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12 Interesting Facts About Queen Elizabeth and Her Horses

12 Interesting Facts About Queen Elizabeth and Her Horses

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All throughout her life, Queen Elizabeth was a passionate horse lover. She was an avid equestrian that has ridden and owned horses for many years.

The Queen began riding horses when she was only three years old. She soon became an accomplished equestrian and would often ride in Royal ceremonies and leisure.

In addition to riding, the queen was a passionate horse breeder, conversationalist, and racehorse owner.

Here are twelve interesting facts about Queen Elizabeth and horses.

1. Queen Elizabeth’s First Horse Was a Shetland Pony

Queen Elizabeth’s very first horse was a Shetland pony named Peggy. Her Majesty got Peggy at the young age of 4 as a birthday present from her grandfather, King George V.

The Queen riding Peggy
The Queen riding Peggy

After her first pony, the Queen continued to ride. She made her debut as a princess at the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on horseback on a horse named Tommy. While riding at ceremonies, she would ride sidesaddle.

From 1969 to 1986 the Queen would ride her horse Burmese for Royal ceremonies. Burmese was a black mare that was a gift from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In addition to ceremonies, the Queen would also ride Burmese for leisure. Today, she was often seen riding her Dales ponies within the grounds of Windsor Castle.

2. Queen Elizabeth Bred Shetland, Fell, and Highland Ponies

Queen Elizabeth with horses

Queen Elizabeth was a huge supporter of Britain’s native pony breeds. She breeds Shetland, Fell and Highland ponies.

The Shetland pony breeding program is at Balmoral in Scotland, along with the rare Highland ponies. Her Fell pony breeding program is at Hampton Court.

The breeding program helps preserve the traditional bloodlines in these native British breeds, making sure they are preserved and enhanced. She was also a patron of the Fell Pony Society and Highland Pony Society.

3. Queen Elizabeth Breeds and Owns Several Racehorses

The Queen was an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing. After her father, King George VI, passed away, she inherited breeding and racing stock.

The Queen’s Thoroughbred breeding program is at the Royal Stud in Sandringham. As yearlings, they go to Polhampton Stud before heading to various training stables. She routinely visits to observe and assess her Thoroughbred horses.

4. Her Daughter Was the First Royal to Compete At The Olympics

Queen Elizabeth isn’t the only horse enthusiast in her family. Her daughter Princess Anne and granddaughter Zara Tindall followed in her footsteps.

5. Her Favorite Place to Visit in America Was Kentucky

Queen Elizabeth and President Ronald Reagan horse riding
President Reagan riding horses with Queen Elizabeth II during visit to Windsor Castle (6/8/1982)

The Queen’s favorite place to visit in the United States is Kentucky, Thoroughbred country.

While in Kentucky, the Queen enjoys meeting with other horse enthusiasts. Conversations almost always center around Thoroughbred racing when she visits the Bluegrass state.

Princess Anne was the first Royal to compete at the Olympic Games. She competed at the 1976 Olympics aboard the Queen’s horse Goodwill in Eventing. Though she did not medal at the Olympics, she took home a gold medal at the 1971 European Championships and two silver medals in 1975 in eventing.

The Queen’s granddaughter, Zara Tindall, is also a competitive equestrian. Zara has won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in eventing, and gold and silver medals at the European Eventing Championships.

In addition, she also took home gold and silver at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games and silver at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games.

Her late husband Phillip, and her grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry also have horse riding experience, mostly playing horse polo.

6. She Regularly Attends the Royal Windsor Show

Queen Elizabeth stroking and smiling at a horse

Queen Elizabeth regularly attended the famous Royal Windsor Horse Show. Considered one of the biggest horse shows in the world, it was a big event for the Queen, and she was often spotted having a good time watching.

The Queen has entered many of her homebred horses and ponies in the show across the years. She even won the Pony and Dogcart class at the first year of the show. Her late husband, Prince Phillip, was a regular competitor in the International Driving Grand Prix until retiring in 2003.

Included in our list of the most famous horse riders, Queen Elizabeth regularly watches many classes at the show and even meets some of the horses. She even met the famous dressage horse Valegro in 2019.

7. Queen Elizabeth Received the First-Ever FEI Lifetime Achievement Award

Due to her lifelong contribution to the horse industry, Queen Elizabeth was awarded the first-ever FEI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. She received the award from former FEI President Princess Haya.

“The bond between The Queen and horses is truly extraordinary, and I can’t think of anyone more fitting to receive this very special FEI award in the Year of the Horse. I am very proud to be giving this award on behalf of the FEI family,” said Haya.

The award itself is a stunning white gold brooch made up of a circle of nine intertwined diamond horseshoes. She received the award at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

The ceremony took place in the presence of former FEI President Prince Phillip and Keith Taylor, Chairman of the British Equestrian Federation.

