Here comes the cavalry!

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HISTORY is set to be made at the end of the summer, when troopers from the famous Household Cavalry will make their first ceremonial appearance in the Borders for decades.

Soldiers from the cavalry’s two component regiments, the Life Guards and the Blues & Royals, will be in the region to stage their popular Musical Ride event as a way of helping mark the 10th anniversary of the Borders Festival of the Horse.

Although this year’s festival takes place, as always, in May, the Household Cavalry’s commitments meant the troopers could not visit the Borders until the weekend of August 27 and 28.

The Household Cavalry has rarely performed the ride in Scotland and certainly not for decades – it has been 10 years since it performed any ceremonial duties north of the border.

Festival organiser Ann Fraser says she is over the moon to receive confirmation, that after a decade of positioning the Borders as Scotland’s horse country, the exciting spectacle of the Household Cavalry Musical Ride will be performed locally to celebrate the equestrian culture of the region.

“This is a huge coup for Scotland and very affirming for the volunteers who have worked so hard to build up the festival,” she told TheSouthern this week.

There will be two public performances of the Household Cavalry Musical Ride at Floors Castle on Sunday, August 28, as part of the castle’s annual Massed Pipe Bands day.

The regiment’s appearance will also help mark what will be the 40th Massed Pipe Bands day to take place in the castle grounds.

Regimental troopers and their mounts will also be on parade in the centre of Kelso the day before (Saturday, August 27) in what is a real coup for the town and the festival organisers.

The exciting Musical Ride has been a part of the public face of the Household Cavalry for many years. It was first performed at The Royal Tournament in 1882 and has changed little over the years, with the format based on a series of cavalry drill movements set to music.

The Musical Ride consists of 26 troopers and horses, picked from squadrons of The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals of The Household Cavalry Regiment, based at Knightsbridge in London.

Troopers selected to take part in the Musical Ride are chosen for their ability to ride well, and the horses are selected for their temperament and athleticism. It is not unusual for a very young trooper to join the ride even though he may only have ridden for a matter of months.

Helene Mauchlen, Regional Development Officer in Scotland for the British Horse Society, says the Household Cavalry’s visit is a fitting tribute to the volunteers who have worked so hard over the past decade to make the Borders Festival of the Horse – which this year runs from May 18 to 30 and has Sir Walter Scott as its theme – into one of the prime equestrian events in the UK.

“On average around 10,000 people and horses come into the Borders for the two weeks of the festival,” she told TheSouthern.

“The Borders truly is Scotland’s horse country and the festival is a fantastic way of marking that. The horse is such a part of the Borders’ culture and heritage it deserves to be celebrated.

“It’s actually been calculated that, on average, each horse in the Borders sees £2,116 injected into the local economy and that’s after costs of keeping it have been taken off. That shows you how important the horse is to the Borders. And when you think that the festival is totally volunteer driven, it is a great achievement to have built it up into such a prestigious event. It really does put the spotlight on the Borders.”

The Household Cavalry consists of The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals. These are the oldest and most senior regiments in the British Army, and are split between two different units equipped to perform two quite different roles.

The Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR) has an operational role in armoured fighting vehicles which has seen them at the forefront of Britain’s military operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

The second unit is the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) equipped with horses. It has the privilege to carry out mounted and some dismounted ceremonial duties on state and royal occasions, including the provision of a Sovereign’s Escort most commonly seen at the Queen’s Birthday Parade in June each year.

For full details of how you can visit the 10th Borders Festival of the Horse festival, join the celebrations and see the Household Cavalry Musical Ride, visit www.bhsscotland.org.uk and www.bordersfestivalhorse.org