London New Year’s Day Parade – All The Queens Horses
written by Karen Brett-McGee
This was All The Queens Horses 6th year in the parade and again we undertook the mammoth task of organising 60 horse & two inflatable ponies from around the country to come and take part in the London New Year’s Day Parade, with a total number of participates for our team being just over 200 people. Led by the organisation’s creator Caroline Marsh, from Warlingham Surrey, their ages ranged from 5 – 70 years with everyone working so hard to make this event spectacular, travelling hundreds of miles to come to London and I can honestly say the bar was raised this year with some amazing, elaborate costumes not only for the riders & walkers but for the horses too! The theme this year was “Lights Camera Action” and our horses and riders amazed the crowds dressed as Super heros, Annie Get Your Gun, Lawerence of Arabia, 101 Dalmations, Oliver Twist, Ben Hur, Moulin Rouge, Star Wars, Mary Poppins & Priscilla Queen of the Desert!
The London New Years Day Parade is featured in news bulletins on more than 500 TV stations globally & receives more than 9million hits in December and January alone with features on millions of news and entertainment sites at the turn of the year so it is such a magical memory for our riders to make!
So many breeds of horses were represented too – Spanish, American Quarter horses, Haflingers, Norwegian Fjords, Holsteins, Warmbloods, Traditional Cobs, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Irish Sport Horses, Welsh Section A’s, Pure Arabs & British Miniatures aged between 4 – 27 years with some retired professionals and some rescues in the mix. Some of the team are professional competitors in all the variety of equestrian activities and some are just happy hackers but nothing could prepare them for the 500,000 people wanting to meet them in the crowds. They were all so brilliant stopping along the way at some of London’s most iconic landmarks to allow the crowd to stroke their horses and ask questions. It is hard to imagine that most of these horses/ponies rarely visit such crowded streets let alone walk between 250 watt speakers of blaring music, marching bandings in front and behind, giant character balloons floating past and having commentators get the crowds to cheer and chant! The crowds completely loved the horses and both adult & children’s faces was definitely a highlight that none of us will forget!
Preparations for any show is never easy but with global visitors trying to take selfies with our horses whilst acclimatizing them to the weirdest atmosphere facing stilt walkers with wings, Carnival lorries, samba bands, steel bands and vehicles & animals covered in fake grass was never going to be easy. Our group showed true grit and with copious amounts of glitter and all hands on deck they did us proud.
One of our riders Peter Green had only been riding for just over a year and for a special reason joined our team. Peter wrote “In June 2015 we tragically lost our beloved and beautiful daughter Molly to suicide. All of her short life she was a horse rider, she started riding at 5 years old, she loved horses. When she was 14 we managed to buy her a 2 year old who she named Rome. She taught him everything and he was soon winning various competitions. She adored him. Our grief at her loss was matched by Rome, he knew. I made a promise to her that I would look after him, just as she did. With help from some of her friends I have done that, I started to ride and when I do I feel she is there with me, I feel like she can see and feel him through me. So I try to do all the things she did on him, I hack him, jump him (small fences!) Groom him and kiss him every day, just as she did. She was also so proud to have ridden him in the London New Years Day parade 2012. I watched her that day and when I was initially offered the chance to do the same thing in 2015 as a tribute to her I couldn’t do it as I was not confident in my riding ability, Caroline Marsh and her team then said I could do it this year and I accepted. I wanted to do it for her, as a tribute to Molly and her memory and more importantly so she could feel that excitement and joy of riding through central London again. It was a very proud and emotional day for me as I represented her.”
One of our youngest rider was Liam Evenden from Lingfield, Surrey aged 5 years old on a 27 years old pony owned by Lindsay Bull. His first year at the parade, he loved every minute of it and looked every bit a superstar dressed as Oliver waving to the crowds.
Another rider, Mick Foulds from Suffolk is 64 and lost his legs in an accident at work 9 years ago. He was back on Kaz just a few days after getting his first set of prosthetic legs! Kaz is an Appaloosa gelding, and will be 24 years old in April. Mick rode western style before the accident, and continued to compete in Rodeos (barrel racing and other speed events as well as more sedate classes) until retiring Kaz about a year ago. Mick previously served in the military and has been helped by various military charities, in particular BLESMA (British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association), and so he wanted to recognise BLESMA on the Parade by wearing a BLESMA jacket. Mick now continues to inspire other disabled military veterans by encouraging them to have a go at horse riding. The western style is very good for both leg and arm amputees. He recently led a group of six BLESMA amputees travelling to Arizona for a week at cowboy school.
At the end of the parade our team was met by Liam form the Household Calvary who kindly posed for photos with us and escorted us down the Mall to Buckingham Palace this was such an honour.
In summary this was once again day to remember forever for all of us.