Before the Queen’s Birthday, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment compete in the Princess Elizabeth Cup (formerly the Richmond Cup). The top eight will be the retinue accompany the Queen in the Queen’s Birthday Parade, which took place on April 21.
While the parade was stunning, the incredible part is what happened before the parade, to win the honor of escorting the Queen. The Cup is not a horse show in the regular sense but a competition of cleanness. The According to the Army in London’s Facebook page, the soldiers compete “to be judged the most immaculate astride an equally immaculate horse.”
And they aren’t kidding. While every day these soldiers are inspected, the best of the best are encouraged to compete in the Cup – they will perform in front of the Queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show where she personally awards the Princess Elizabeth Cup to “The Best Turned Out Trooper.”
It takes months for these soldiers to prepare for the shows and judging starts weeks before the show. The Army in London says that each solider picks their most “impressive and patient horse, ensuring that their tack is of the finest standards and will endure unrelenting polishing to a mirror finish.”
They continue to explain the arduous amount of cleaning and inspection that goes on to create a flawlass look:
Months of preparation, long sleepless nights, and genuine devotion goes into waxing the bridles, head kit, saddle, stirrup leathers and girth to a surreal standard. Every stitch is analyzed and checked, every surface must be glassy smooth. The mirror-like black leather Jack Boots each trooper wears will have received 200 hours of polishing alone for this one event.
Did we mention the horse has to be patient? These horses are groomed like no other horse on Earth – not one speck of dust is allowed! The Army In London explains:
The horses are prepared to look their very best. Hooves are chalked, painted and polished finer than the most elite human pedicure. Their tails are “banged” (trimmed) at spirit level accuracy, their coats and beards shaved, then groomed to a high reflective polish, their eyes, docks and lips vaselined to help them gleam with health. A healthy, balanced diet and strict exercise regime means their muscles ripple.
From the tip of their hooves to the tip of their ears, these horses are meticulously cleaned.
Every part of the horse, harness and the Trooper’s uniform is meticulously checked by the judges and given a score. The level of detail and expectation of perfection is remarkable. The horses and men once “readied” are wrapped in protective sheets as the kit is put on to prevent any dust in the air from settling. Every possible precaution is taken to preserve those hundreds of hours of meticulous effort. It’s a tense moment as even the lightest pollen in the air from the trees in Hyde Park could ruin a Trooper’s chances. The ghostlike sheets are whipped off seconds before the inspection begins to reveal the vibrant, gleaming soldier and horse beneath.
To read more about the event, go to the Army in London’s Facebook page.