The Royal Families and Horse Racing

Horses have always been a must for those in power. Centuries have passed, and today’s top officials have enough to worry about, but they still own horses, even if their physical shape and public affairs do not allow them to ride. 

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Britain’s Royal Horse Family   

Queen Elizabeth II continued to ride until she was 92 years old! For many years the Queen’s favorite pastime was horseback riding in the woods near Windsor Castle. Not so long ago, doctors permanently banned her from riding due to chronic knee pain, but in 2012 the Queen was back on horseback! First, the royal family attended a New Year service, and then Elizabeth saddled her horse and went for a walk in the vicinity of Sandringham.

The husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, often accompanied his wife to the races, and he was fond of driving, not only as a spectator but also as a participant. In addition, Philip was once seriously engaged in dressage.  

The son of Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, and his sons William and Harry all devoted themselves to equestrian polo and excelled in this sport.   

Here’s what they said about the Queen and her love of horses:

  • “I know of no other person who takes such a lively interest in everything connected with horses-not only racing, but horse breeding and the education of foals,” said Sandrigam’s chief stablehand about Elizabeth. – Even on Sundays, the Queen has a private secretary who supplies her with folders of official papers. Elizabeth is completely disconnected from everyday life. The world of horses allows her to communicate with ordinary people. Not only with the horse owners but also with the trainers and the service staff. She wants to know everything down to the smallest detail. For example, she might say, “Oh, you’re talking about Patrick, the groom? I know he’s going through a rough patch now; his wife’s got him having a fun life.”
  • “It doesn’t occur to anyone that Her Majesty gets bad news almost all the time,” says the caretaker of Elizabeth’s racehorses. – One day, some ambassador is going to die, a bunch of people dies in a plane crash, and one-day political unpleasantness. But with us, it’s different: either the horse came first, or a good foal was born. The Queen, of course, rejoices. We always call Elizabeth when we’re going to buy a horse. It gives her pleasure. During the auction, I tell Her Majesty over the phone how the bidding is going, and she listens.”
  • “It’s beautiful that she doesn’t have to explain anything. She knows everything about racing and horse breeding. Suppose we take the horses to Warwick. The Queen knows everything beforehand: what kind of horses are racing, what kind of jockeys, what type of track. Elizabeth knows everything about horses and everything else.
  • In intellectual circles, though, the Queen was considered ignorant. “She is only confident regarding her work or her horses,” says the writer Daphne du Maurier. – At such moments, her face lights up. But when it comes to literature, Elizabeth says platitudes: she does not know the subject. She reads only horse-related books: Opera, drama, and concerts she does not like. Neither does the ballet, which her mother and sister loved. Science and technology bore the Queen. The story goes that Philip once said when his wife was invited to visit some super-modern factory that “she is only interested in machines which eat grass and produce manure.”

Elizabeth’s daughter Princess Anne represented the country in the triathlon at the age of 26 at the 1976 Montreal Olympics (unfortunately, she returned without a medal at the time), and Anne’s husband, Captain Phillips, shared gold with his fellow citizens in the team event at Munich in 1972. Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips and granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II of England, adores horses. In triathlon, her hereditary abilities have come to light. She is the world champion in triathlon according to the results of the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, winner of the European Championship in triathlon in the individual competition, and the winner and prize-winner of many other national and international tournaments. 

Polo for the Prime Minister   

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill adored horse racing and paid much attention to the game of polo. According to Churchill, “polo allowed him to maintain physical fitness and provided an excellent opportunity to rest, especially after the countless hours spent in Parliament. This game Winston Churchill gave nearly thirty years. Then, at seventy-four, the Prime Minister began breeding racehorses, and within fifteen years, his favorites had won over seventy times in various races around the world. 

Doña Pilar de Bourbon   

Sister of King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Doña Pilar de Bourbon, has been riding since childhood, and as a young woman, she participated in races in Portugal and headed the FEI for 12 years. Now she supports equestrian sports, especially triathlon, in her country. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Spanish National Olympic Committee and honorary president of the Spanish Equestrian Federation.   

Common language   

Princess Nathalie Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg of Denmark loved horses from an early age and managed to prove to her parents that the hobby was severe. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, she won a bronze medal for the Danish team, and she also breeds horses in her stud in Bad Berleburg. In 2010, the Princess married German businessman Alexander Johannsmann, who is also into equestrian sports. They found common ground, and this acquaintance developed into a happy marriage.    

The sport of endurance.   

The United Arab Emirates Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum can buy the best of the best racehorses, and he is a recognized and quite an influential sportsman himself, with several victories in distance races. And his wife, Haya bin Rashid al Maktoum, is currently president of the International Equestrian Federation, which probably requires no further comment. Nevertheless, let’s make a small excursus into her biography: Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan saddled for the first time at the age of six and represented her country at the international level at 13. In 1992 she won an individual bronze medal at the General Arab Games, becoming the only woman to win an award in the history of the Games. The Princess was part of the Jordanian delegation at the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia and was the team’s flag bearer. In 2002, she was the first Arab woman to participate in the International Horse Show Jumping Championships in Jerez, Spain. Princess Haya was elected President of the International Equestrian Federation in 2006 and was re-elected for a second term in 2010. 

Casting Prejudice aside   

Princess Martha Louise of Norway has been passionate about horseback riding since childhood. Like all royalty, who are highly educated, she studied English literature at Oxford and attended medical school at the University of Oslo. However, the Princess has had great success in show jumping: Martha-Louise has repeatedly participated in international competitions as a member of the Norwegian national team. Despite the disapproval of the royal court, she gave her heart to a simple Danish writer, founded her own psychotherapy business, and ran a program for children on television. She now keeps three horses and cleans the stables herself.   

Playing fair.   

Horses have invariably been by people’s side during military conflict and times of peace. They helped heads of state to fight the enemy, brightened up their hard work days, and allowed them to have a rest from their troubles and achieve success in sports. Years have gone by, and now many high-ranking officials often keep horses because having a thoroughbred horse indicates high status. However, more and more officials also keep horses because these animals always “play fair” – something that is rare in the world of big politics.