‘A hell of a horse’: Shire bought for £500 joins Household Cavalry

A Shire bought at auction for £500 has gone on to a high-profile role as a drum horse in the Household Cavalry.

Five-year-old Ed joined the regiment at the end of last year and is the second horse the Household Cavalry has bought from Dyfed Shire Horses in Pembrokeshire.

In 2008 the Welsh farm and tourist attraction sold a three-year-old called Dyfed Grey Celt (now known as Mercury) to the regiment and he has gone on to have a successful career, appearing in the Trooping of the Colour on eight occasions.

When they were looking for a new recruit last year, the army revisited the farm and found Ed fit the bill.

“I’ve been told Ed hasn’t put a hoof wrong yet and we have high hopes for him,” Dyfed Shire Horses’ owner Huw Murphy told H&H. “He’s already been down Oxford Street and out by the Serpentine, and we think he might make the grade sooner than expected.

“He’s a hell of a horse and we were sad to see him go but also very, very proud.”

Although he breeds and produces only a handful of Shire horses each year – most of whom are retained to work on the farm — Mr Murphy has had huge success selling the horses into ceremonial work.

As well as Celt and Ed’s roles in the Household Cavalry, he sold two horses to join the Royal Cavalry in Oman in 2017. The farm also hosted the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall on a visit in 2018, when the duchess took the reins of the then four-year-old Ed for a cart ride (pictured, above).

Huw either breeds the Shires who work on the farm himself, or buys them as youngsters and spotted Ed as a yearling at the Midlands Shire foal sale in September 2015.

“I never even touched him and just saw him from the side of the ring,” Huw said. “He’d been donated by his breeder to raise funds for the families of four men who died in the Bosley Mill Fire.

“I bought him for £500 and who would have thought he would turn out to be the Shire horse he is today.”

Huw’s family has run the 80-acre farm since 1849 and it was his grandfather who retained a passionate interest in the working horses despite the rapid onset of mechanisation after the Second World War.

“My grandfather was one of the die-hards and refused to give up the working horses; when everyone else went on to tractors he kept working the Shires,” he said. “Before I was born he was still working them on the green crops like swedes.”

After his grandfather died in 1991, Huw’s mother decided that the Shires could not stay as pets and needed to earn their keep.

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“We diversified into a tourist farm to enable us to maintain them and maintain my grandfather’s legacy,” Huw added.

The farm has eight Shires, four of whose work includes tasks such as turning the hay as well as greeting tourists and offering cart trips.

The farm is a source of local pride and Preseli MP Stephen Crabb joined Huw at Olympia in December to meet Celt as he performed with the regiment.

“To have two Pembrokeshire-bred horses with the Household Cavalry is a tremendous badge of honour for the whole team at Dyfed Shire Horse Farm and for Pembrokeshire,” Mr Crabb said.

“I last saw Celt at Trooping of the Colour in 2011, where I was lucky enough to take a picture of him in full regalia. It was great to see Celt once again and to congratulate Huw on his success with both Celt and Ed.”

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