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Pomp and pageantry: the Household Cavalry

Equitation Warrant Officer 2 Karl Scholes of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment explains the tradition of the Watering Order, which passes along Sloane Street each morning

How long have you been in the Household Cavalry and what attracted you to joining?

I’ve been in the Household Cavalry for 20 years and I joined for my love of history. I have always liked the Napoleonic era and I love the traditions of the British Army.

I later found that I enjoyed working with horses as well. I joined with no previous horse experience, so all my equestrian skills and knowledge I’ve learned here in the cavalry.

What ceremonial duties do you take part in throughout the year?

We act as the Sovereign’s Escort in ceremonial parades, such as Her Majesty’s Birthday Parade and various state visits in London and Windsor. We also have our annual Major General’s inspection, as well as our enduring duty of the Queen’s Life Guard at Horse Guards.

What would a typical day be like for you?

I’m the Equitation Warrant Officer 2 (WO2), so my typical day starts at 6am-6.30am to catch up on emails from the night before, and I’m usually riding my first horse by 7am. That will normally be training a young horse, and at the moment I’m working a lot with three young drum horses. Then I’ll be back for breakfast, and after that I will ride a second horse to inspect kit rides, where soldiers practise riding in their ceremonial tack and uniforms.

Part of my job is also to supervise the training of new or younger instructors, which takes me up to around 11.30am, after which I’ll often ride a third horse. After lunch I spend most of the afternoon in my office overseeing admin, and I usually finish at around 4.30pm-5pm.

Many of our Watering Order routes take us down Sloane Street, and it’s a beautiful street to ride down

What is the tradition of the morning Watering Order?

The Watering Order today is essentially a hack around the roads of London. Our ceremonial parades and escorts take place on the roads, so the Watering Order exposes the horses to the traffic and high-pressure situations they are likely to encounter when on parade. We are normally out on the horses at 7am. We take no more than 12 pairs of horses out on the Watering Order, and the purpose is to exercise the horses and to get them used to the sights and sounds of the city.

The origin of the Watering Order, however, is that, traditionally, officers would be given different routes to patrol throughout the day, and the routes would be marked by stone water troughs located around the city, where the horses could stop to drink. So, the Watering Order would be the order of the water troughs on your patrol, and each troop would be given a different Watering Order route to follow each day.

What is it like to ride down Sloane Street early in the morning

Many of our Watering Order routes take us down Sloane Street, and it’s a beautiful street to ride down. It’s also the access point to other nice roads and streets such as Pont Street, the King’s Road and Pavilion Road. Even though we are out riding the horses by 7am, the street is still bustling early in the morning with people going to work and exercising.

The community around the area is also brilliant, and if you head straight down Sloane Street, through Sloane Square and down Lower Sloane Street, you will come to Royal Hospital Chelsea, which we do a lot of work with, and also the National Army Museum on Royal Hospital Road.

During the lockdowns we sometimes rode to local schools and through residential areas, and waved in the morning to give people who were restricted something to smile about. We often see the same people in the mornings, many of whom look out for us to pass, which really makes us feel like a part of the neighbourhood.

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