At the Royal Norfolk Show the Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry
thrilled the crowds with a display of horsemanship to music, their ceremonial
uniform resplendent in the sunshine. The Musical Ride dates back to the Royal
Tournament in 1882 and has been performing to the British public ever since.
The performance is designed to demonstrate the type of horsemanship used
by the Regiment in the days when it still fought on horseback. Drills which
practice battlefield and ceremonial manoeuvres are carried out to music and
focus on precise timing, coordination and dressing to ensure that different
components are all working together for one purpose.
Eight soldiers from each of the Life Guards and The Blues and Royals
form the core of the ride, dressed exactly as they are for full state
ceremonial events; the only difference is that they carry lances instead of
swords. Training for each show begins at least a month in advance, on top of
the five month riding course required of each man to be admitted to the
With them ride four men dressed in the stable-wear of the 1820’s, which
although appearing very formal today was then considered quite relaxed. The
uniforms allow a little more flexibility, as it is these riders who perform
such skills as laying the horses down and standing up on the saddles. Laying
horses down used to be done in battle to conceal and protect cavalry units from
enemy gunfire and to allow a stable firing platform for the rider.
Another feature is the musicians. The drum horse usually carries silver
drums which weigh 52kg and is constantly surrounded by noise; it takes five
years to train him to get used to it all. The four state trumpeters used to
communicate orders across the battlefield and still ride the grey horses which
helped to mark them out in the melee. Finally it is the Officer, Captain
James Harbord of the Life Guards, who commands the Ride.
The soldiers of the Household Cavalry are unique across the world in
that they are the only mounted ceremonial soldiers who also serve as fighting
soldiers on operations.