A Sunderland soldier is making sure almost 100 of the Queen’s horses are in pristine condition ahead of this year’s Royal engagements.
The prestigious horses from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in Knightsbridge are expected to be gleaming in what is the monarch’s Blue Sapphire Jubilee year.
The group have just enjoyed a welcome break away from duty at the Defence Animal Centre.
And now Corporal of Horse Liam Telfer, from Doxford Park, and fellow troopers at Hyde Park Barracks in London have a challenge on their hands to transform the animals back into steeds fit for The Queen.
They have just six weeks to get 97 equines in order.
The 32-year-old serviceman, who has been part of the regiment for five years and in the Army itself for 14 years, explained: “Although we know every horse like family, they’re in such a state we have to rely on microchips and hoof stamps to identify them and get them back into their correct stalls.
“I love working with horses to be honest.
“Compared to some of the other jobs I’ve done in the Army it’s very enjoyable and rewarding too.”
The horses are sent away to get a relaxing break from military life, giving them a chance to enjoy open fields.
But on their return to work they are often unrecognisable, looking fat and out of shape.
Officers from the regiment begin by cleaning up the horses before clipping their grown hooves.
Household Cavalry’s farriers then work flat out to get the horses back in training with new shoes.
A balanced diet and exercise starts to tone muscles and streamline the flanks on the powerful mares and geldings, which weigh between 500 and 800kg.
“Once they are ready we can start riding them to build up their muscle and capabilities,” said Cpl Telfer.
“There will be lots of section work to ensure the men and horses are ready for presentation.”
“When a lot of people think of the Royal Family they think of us and that’s why there is a certain standard which we have to meet.
“That’s the reason why we put so much time and effort into caring for the horses, because we are representing the country as best as we can.
“About 80% of people who come into the regiment have never touched a horse before, but given training time, they come to love it.
“It’s a very unique job and you can’t help but fall in love with them.”
When based in London, the horses’ daily duties include providing the Queen’s Life Guard and they also protect the official entrance to the Royal Palaces at Horse Guards 24/7, 365 days of the year.
For this, their manes have to be one hand-span wide and tails must be clipped to fall in exactly the same place on every horse.
Once deemed to be good enough to be ridden at a State Ceremony, a horse will be given a name but until that time they are known by a number.
Standing by Number 14, Cpl Telfer said: “Working with the horses is a very, very labour intensive process and soldiers will have 36 hours off every two weeks, if they’re lucky.
“But it’s an important job.”
Despite the tough task at hand there is no doubt that the magnificent animals will be ready for action when they take part in a major generals’ inspection before being involved in the state opening of Parliament this spring.
Dedicated Cpl Telfer added: “If needs be we will work around the clock to get them ready.”