From rocking horses to Shetlands and sturdy Pony Club steeds, horses infiltrate every aspect of a royal childhood, whether the Olympics beckons or a trot around Balmoral is the extent of their riders’ equestrian prowess, finds Madeleine Silver
WHEN The Queen’s childhood governess Marion Crawford first met a young Princess Elizabeth, she found “a small figure with a mop of curls sat up in bed”, who had tied the cords of her dressing gown to the knobs of the bed and was busy driving her team.
‘‘Do you usually drive in bed?” Marion remembered asking, in her 1950 book The Little Princesses, to which the princess replied: “I mostly go once or twice round the park before I go to sleep. It exercises my horses.”
The 30-odd toy horses that she had, each standing a foot high on wheels, had a strict stable routine; their grooming basket stood at the end of a long line of them, first at No. 145 Piccadilly, and later in the corridors of Buckingham Palace. Each night they had their saddles removed, and were attentively fed and watered. And after her and Princess Margaret’s annual trip to Olympia Horse Show with their parents, the toy horses would be put through several weeks of intensive training. On other occasions Princess Elizabeth would harness her nanny with a pair of red reins to set off on a fictional delivery round.
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