for us to take and the Horse Trust will not be the same without you. RIP Union, you really were, like Mark Avison said, one in a million.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...