A London Parade With Some Horsey Action
All The Queen’s Horses are a unique equestrian element to the annual London New Year’s Day Parade which takes to the streets on New Year’s Day to entertain the huge crowds that line the streets along the route through central London. We spoke to organiser and creator of ‘All The Queen’s Horses’, Caroline Marsh (pictured above) to ask her a few burning questions…
HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE PARADE?
With All The Queen’s Horses, it will be nine years in 2019!
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED?
I got involved via The Donkey Breed Society by a lady named Herdis Churchill. A very influential lady and you never said no to a lady of so much knowledge!
We then represented Croydon via my work with Tramlink (My miniature horses were the mascots for about three years), and then in 2012, All The Queens Horses was born after I pestered the organisers to let us get involved! We have never looked back since!
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF THE PREPARATION AND ALSO ON THE DAY
The most significant headache for us is the parking for all the lorries and trailers, which have to fit in a tiny space. Co-ordinating all the team and equines to be on time and in the right place at the right time is also a task in itself!
We found it hard in the first few years, to recruit teams of riders and horses. Many people did not know of the Parade, however in 2012 on its 25th year anniversary the parade had some eight thousand people take part from around the world and was televised via the free channels. From then on, things got much easier for us. Looking back at our first year when there were only three of us looking after the entire horse section to where we are now, with a crew of eight on the day plus a vet, so we’ve come a long way!
TELL US ABOUT THIS YEAR’S PARADE – WHAT IS THE THEME?
Our team of 60 horses will be taking to the streets of London dressed to thrill under this show’s theme heading ‘London Welcomes The World’.
Each year the parade celebrates a particular theme. Last year’s parade celebrating ‘Circus & The Showman’ and the forthcoming parade promises to offer plenty of star quality. The themes are set some two years in advance, as just the preparation for us can take up to six months to put together. Being right in the middle of the show season also makes things quite challenging, as everyone is so busy!!
WHO DECIDES THE THEME AND WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?
The main organisers of the LNYDP set the theme, and I have three meetings with the team over the course of the year then in-between regular email and phone updates. It’s crucial that we represent the equestrian community by ensuring our costumes are equally amazing as the non-horsey parade participants. Plus, we have more fun as we can dress up, putting a theatrical twist that goes beyond fancy dress.
HOW LONG DOES THE PLANNING TAKE FOR THIS EVENT
We start talks in March; then the applications begin to roll out along with a waiting list of seventy plus. Even now we are planning 2020!! We have some riders that do year in year out, and I call these my loyal team leaders!
TELL US A FUNNY STORY ABOUT THE PARADE DAY
There are so many to share! But one year, I was getting changed inside the horsebox but not realising that there was a window so I was in full view of everyone having lunch/tea and they could see everything! Then another funny moment that sticks in my mind was back in 2013. We had incredibly wet weather, and the poor girls who did ‘Lady Godiva’ got so wet that their costumes went see-through!
“One year, I was getting changed inside the horsebox but not realising that there was a window so I was in full view of everyone having lunch/tea and they could see everything!”
HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR RIDERS?
We use the power of social media, star spotting at shows and our ever-growing long waiting list to look for our riders. You really have to be passionate about being part of the parade as it’s a significant commitment of both time, energy and also financially as we are not a profit-making outfit, so everyone has to pay their way.
WHAT AGES TO THEY RANGE FROM AND WHICH PARTS OF THE UK
Ages range from our youngest rider at just five years through to seventy!
WHAT BREEDS CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE?
We have all breeds from crosses, through to Spanish, Clydesdales, Mini Shetlands, Ex Racehorses and the Friesian Horse Society are joining us. We love having a real variety because the crowds love it!
DO THEY TRAVEL FROM?
They come from all over England and even Europe. Last year we had riders travelling right from the top of Scotland, battling through the elements to make their way to London!
HOW DOES SOMEONE GET INVOLVED?
The long list of interested parties first sends us a request via email or private message but sadly numbers are strictly limited to a maximum of sixty and places get filled quickly.
IT’S-A PRETTY BIG ATMOSPHERE FOR THE HORSES, HOW DO YOU PREPARE THE HORSES FOR THIS HUGE EVENT?
All the riders that take part have a strict code of conduct, which they have to adhere to, and we ask the riders to fill in a simple tick box form, which gives us an idea of what they feel their horses can cope with. The event is so eclectic, and the whole event is all done at a walk, so you need a calm obedient and bold mount. We also all have a vet inspection before we set off and he has the final word on human and horse. We also request that riders give calmers as a condition. Once the riders have participated once, they always want to go around again, as time goes so quickly!
Preparing the horses for such an electric atmosphere is hard, but training at home, riding at busy local events, riding past schools and competing at the likes of the county shows certainly ensures that you are half way there!
TELL US THE BREAKDOWN OF THE ACTUAL DAY – HOW DO YOU GET ALL HORSES INTO LONDON ETC? GETTING READY/ RIDING THROUGH – HOW LONG DOES THAT TAKE –WHAT ROUTE AND WHAT TIME FINISHES ETC?
We all start around 6 am and I usually have a house full the Welsh crew in my tiny house in South London with the queue for the bathroom always proving fun! They will then go off to my friend’s stables local to me to get their horses whilst my crew of ladies and I will set off for London armed with the tables, radios, crew clothing, rosettes, sashes and list after list as we arrive in London to met the Health & Safety, Andy Morgan and our FEI vet Marikkca from Shotters and Byers,
At 8 am, the lorries then start to arrive, and this is when my crew come into their own, helping to get the trucks parked up and people ticked off lists and settled in. The Sat Nav postcode we always give them is for the Ritz Hotel, which takes them straight into Central London.
It’s always buzzing with general public looking fascinated by the horses as we start to get ready. However, we have to be strict on security despite lots of tourists desperate to come and stroke the horses! Once our costumes are on, and the horses are groomed to perfection and in many cases, also dressed! We have to crack on depending where we are placed in the parade. Generally, we are in with the first 25 cheerleaders bands section. It’s enjoyable and takes around 45 minutes to get through the parade to finish at Parliament Square. The parade finishes there, and we go back to the horseboxes, via the Horse Guards and ride down the mall towards Buckingham Palace for lots of fabulous photos with the photographers on the route as well.
“All in all, it takes about three hours and around 5km of walking, so not for the faint-hearted.”
All in all, it takes about three hours and around 5km of walking, so not for the faint-hearted or for the leaders on foot, for the unfit! With horses and riders coming from all corners of the UK and factoring the costing for the day: Costumes, stabling sources around the Capital, or coming directly via lorry, food, fuel etc., it works out on average to be a staggering £1,000 per person! So our riders save up all year round to participate. However, to ride round London on such a special day and be involved in such a huge event, is so unique in every sense of the word. As we start to pack up and leave to go home around 3.30pm on the day, the social media goes wild and we are all on a high and already planning next year!
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