The Queen has given a rare insight into her best-known pastime as she shares her favourite horses of years gone by.
The Queen, 94, has appeared on the front of Horse and Hound and picked out her most-loved steeds for magazine including several with personal connections.
She selected eight horses and her stud groom and manager at Windsor Castle, Terry Pendry, and John Warren, the Queen’s bloodstock and racing adviser, gave an insight into each one after consulting her.
It’s a very personal move for a monarch who does not give interviews.
With two horses connected to her only daughter Princess Anne, and one she inherited from her late father, it shows her favourite moments are kept in the family.
Mr Pendry said: “Her knowledge and expertise is well known. She names all of her horses and ponies herself and can remember the parentage of every single one.
“She still rides to this very day, and it is an important part of her life. Her Majesty has a fountain of knowledge in all things equine, you might say a living encyclopaedia.”
Buckingham Palace shared an image of the Queen riding in the grounds around Windsor Castle at the end of May, proving she still loves the hobby even at the age of 94.
Mr Warren said: “Her Majesty has developed a deep, profound knowledge, which she has consistently worked on and thought about throughout most of her life.
“It takes the same sort of precise expertise as a watchmaker to produce a somewhat fragile racehorse to perform on the big occasions and indeed any occasion at all – especially when they are expected to race at speeds of up to 40mph.
“These incredibly highly charged creatures, full of blood and muscle, are developed from birth with kid gloves and the sophisticated jigsaw of trying to put all the pieces together is a constant challenge that continues to intrigue the Queen.
“To deal with the constant challenges and disappointments, as all horse people will know, the greatest asset you need to have with horses is patience – which luckily the Queen has in spades.”
The eight horses are:
1. Betsy – A black-brown mare that Her Majesty used to ride in the 1960s.
Mr Pendry said: “Betsy was full of character and spirit and much loved by the Queen.”
2. Burmese – Presented to Her Majesty in 1969 by The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Queen rode the mare in Trooping the Colour for 18 years.
3. Doublet – Bred as a polo pony, it was the horse Princess Anne won the European Eventing Championships with at Burghley in 1971.
Mr Pendry said: “The Queen bred both the horse and the rider!”
4. Columbus – This horse was sired by Colonist, Winston Churchill’s stallion.
Anne first evented Columbus at novice and intermediate level but found him too strong. He was also a favourite of Captain Mark Phillips and won Badminton in 1974.
Mr Pendry said: “Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother always said he was the Grand National horse that never was. She would have loved him for herself.”
5. Sanction – Sanction was a brown riding horse and a firm favourite for many years.
Mr Pendry said: “Sanction was almost telepathic and had a very strong bond with Her Majesty.
“Sanction was the last home-bred horse that Her Majesty rode before making the decision to start riding native ponies. A little closer to the ground, so to speak.”
6. Balmoral Jingle – The Highland pony was a huge success in the show ring and eventually went on to become a broodmare at the Balmoral Stud.
7. Balmoral Curlew – Another favourite of the Highland ponies who was also a key show ring performer and became a broodmare.
8. Emma the Fell pony – “A wonderful servant to Her Majesty and is still going strong at the age of 24 as one of the Queen’s riding ponies,” Mr Pendry said.
In addition to those eight, she chose her favourite five racehorses.
1. Aureole – Aureole was bred by George VI and was the first horse the Queen inherited from her late father.
According to Mr Warren, the horse was the Queen’s first top-class exciting racehorse, and despite him being feisty and highly strung, she knew how to get the best out of him.
2. Doutelle – The Chestnut stallion won many races for the Queen.
Doutelle’s career was cut short as he died at the age of eight.
3. Highclere – Another all-time favourite was Highclere, a Dual Classic winner, who was ridden to victory in both the 1000 Guineas and Prix de Diane in Paris.
In Paris, an enormous, delighted crowd chanted “Vive La Reine” after the win.
4. Phantom Gold – Winner of the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot, St Simon and Geoffrey Freer Stakes.
Mr Warren said: “This remarkable mare will inevitably continue to be at the core of the Royal Studs’ broodmare band for future generations to enjoy and nurture.”
5. Estimate – The bay filly won the Ascot Gold Cup as a four year old.
Mr Warren said: “No reigning monarch had won the Gold Cup.
“It gave Her Majesty great pleasure in achieving an ambition to breed such a great horse of true stamina and grit.”
The Queen had her first horse riding lesson at the age of three and is still a lover of horses and everything equestrian nine decades on.
Both her daughter Anne and her granddaughter Zara have competed in horse riding events.