Michael Norris has been stud groom at the Queen’s private stud, Polhampton Lodge Stud Farm in Hampshire for the past 30 years. He is retiring from the role next month. Mr Norris had a silver bar added to his Royal Victorian Medal, which was awarded to him by the Queen almost a decade ago, in the New Year’s Honours.
What were your first experiences with horses?
My father had riding horses and farm horses on his farm in County Kilkenny, where I grew up, so I used to muck about with them.
How long ago did you leave Ireland?
I came to England more than 50 years ago. That’s why I’ve lost my accent, at least they say I have when I go back to Ireland. I suppose that after I’ve been there a bit and had a pint or two of Guinness, I sound Irish enough.
What did you do when you arrived in England?
I started working in racing. I never really had any training, I just learnt everything I know on the job. I worked for Ken Bailey and Arthur Freeman among others and was honoured for a lifetime in racing welfare a few years back.
How did you become stud groom for The Queen?
I was a student at Sandringham, and the job for stallion man came up, so I took it. I worked there for seven years before moving on to Hampton Court, where I became stud groom. I stayed there for 11 months and then moved to Polhampton Stud, where I have been for the last 30 years.
How large is the Polhampton Stud?
There are 248 horses here at the moment, mostly yearlings and horses who were in training that have been injured or need a rest. We’ve also got several nanny horses to keep the others company. We have more horses in the summer. We don’t have any stallions here, nor do we have any horses in training. They all get sent off to Mr Hannon, Roger Charlton and Sir Michael Stout.
How many people work at the stud?
There are three staff plus myself, but only 27 of the horses are in at the moment, so at this time of year when there aren’t so many horses around, it could be worse.
What does your average day’s work consist of?
I get up at about 5.30, check all the horses and do any feeding necessary. Then when the others turn up, we brush them over and turn them out. The animals at grass get fed in the fields, and then it’s basically time to get the others in and fed again.
What are your plans after your retirement?
I want to do a lot of travelling. I love archaeology; I always have since I was a little lad. I’ve been to Peru and Columbia, and I can’t remember how many other places. I’d like to go to Egypt and Jordan – Petra in particular, as long as my lady wife will come with me. We’ve been married for 36 years. She lived in the village where I worked and I used to ride past her most days.