Ice covered puddles and sodden fields are not conducive to horse play, but that doesn’t stop some 70 residents at Edenside Stables home to the SCOTS Dragoon Guard’s imposing Drum Horse, Talavera.
Proudly occupying the largest stable at the back of the courtyard, Talavera, named after a 19th century battle against France, in Madrid, is affectionately known as ‘Pip’ and belongs to the army.
An imposing female Shire thoroughbred cross, Captain Ed Knox, Stable Troop Leader describes her as a genuinely lovely horse who is endearing to everyone. “She has such a nice temperament which you can see both during a relaxed hacking and when she is on ceremonial parade.”
Captain Knox, who has been in the SCOTS DG for three years, has been around horses all his life: “My mother claims she could ride before she could walk! And I started riding at 11-years-old.” He oversees the running of Talavera’s stable and is responsible for the overall care of the Drum Horse.
She was gifted to the regiment as a mascot by the Queen in 2002 and is so called as her main duty is to carry two solid silver kettle drums while on parade.
In charge of her daily upkeep and training is Lance Corporal Calum Jones, who has spent 16 years in the Army covering tours from Kosovo to Northern Ireland to Afghanistan, and was pleased to have turn his hand to something new.
“I have always been interested in horses. I was previously a Challenger 2 operator and in the Royal Tank Regiment and when we lost the tanks I thought I would try horses!”
As well as her daily needs such as feeding and grooming, LCpl Jones and Trooper Brendan Hannan school her.
‘Schooling’ gives the soldiers the chance to work on different aspects of Talavera’s training, from obedience to working muscle groups and making sure she is in top physical condition.
Stable owner Alistair Gatherum, 45, was delighted when the Army approached him for stabling Talavera and the regiment’s legacy Grey horse, Rose.
He said: “It is really super having them here. The guys help out and they are very easy to work with.”
The stables, which have been in operation for 40 years iand open to everybody - and that includes any Army personnel who wish to come down and ride. “We are used to integration with the base and were involved with the RAF previously,” Alistair continued. “The transition was very smooth and the guys help around the stables and Talavera is a great girl!” Becca Bannan, 19, stable manager takes care of all the horses and is happy to help if the soldiers are called away. She said: “They really do look after them very well and if they have to go away we will happily step into help.”
Inverness born Trooper Hannan loves looking after Talavera almost as much as being back in Scotland. “There is much we will miss about Germany but being back here is brilliant!
“The people in the local community have been so welcoming. We’ve been so lucky to be stationed here.
“It’s particularly good meeting people around the stables letting people see what we are all about.”
Having undertaken two or three ceremonial duties a year and at 25-years-old, Talavera is nearing the end of her time in service.
The next SCOTS DG Drum Horse will be chosen and gifted by the Queen.
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