While the nation stresses over fitness regimes and detox diets, the normally immaculate steeds that guard The Queen are facing their own uphill battle to perfection after spending two months at grass in Melton on their Winter break.
The indulgences of the festive break take their toll on even the most disciplined, and the horses of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment aren’t immune to a bit of holiday excess.
This week, 150 horses from the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals returned to Knightsbridge from their Christmas holidays in the fields at Melton’s Defence Animal Centre.
After eight weeks running free these once elegant steeds were long-haired, covered in mud, bellies fattened on grass and their manes and tails matted and tattered.
The troopers of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment now face long hard hours transforming their horses to the level of perfection required by The Queen’s Escort.
For two weeks, the horses will be curry combed all over for four hours a day to remove the surface dirt in their coats which is skin deep.
They also have gradually to be reintroduced to the saddle and to being ridden, as well as to the routines of being back in the stable.
Then the horses will be body brushed for a further two weeks before being led into the barrack’s special equine solarium, where they are finally washed down with lots of soap and conditioner, under special heat lamps.
Once the cleaning process is complete, the horses will be clipped, shaved, their manes and tails plucked and trimmed. They will be re-shod in the forge and have their hooves oiled and polished to a mirror finish.
Trooper Ross Gilbert said: “Some are just mud magnets. Zeta has obviously had a lot of fun, and being a grey, it shows up a lot more than on the black horses. She is going to take a lot of work!”
Within five weeks the horses will be on parade, disciplined, immaculate, proudly representing the nation, as they provide The Queen’s escort for the President of Mexico’s state visit in March.