Trip Guide: An Equestrian Eye on London, 2012 & Beyond
With the 2012 Olympic Games now just a few weeks away, thousands of global travelers will be descending upon the UK and , luckily, London offers a hoard of opportunities for visitors with an equestrian agenda.
After hitting the big screen this last December, War Horse caught international attention with its inspiring tale of equestrian war efforts. Set in Devon’s countryside, the truly British story follows a horse and his young owner through the motion of World War II. The theatrical production, starring life sized horse puppets will run for at least another year in the West-End. The National Army Museum now features an exhibition exploring the history behind Michael Morpurgo’s novel; Warhorse Fact and Fiction will remain open until March 2013.
In a tranquil corner of Hyde Park, stands the memorial to animals in the war. A bronze horse and dog face north into the parkland, trailed by weary mules trudging towards steps. Jacob the Draft Horse stands in queen Elizabeth Street, sculptured to commemorate the history of the site. In the 16th century this area was know as Horselydown, referring to the pause the traveling horses took in-between their journey to central London. The 5ft high bronze horse by Judy Boyt sits high on the East India house, watching over petticoat market lane. ‘Rebellion’ was designed ‘in side out’, building from a skeletal structure to a muscle layer and finally the skin.
History For Hire
For a small fortune of £575 you can hire a carriage drawn by majestic Friesian ebony horses for around three hours. Westway Carriages presents an excellent turnout with traditionally dressed drivers, purebred horses and restored Victorian carriages. Explore London behind the clang of hooves against the tarmac, as you sit back and enjoy your bespoke tour. Note to American travelers: Westway Carriages’ horses are competition horses that live in stables in Kent and the tours must be booked in advance; the horses do not stand waiting on the street for tours.
Shop Till You Drop
Riders and Squires equestrian boutique is located just off High Street Kensington. Specializing in competition and polo equipment, this shop is well worth a visit. Also, Joules has just opened a conveniently placed Covent Garden branch, selling their colorful clothing Inspired by an English country living and making perfect fashionable riding wear with a tweed twist.
A Slice Of Culture
In dedication to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the iconic British Museum examines the worldwide influence of the domestic horse on human civilization. British equestrian roots are investigated from the introduction of the Arabian breed and its impact on racing, to currant sporting events such as the Olympic games. The exhibition includes one of the earliest references to horse and rider art, with terracotta statues dating to 2000 B.C. and rock drawings to Chariot ornaments. This exhibit is a wonderful representation to the horse’s contribution to our society and runs 24 May – 30 September 2012.
The Stables Market, part of the world famous Camden Market, was once a horse hospital for those injured on cobblestones. You can easily spend the day browsing unique stalls and absorbing the bustling atmosphere. Stables Market is filled with a range of anything vintage to novelty clothing, and plenty of places to eat and drink. The market retains its previous Victorian setting with cobbled lanes and a series of bronze life-sized horses.
Probably the most notorious tradition associated with Britain is the monarchy, with Buckingham Palace at the crown. The changing of the guard has been performed since 1837. Officially starting at 11:30 daily, the colourful ceremony lasts half an hour and includes the dazzling mounted and marching guards, completed with a parading band. The mounted metropolitan branch has continually adapted to the needs of the changing society it serves since 1760. With 120 horses based at eight stables through London, the branch stands strong. Carrying out roles from visibility patrols to specific crime initiatives, every horse and rider is impeccably trained. So look out for an officer as you wander through London!
Hyde Park Horseback
Hyde Park Stables is the perfect venue for riding, right in the centre of London. Offering instructive lessons for anyone over the age of five and catering for all levels. All horses are renowned for their safe and reliable temperament. Undoubtedly riding across the serpentine lake while admiring the specular views of Hyde Park must compete with all other capital city horseback experiences in the world! Earlier this year, the establishment also purchased its very own fabergé egg, from the Easter charity auction of the big egg hunt. The showroom for Kensington Saddlery Shop at Hyde Park Stables also stocks a small selection of the brands quality saddles.
Where To Graze
The Riding House Café is an all-day bar-brasserie, a short 10 minutes walk from Oxford Circus. Loosely tied in with an equine theme by converted stables, now used as a private dining room. The secluded area provides an oasis of quiet to up to 14 guests, with the backdrop of a rustic wooden horse.
Contributor Emily Stock has been riding and competing since she was seven years old. She currently keeps a horse in north London and takes advantage of all things equestrian in her home town.
Images via (from top left): Joules; The British Museum; Gallivant Gal; The Riding House Cafe; Westway Carriages.
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