Newton Stewart soldier presents new drum horse to the Queen

Drum Horse Groom Trooper Grant McIlwraith presents Big Red to HM the Queen. Photo credit; Sgt Jamie Peters RLC
Drum Horse Groom Trooper Grant McIlwraith presents Big Red to HM the Queen. Photo credit; Sgt Jamie Peters RLC

Her Majesty The Queen and The Prince of Wales visited the Household Cavalry during which they were presented to a new drum horse held by a soldier from Newton Stewart.

After a State Trumpeter sounded the Royal Salute as the Royal Party entered the Army base, The Queen and The Prince were met by Major General Sir Edward Smyth-Osborne, Commander Household Cavalry.

The engagement on Tuesday began with the naming of the Regiment’s new Drum Horse, which was being held by Drum Horse Groom Trooper Grant McIlwraith, aged 28.

Previously known by his stable name “Big Red”, Her Majesty gave the 17.1 hands high bay Shire horse a new noble name befitting his role and rank. Household Cavalry Drum horses carry the rank of Major and as such are senior to all other animals of rank in the Army. He is currently undergoing intensive, highly specialized training for his new role as The Blues and Royals Drum Horse with the Household Cavalry Band and if all goes well he will “pass out” on the Queen’s Birthday Parade.

Trooper McIlwraith of The Blues and Royals said: “It is a huge honour and privilege to meet The Queen and to work with Big Red.

“Just like preparing for military operations a huge amount of attention to detail goes into preparing horses for ceremonial duty.”

The Household Cavalry consists of The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals; the oldest and most senior regiments in the British Army who retain a world famous reputation for excellence on both the battlefield and on ceremonial duties. Ready for short-notice operations, at home or abroad, the Household Cavalry Regiment continues an unbroken tradition of service to the country spanning nearly four centuries. In the Armoured Cavalry role, their task is to reconnoiter swiftly ahead of other forces, scouting for the enemy and understanding the human and physical terrain. In London, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment provides the Army’s mounted State Ceremonial & Public Duties capability – the public face of the British Army to the world and the mounted escort to Her Majesty The Queen.

The Queen met Troopers of the Life Guards and The Blues and Royals with their horses in the stables and saw how Her own horse “Joanie” is progressing as a Life Guards charger. She then heard about the Army’s latest innovations in equine health from the Forage Master Staff Corporal Carl Adams and Regimental Veterinary Officer Major Harriet Church. She saw how partner organisations such as “Horses Inside Out” can help train soldiers to understand the bio-mechanics and anatomy of the horses they work with.

The Prince of Wales visited the working Forge and heard about the Farriers’ Apprenticeship Programme from Farrier Major Chris Thomas, 46, from Llandybie, a village just 6 miles from the Prince of Wales’s farm. It takes three and a half years to train to be an Army Farrier. The course offers the highest standards of professional training and is validated and awarded by the Company of Farriers. For many of the Army’s soldiers learning trades such as this offers them a transferable skill for life beyond their military careers.

He then saw the Tack Room where The Master Saddler, Corporal of Horse Samuel Belasco, outlined the painstaking process of preparing for major ceremonial events, and introduced Troopers of The Blues and Royals. The soldiers explained how the discipline and attention to detail required to prepare state kit for ceremonial duties helps refine the skills needed in their operational role as reconnaissance soldiers where an eye for fine detail can save lives.

The Household Cavalry have worked with and deployed to eight countries in the last 12 months, including most recently mentoring the Brazilian Cavalry for the punishing military patrol competition The Cambrian Patrol. The Queen heard how the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment were the first Royal Armoured Corps Regiment to be awarded a Gold Medal in this year’s competition.

This summer, soldiers from Hyde Park Barracks have participated in the Queen’s Birthday Parade, the Spanish State Visit, and deployed alongside the police on Operation Temperer to provide armed security for key sites in London in the wake of the terrorist attack on Manchester.