Household Cavalry Gets New Drum Horse Recruit

Willa Rose will be trained to become the Household Cavalry's new drum horse – an important figure in ceremonial events.

The Household Cavalry has welcomed its latest recruit – a Shire horse from Wales.

Standing at 18.2 hands, or just under 2m tall, eight-year-old Willa Rose is the Household Cavalry's pick to become its new drum horse, leaving her farm in Pembrokeshire for a new career in the Army.

Initially, she wasn't pegged for service because she is female, but her temperament and gentle nature caught the eye of the visiting service personnel from London.

"We came here to buy another horse," said Captain "Skip" Nicholls, riding master at the Household Cavalry, explaining why Willa Rose could be perfect for her new role.

"We saw her and we rode her on the beach… and we don't normally take mares, as mares don't always work out in training.

"I'm pretty hopeful she'll work out, she's got the size and stamina that we want and she's got a really nice nature and hopefully she'll join the other drum horses.

"We've got two more in training, so this will be our third in training."

The duties of drum horses can often be overwhelming to those not suited for the role and Capt Nicholls outlined the qualities needed.

Willa Rose caught the eye of the Household Cavalry due to her gentle temperament.

"Temperament is absolutely everything because they have to do everything in walk, they have to carry the drums, they have to be ridden off side-reins, they're in the middle of a band on parade or at the front of a banding parade.

"They'll have footguards around them, large crowds around them and they're a centrepiece as well, so a lot of the work they do they are on their own which is a big ask for a herd animal.

"So the drum horses absolutely have to have the right character to stand there and be confident on their own and she has exhibited all those characteristics in the time, twice we've seen her before, so hopefully that will carry through and she'll be successful."

Huw Murphy, Willa Rose's previous owner at Dyfed Shire Horse Farm, said he was proud to be supplying the regiment with the new horse and explained why Shire horses, in particular, are so special.

"It's Britain's largest mammal and the largest mammal that's walked this island since the ice age.

A drum horse with the Household Cavalry Band during Trooping the Colour in 2018 (Picture: MOD).

"I think it's beholden of me and other hardcore Shire horse breeders and owners of this nation to keep this horse and keep breeding it because this country would not be the country it is today but for the Shire horse. That is my opinion."

If successful in her training, Willa Rose will receive a new name from the Queen, befitting her new role and title.

In the past, drum horses have had very classical names, and Capt Nicholls says it will be no different in Willa Rose's case, except, of course, this time it will be a female name.

He said: "So the names go off to Her Majesty The Queen and she decides on which one. We will present three or four, they're generally battle honours, Greek gods, Roman gods that sort of thing, so an old historic name.

"Boadicea wouldn't be a bad bet!"