On a recent sightseeing trip to London one of the many great things I got to see were the Horse Guards and the Mounted Police.
Horse Guards – These very photographed horses stand outside Horse Guards on Whitehall, just to the north of Downing Street and not far from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. On the horses sit mounted troopers of the Household Cavalry in full regalia of breastplate and plumed helmet. The 2 mounted sentries change every hour. The Household Cavalry consists of beautiful Irish Draft Cross thoroughbreds and The Windsor Grey and have intense schooling to ensure they are ready for celebrations such As Trooping of the Colour. Horse Guards is a historic building in London with a clock tower over an archway and remains the official entrance to St James’s and Buckingham Palace. The entrance on Whitehall leads to Horse Guards Parade, once the HQ of the British Army.
Metropolitan Mounted Police – The Mounted Branch is the oldest section of the Metropolitan police and police horses are used for patrols of London’s main parks, for ceremonial events and for crowd control at events such as football matches. Crowd control is arguably the biggest reason for why you can still see police riding horses in large cities. Horses offer a significant height advantage and move easily through large crowds of people, therefore being on a horse gives more visibility and situational awareness to the officer riding it. Each horse goes through a special training program to ensure they are suitable for the role as a police horse which takes around 2 years. The horses must be ready to head into some of the worst circumstances encountered by police officers, be it on the streets of London or in open spaces. Mounted officers were some of the first on the scene when the 2011 London riots occurred. They also attend many events like the Notting Hill Carnival where large costumes and noise levels would cause huge distress to animals therefore this training is extremely important to make sure the horse is able to cope with any eventuality.
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