To date, Her Majesty’s horses have won over 1,600 races. Her horses have won all the British Classic Races at least once with the exception of Epsom Derby. She was extremely knowledgeable about the Thoroughbred industry and was a patron of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.

8. She Was a Patron of The Cleveland Bay Horse Society

Queen Elizabeth was helping to preserve the Cleveland Bay, England’s oldest indigenous horse breed. It is believed she saved the breed from certain extinction in the early 60s when she purchased the pure CB colt Mulgrave Supreme, slated for export.

Queen in her early years
Queen in her early years

She also allowed several owners of purebred CB mares to breed to him, something never before done.

Before the invention of the motorcar, the Cleveland Bay was a preferred carriage horse for the wealthy. To this day, they are used to pull the Royal carriages.

When Prince Philip competed internationally in combined driving it was with a foursome of part-bred Cleveland Bays.

9. She Used to Open for the Royal Ascot

Before the start of the Royal Ascot horse race, the Queen used to gallop the track herself. She would enjoy racing down the course with her friends and family in her youth.

Queen Elizabeth attended every Royal Ascot during her reign except in 2020 and 2022. She has ridden in over 260 Royal processions at Ascot and has owned 22 winners of races at Royal Ascot.

“On one occasion, she took the crown prince of Japan for a ride on the course. 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,” said commentator and former jockey Brough Scott to Vanity Fair.

10. She Rode All the Way up to Age 96

Queen of England horse riding at age 94 after lockdown
The Queen at age 94 at Winsor Castle. mage credit: Kelvin Bruce

Sadly, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022. In June 2022, the Queen was photographed riding one of her Fell ponies at the incredible age of 96.

After a hiatus from riding and despite being told by doctors to stop riding, her Majesty was happy to be back in the saddle. She rode alongside her groom, Terry Pendry, at Windsor Castle.

11. Later in Life, Queen Elizabeth Only Rode Native Ponies

Though the Queen has ridden various horses throughout her life, she only rides native ponies now. This is because they are closer to the ground and more docile.

The Queen typically rides Fell ponies. One of her most trusted Fell ponies was a mare named Carltonlima Emma. Emma became so popular that she even got her own Breyer model made after her. She enjoys taking her beloved ponies for leisure rides.

12. The Royal Carriages of the Queen are Kept at the Royal Mews

The Royal family owns some truly stunning carriages with ornate details. These beautiful carriages of the Queen are housed at the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace.

Such carriages at the Royal Mews include the Gold State Coach used in coronations and the open-top State Landau Coach that Prince William and Catherine Middleton used for their wedding. The Royal Mews gets millions of visitors every year from people all over the world.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip seat on the Royal Coach at Queen's Birthday Parade on June 17, 2006 in London, England.
Sampajano_Anizza / Shutterstock.com

In addition to the Queen’s carriages, the Royal Mews is also home to Cleveland Bays and Windsor Greys. The Windsor Greys are not a breed but rather any gray horse that is specifically bred and carefully selected by the Royals to join the official ranks.

The selection is based on temperament and appearance, with the horse’s duty to pull or accompany the Queen’s Coach.

Who Was Queen Elizabeth’s Favorite Horse?

The Queen’s favorite horse was said to be Burmese. The beautiful black mare was half Thoroughbred, half Hanoverian.

Queen Elizabeth II riding her horse Bermese
The Queen and Burmese

The Queen enjoyed riding Burmese both recreationally and for ceremonies. Burmese was the Queen’s trusty mount and the two had a strong bond. On June 13, 1981, the Queen and Burmese were leading the parade through the streets of London when suddenly a teenager in the crowd fired six blanks at the Her Majesty.

Burmese became startled by the incident, but Queen Elizabeth quickly got her under control and carried on with some loving pats.

How Many Horses Did Queen Elizabeth Own?

In June 2022, it was reported that the Queen owned around 100 horses at the time. She has owned many horses throughout her lifetime, including Thoroughbreds, Fells, Cleveland Bays, Shetlands, and Highlands.

Also read: Who Will Inherit the Queen’s Horses and Dogs?

Cathleen A. Springer

Monday 19th of September 2022

She was one of a kind and will be remembered for her service to her country and family.

Carol Schwankl

Friday 17th of December 2021

I was at Three Chimneys one day and saw them dusting the inside of the horse barn as the queen was coming the following day. She kept her mares there and was due for a visit. I think it's the horses that have kept her young and in good health.

Marsha A Todd fisher.

Friday 26th of November 2021

Queen,I'm so proud of you with all your interest in horse husbandy.you set a wonderful interest for the young folk of your lovely coundry

Ruth Donnelly

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

I wonder if the Queen watches "Heartland" a CBC production from Alberta Canada.

L Gemmell

Sunday 3rd of October 2021

Strange, you mention Wills and Harry playing polo but not her son Charles, who played for many years, and obviously rides and rides well.