Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 617

5 22 SEPTEMBER 2022 News&Views Away from the pomp and circumstance and far from the formality of daily duty, there was nothing HerMajesty The Queen enjoyedmore than being with horses and dogs. Whether it was a day at Royal Ascot or Epsom, at the Royal Windsor Horse Showwatching her beloved Highland and Fell ponies in action, walking the dogs at Balmoral, riding inWindsor Great Park or visiting the Stud at Sandringham, The Queen was at home. She had a great a nity with horses and was always steadfastly calmaround them, even if a foal was showing signs of skittishness. It was noticeable how relaxed they were in her presence. The Queen once said she would have happily been ‘a country girl’, surrounded by animals. In terms of dogs, she favoured the PembrokeWelsh corgi and, at the time of her death, had two corgis called Sandy andMuick and a dorgi (a cross between a corgi and a dachshund) called Candy. You will have seen the sketch with The Queen and Daniel Clare Balding, who has known Her Majesty since she was a child, reflects on the grounding presence of her horses and dogs throughout seven decades on the throne THE QUEEN’S BEST FRIENDS 1971, The Queen had givenmy parents a Shetland pony called Valkyrie onwhom I learned to ride. HerMajesty always asked after her and when she came to inspect a row of gleaming, athletic and beautiful race horses, was most satisfied to lower her gaze at the end of the line to the hairy, fat little figure of Valkyrie. “I’mglad to see her looking so well,” she would say. Racing is an unpredictable sport, but HerMajesty loved the challenge of trying to breed horses that could rival bigger operations in Ireland or backed byMiddle Easternmoney. As recently as this year, she was thinking long termand sending her broodmares to stallions she thought might prove to be a success in time. The Queen would notice patterns of behaviour and was broad-minded in her approach to training. She believed in trying new ideas, always with the emphasis on kindness. HerMajesty loved to see foals being born and had cameras installed in the foaling boxes at Sandringham so she could watch on an iPad or get enough warning to be there in person. She inspected each foal with a knowledgeable eye and loved to lean on the fence watching themgambolling in the fields, playing and ultimately learning to gallop. Since Aureole finished second in The Derby days after her 1953 Coronation, HerMajesty’s aimwas to win the greatest race of all. That never came to pass, but she won all the other British Classics andmany top-class races with home-bred horses, often fromgenerations of the same family. Royal Ascot’s most prestigious, historic race was won by The Queen’s filly Estimate in 2013 amid scenes of unbridled joy on the racecourse and in the Royal Box, and a statue of Estimate stands at SandringhamStud, where she is now a broodmare. The 37 racehorses currently in training, along with themares, foals and ponies, are now due to pass into The King’s ownership. I hope they bring himhalf as much joy as they did to his mother. FOUR-LEGGED COMPANIONS (Clockwise from far left): Her Majesty The Queen with The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery in 2017; riding Balmoral Fern in Windsor Home Park; Clare Balding and brother Andrew aboard Valkyrie; The Queen with her family and dogs in the grounds of Balmoral; Princess Elizabeth cuddling a corgi in 1936 ‘The Queen had a great affinity with horses and was always steadfastly calmaround them’ Craig as James Bond, filmed for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, in which the dogs led the way along the corridor. That was true to life, as I witnessed once at Windsor Castle when the dogs led the way from the drawing room to the dining room for lunch, chasing after toys as they went. They gathered around The Queen at the table, no doubt hoping for the odd treat to ‘fall’ from the table. Corgis are notoriously naughty and have never been the easiest to train or discipline, yet The Queen adored them. Perhaps their lack of respect and unpredictable behaviour was a welcome distraction from the serious business of everyday life. I was lucky enough to knowThe Queen froma very young age, as my father trained racehorses for HerMajesty andmy brother took up themantle in 2003. They both spoke to her on a regular basis and every year in the spring, she would come to the yard to see the horses for herself andmeet the grooms who looked after them. Not long after I was born in Photography: Getty Images, Alamy Stock Photo