Queen Elizabeth's love of horse riding, from her toddler toys through to her Royal Ascot racing stables
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The Queen’s obsession with horses has been well documented over the years. This weekend, at the age of 94 – when most people would have long hung up their jodhpurs – the Queen was seen riding Balmoral Fern (her 14-year-old Fell Pony) around the grounds of Windsor Castle over – dressed in a vibrant headscarf and riding gear. A previous report by Vanity Fair claimed the Queen has been ‘riding daily’ at Windsor Castle, where she has been staying with her husband Prince Philip over lockdown
Rare footage of the Queen as a child showed that she is the ultimate horse girl, with a video shared by the Royal Collection Trust showing the Queen as a toddler pulling a horse toy behind her and riding as a teen.
Private family footage of Queen marks monarch’s 94th birthday
Since then, her children and grandchildren have inherited her love of the animals, with her daughter Princess Anne even competing as an equestrian in the 1968 Olympic Games and her grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry regularly competing in charity polo matches.
As the Queen’s skill and passion for horses grew over the years, she would go on to become a fixture at notable equine events.
Queen Elizabeth with her son Prince Charles (Getty Images)
For example, Vanity Fair reported that the horse races at Royal Ascot are the ‘first engagement to go in her diary at the start of every year’ to ensure nothing clashes. While nowadays you’re most likely to see her being paraded around its racecourse in a carriage or rubbing shoulders in the VIP Royal Box, she used to race at Ascot as well – as members of the Royal Family used to compete on its track prior to the official races.
Photos of her and her sister Princess Margaret showed the pair in 1968 galloping around the course. Racing commentator Brough Scott told Vanity Fair, “It’s hard to believe now because of her age, but she used to love racing down the course before racing officially began.
She probably knows Ascot racecourse better than anyone else.”
Scott also added that the Queen had even taken the crown prince of Japan “for a ride on the course”, and said, “The Ascot officials were probably horrified from a safety perspective, but it’s the Queen’s course, so she can do what she wants. Still, it’s unbelievable to see our young monarch galloping in her headscarf, with a great smile on her face. It makes her seem so normal.”
In her youth, the Queen also used to join the Trooping the Colour military parade on horseback, wearing a ceremonial uniform as she rode side-saddle. (The Queen served in the military during WW2 as a truck mechanic.)
The Queen riding side-saddle in 1962 at Trooping the Colour (Getty Images)
According to a website dedicated to the parade, the Queen has ridden in it 36 times. Her daughter Princess Anne has since taken up the mantle, making headlines in 2019 when she was seen wearing a black frockcoat on horseback as other members of the Royal Family watched from the balcony. Though she hasn’t channelled her inner jockey in years, the Queen has since turned her passion into an enterprise as she owns her own racing stables.
Royal finance expert David McClure called it an “expensive hobby”, adding, “At one stage she had about a strong of about 20 thoroughbred horses, she had three studs, she had stables.
It was estimated in around 2000, it was costing about ?600,000 a year just to run that.” The Telegraph reported in 2017 that the Queen’s stables have earned roughly ?7 million in prize money and that her horses have a win rate of 15.9%, having competed in over 450 races. The Queen even celebrated her 90th birthday with a televised 900-horse show hosted at her weekend home Windsor Castle.
Despite her love of all things equine, the Royal Family has been locked in an ongoing ‘feud’ with a Scottish Shetland Pony called Cruachan IV – one that the miniature pony started.
The Shetland pony previously made headlines for attempting to take a bite out of the Queen’s posy in July 2017 (PA )
It all began in 2018 when Queen Elizabeth first encountered Cruachan IV, who is the mascot for The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
As she visited the regiment, she was seen holding a bouquet of posies which Cruachan attempted to eat as she spoke with Pony Major Mark WIlkinson – though she spotted him doing it and was caught telling him to “go away.”
After that, Cruachan IV then came for her son Prince Harry during his visit to the regiment with the Duchess of Sussex; attempting to nibble the Duke’s fingers off.
Regimental mascot Cruachan IV relieved himself in front of the queen during her visit to The Royal Regiment of Scotland (PA)
When the Queen was eventually reunited with Cruachan IV, the feud took a turn when Cruachan IV boldly pooped as she greeted him again – leading the monarch to hold her nose and flee the smell.