3 minutes read
3 mins read

Royalty: The Queen’s love of Horses

08 Jan 2022

The Queen has always had a love of horses. Throughout her life she has often been seen riding in public or surrounded by horses, whether at public ceremony or the racecourse.


Now well into her 90s, The Queen has been riding horses for each of her nine decades.

Her love of horses began when she was given her first horse, a Shetland pony, aged just four. She began riding two years later and was well accomplished by her early teens.

A consummate horse woman, The Queen rode side saddle on Burmese at the first Trooping Of The Colour parade after the war in 1947, and they maintained their partnership at the event for another 18 years.

The Queen continued to ride at the Trooping Of The Colour until 1987 and since then has arrived at the event by horse-drawn carriage.

In a list of her favourite horses in Horse And Hound magazine, The Queen named several that have given her particular pleasure through the years.

Betsy, a dark black-brown mare The Queen rode in the 1960s makes the list, as does Sanction, a horse that the Queen’s Head Groom, Terry Pendy, describes as having had an almost ‘telepathic’ bond with Her Majesty.

Horses have been close by throughout her life, and two Highland ponies, Balmoral Jingle and Balmoral Curlew, that The Queen had at her Scottish home, also received a mentioned.



In 1947, as a wedding present from the Aga Khan, the Queen received a filly, Astrakhan, and that same year registered her famous racing silks of purple with gold braid, red sleeves and a black cap.

Although The Queen is better known as a Flat owner, her first winner came over Jumps at Fontwell in 1947, where Monaveen, a horse jointly owned by the Queen Mother, returned triumphant.

The racing event most associated with The Queen is of course Royal Ascot, a meeting she has attended for over 70 years. Before each of the six days racing, The Queen arrives by horse drawn carriage, down the centre of the racecourse.

Her first winner at the Royal meeting was Choir Boy in the 1953 Royal Hunt Cup. Since then The Queen has gone on to have 22 further Royal Ascot winners, with perhaps the most famous of those being Estimate, who won the Gold Cup in 2013.

Estimate held off a late challenge in the final furlong, and The Queen’s delight was clear to see as she watched on from the Royal Box alongside racing manager John Warren.

Estimate became the first horse to give a reigning monarch victory in the most prestigious of Royal Ascot races.

There have been many great Royal runners who haven’t performed at Royal Ascot, notably The Queen’s two Classic winners of the 1970s, Highclere and Dunfermline.

The Queen has won four of the five British Classics in her distinguished racing career, but never the Epsom Derby.

Perhaps 2022, the year of her Platinum Jubilee, will be the time to set that record straight.



Following the death of her father King George VI in 1953, The Queen inherited the royal breeding operation.

The Queen’s horses are foaled at the Royal Stud at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, before being sent as yearlings to Polhampton Stud in Hampshire.

Many of her winners on the racecourse are homebred, including 2000 Guineas winner Pall Mall, Dunfermline and Estimate.

She maintains a keen interest in thoroughbred bloodlines and is a patron of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.

As well as thoroughbreds, The Queen breeds Shetland, Fell and Highland ponies at Balmoral and recently established a Highland pony stud to enhance the breed.

She is committed to preserving endangered breeds and is a member of the Cleveland Bay Horse Society, which seeks to protect England’s oldest breed of indigenous horse.