If you are in England and know where to look the sounds of horses, the images of horses, and the real things are everywhere. At the Prince’s birthday party for his equestrian friends … on a stage at the New London Theater (War Horse) … in the British Museum … or at the Royal Paddocks … they are everywhere.
My first experience hearing the sound of horses while visiting England was the ‘clip clop’ of horses at Hampton Court Palace, while we were standing in the courtyard watching the guests arriving at the palace for a banquet hosted by Henry VIII set in the period of the early 1500′s when he was happily married to Catherine of Aragon. This medieval castle’s kitchen staff prepared meals requiring organization on a grand scale. During its time in history the King would host as many as 900 people, most of whom arrived by carriage or sometimes on horseback.
When arriving at Coworth Park preceding Prince Philip’s birthday party, polo ponies dominated the scene. To compliment the experience … well in find British style … there was Champaign and hors d’oeuvres, and men and women in black ties and gowns, too!
The dinner celebrating Prince Philip’s birthday was served behind the stately country home in a tent on the lawn. Mind you, the tent was not like any that you or I may know. The floor of the text was covered in cream colored felt and the walls were draped with cream-colored shears. David Saunders, coachman to Prince Philip for almost 20 years, was my escort. No photography was allowed at the party.
Later in the week I had the rare opportunity to meet ‘Joey’ the life-sized horse puppet of the War Horse at The New London Theater … going back stage was a treat. I actually got to pet Joey and he nudged me with his head as I presented Charles Evans, Company Manager, with an award from the Equine Heritage Institute acknowledging the producers for their contribution for preserving the history of the horse. Through this stage adaptation of the book War Horse, the WWI story of a boy and his quest to find his beloved horse that was commandeered into British service on the continent of Europe unfolds.
Coachman John Parker was also presented an award from the Equine Heritage Institute for his work with the movies, combined driving and coaching. As we approached John’s stables there were beautiful gray (white) horses being lead from their wash area or the training ground to their stalls. Their footfalls resounded on the cobblestones … ‘clip clop’. The young women he employs were handling these giant 17hh horses with the care of a kitten.
The British Museum should be tops on any person’s list while visiting England. Bas-reliefs of horses from the Greek Parthenon, to the Standard of Ur, the earliest know representation of equine (probably onegars) in draft, can all be seen at this treasure chest of world artifacts.
The visit to the Royal Paddocks had horses and ponies of all descriptions: mare and foals, carriage horses on R&R, two and three year old riding and driving horses, Fell ponies, injured horses, sale horses, etc. Paddock manager, Brian Stanley, escorted me around just as he would the Queen, from paddock to paddock discussing the progress of each horse and pony. He tells me that the Queen does not visit as she often had in the past due to her advancing years, she is now 85.
I also had the opportunity to visit Stonehenge and Silbury Hill. After the visit I came to think of the neolithic structure as the equivalent to our doctor’s office and cell towers. Early peoples built Stonehenge for unknown reasons but I think the Bluestone, which is warm to the touch, was thought to have healing powers. And Silbury Hill is flat on top and I believe used as a signaling tower, whereby one could summons their neighbors for war or just a nice friendly festival.
Newmarket, UK was also a destination during my visit to England. If you remember in my first writing I shared my “bucket list.” I have now visited all of the five horse capitals of the world. Next month I travel to one of our own Horse Capital of the World … Lexington, Kentucky.