Thomas the kissing horse is a royal pleasure
POSTED: Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 11:30am
UPDATED: Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 11:34am
NBC NEWS — In the heart of London the Queen's Household Calvary is hard at work getting ready for the Diamond Jubilee.
The Household Calvary has served as the Royals' bodyguards for over three centuries.
An unassuming building in Hyde Park serves as the barracks for the Calvary, where 340 soldiers and 232 horses live. The household Calvary with their bright red or blue coats, shiny helmets, swords and dark horses are famous around the world for escorting the queen on ceremonial occasions.
They ride in perfect formation alongside royal carriages at royal events.
Everyday the troops, who are all fighting soldiers, take care of and train their horses.
The day begins with cleaning the stable and morning rides. One horse named Thomas, known as the kissing horse, likes to add a little humor to the work.
For a little sweet, he'll happily give trooper rob hockey a kiss.
Hockey said Thomas learned the trick all by himself.
"He's always done it, he's always known to have done it,” Trooper Rob Hockey, Household Calvary, said. “I think just because of the general nature of the horse himself, he's very charming, he's very nice to be with, he loves the attention, so when we go down to the queen he is always a friendly person. He'll always play with you and a couple of people will give him mints. He’s probably learnt how to do it (kiss) himself. It’s his way of saying thank you."
Maintaining 232 horses is a 24-7 operation, the blacksmiths make 12-thousand horse shoes a year. Some horses need new shoes every two weeks.
Troopers use 200 tins of black polish every month and junior soldiers spend countless hours shining boots, breastplates, and helmets.
Every morning there's an inspection before the troopers and their horses head out to their sentry posts around historic royal palaces.
Every item on the soldier is graded and the soldiers with the best grades get the more pleasant duty.
The horses spend two years in training. They learn to trot in formation, remain calm in front of crowds and are responsive to their riders.
On the Diamond Jubilee day itself, June 15, the Household Calvary mounted regiment will accompany the Queen and Prince Philip as they drive in an open carriage from the Palace of Westminster to Buckingham Palace.