15 of The Queen’s Favourite Horses

A reflective moment for the queen, riding Birmese, when she left Buckingham Palace for the Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Horse Guards June 11th 1983

The Queen becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch on 9 September 2015, taking over from her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria. Let’s take a look at some of her favorite horses throughout her history

The queen has owned many horses down the years and her equestrian interests are very broad. It is probably a bit tactless trying to identify her favorites!

Aside from racing she has owned — and bred — horses that have been successful in racing, eventing, showing, carriage driving and polo. Most of us only see her among horses at the Royal Ascot Paddock and when she attends the Horse Guard’s parade.

Among the many Queen Elizabeth has owned, some have bought her particular pleasure. Sometimes for loyal service, great success or simple for private relaxation away from the public eye.  Here are just a few of them.

1. Peggy

Peggy was gift to Queen Elizabeth and her sister Margaret on her fourth birthday. She was a cute shetland with a shaggy mane and clearly better behaved than many Shetlands, who have a reputation for being very cheeky. She was obviously well behaved enough for the queen to become hooked!

2. Rising Light

King George VI had many horses which the teenage Princess Elizabeth took a great interest in. Reportedly, she kept a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings about Rising Light, who ran in the Derby when she was 19. Former royal stud manager Sir Michael Oswald says “She has had a terrific involvement in racing all her life, and really knows and understands horses. She also has a remarkable memory for pedigrees”.

3. Monaveen

Monaveen was co-owned between a young Princess Elizabeth and her Mother, (Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother)

“With him she enjoyed some ‘beginners luck’ if you like,” says Sir Michael Oswald. “He proved to be a very good three-mile chaser and won  the Queen Elizabeth Steeplechase at the now defunct racecourse Hurst Park. Sadly he was killed in a race later on.”

4. Aureole

When the Queen was newly crowned in 1953, the whole nation was behind this Aureole’s bid to win the Derby. He was inherited from her Father and only finished second to Pinza, but still went on to become a top stallion. . “The 1950s were really good ones for The Queen’s racehorses,” says Sir Michael. Queen Elizabeth was a leading owner in 1954 and 57.

5. Feola

Her Majesty has always bred racehorses on  a modest scale, and has some 25 to 30 horses in training at any one time. She was once a big player in flat racing but as the Arab “super powers” have crept in, she’s become a smaller fish n a much bigger pond. Feola became the mainstay of the Queen’s breeding program after being bought and raced by George V. She was grandam of Aureole and great grandam of Highclere.

6. Highclere

The Queen enjoyed tremendous Classic success in the 1970s thanks to two outstanding mares, Highclere and Dumfermline. Highclere won the 1000 guineas and French Oaks. The Queen’s duties did prevent her from going racing very often, but for once she was able to witness the latter in person. Sir Michael still recalls the “absolute chaos” that ensued at Chantilly after Highclere won the French Oaks there in 1974. Highclere  went on to become a prolific broodmare, with Height Of Fashion (a top-class racehorse who was famously sold to Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum and produced Nashwan, Nayef and Unfuwain), Burghclere and Milford among her progeny.

7. Dumfermline

Dumfermline was “probably the best horse the Queen has ever owned,” believes Sir Michael Oswald. “She wasn’t much as a two year old but she was brilliant at three,” continues Sir Michael, “and was the only horse to beat the great Alleged [whom Vincent O’Brien trained to win two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes but whose only defeat was to Dumfermline in the St Leger].” Trained by Major Dick Hern, she won the Oaks and the St Leger in 1977, the year of The Queen’s silver jubilee.

8. Carlton House

There was a media frenzy when Carlton House, given to the queen by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum started the Derby as favorite. Did the Sir Michael Stoute-trained bay give her a much longed-for first Derby victory? This would be her first real Epsom hope since Flight Of Fancy finished second in the 2001 Oaks. Alas it wasn’t to be, Carlton House was only third to Pour Moi.

9. Betsy

Betsy was a a black mare of 15.3hh who was bought from a farmer in the 1950w. She became a favorite riding horse of the Queens.“The Queen had her for years and they taught each other so much,” says stud groom Terry Pendry. “She had a bit of character,but the Queen loves a horse with a bit of personality.”

10. Sanction

Sanction was another  favorite riding horse of The Queen’s until he was sadly put down at a ripe old age in October 2002. Sanction was a 16.1hh bay, bred by The Queen and was the last horse she used for riding out before moving to ponies. Stud groom Terry Pendry says: “The Queen used to think the horse was near-telepathic, and she doted on him. She only had to think of going somewhere and he’d go.”

11. Doublet

The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) famously won the eventing European Championships at Burghley in 1971, still remembered by many. He was bred  by The Queen, out of a polo pony mare belonging to Prince Philip. Unfortunately, he broke a leg when cantering at Windsor in 1974 and had to be put to sleep.

12. Burmese

Burmese (pictured top) was the first of four horses given to The Queen by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in 1969. She rode her for 18 consecutive years in the Trooping the Color, her birthday parade. Burmese was retired in 1986. When she wasn’t Trooping the Color, Burmese served in the Metropolitan Mounted police. She achieved more fame when she had to be calmed by her rider after blanks were fired at the 1981 Trooping.

ElizabethII trooping colour

13. St James

St James is another horse that was given by the RCMP. Like two of the others — Centenial and George — he became a charger for The Prince of Wales at Trooping the Colour. “St James was rock steady during the ride to and from St Paul’s Cathedral for His Royal Highness on Her Majesty’s golden jubilee celebrations,” says Terry Pendry.

14. Petition

Petition, a 15.3hh bay gelding by Petosky out of Reverie, has probably been one of the most successful of The Queen’s show horses. He was reserve riding horse at 2010’s Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), and in 2011 was fifth at HOYS and eighth at the Royal International, second and reserve at the Hickstead Derby meeting, and fourth at Great Yorkshire Show. Katie Jerram says: “The Queen was absolutely over the moon when I was reserve champion with Petition at HOYS. I actually rang her after the class and had a private conversation like any other owner — she is just a very normal, down to earth person. She loves the horses and loves to see them win.”

15. Balmoral Jingle and Curlew

Highland mares Jingle and Curlew used to be ridden by The Queen at Windsor and were both shown with considerable success in the hands of Lizzie Briant. In 1997 they were moved up to Scotland to become broodmares. “It was always The Queen’s dream to have the Highlands up in Scotland,” says Terry Pendry.

Source: 15 of The Queen’s favourite horses