“It looks halfway to being parade ready,” says Captain Nick Watson of the King’s Troop, eyeing up some tack that would earn any civilian a best turned out accolade.
There’s no hint of irony from Nick, but when you consider the spectacle of gleaming horses that we associate with The Queen’s birthday parade or the pomp and ceremony of a state occasion, these steely expectations add up.
We visited the unit at its Woolwich barracks, where it has been based since 2012, on an early September morning to find out about its stable management routine — and how it gets its tack quite so shiny…
The King’s Troop’s tack cleaning routine
1. Start by wire-wooling the leather back down until it’s completely bare, taking off any wax or polish.
2. Use normal shoe polish to brush the tack, like you would do with your shoes.
3. Next is a process called “nobbying”, using a rolled-up set of old tights to bring out a good shine.
The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery have been enjoying the sand and surf in Cornwall on a training exercise
4. From there starts the process of “bliffing” which is done using a rag. Put a very small amount of shoe polish on to it and work it in with small circles.
5. For the metalwork, a process called “rifting” is used. First, cover the metal with a metal polish. Next attach the metal to a pillar or post, which is then attached to a leather strap that goes around the waist of whoever is cleaning it to pull it tight. Strips of old guardsmen’s tunics are wrapped around the metal work and pulled backwards and forwards quickly to create friction and heat, bringing the metal up to a high shine.