The only horses allowed to draw the Gold State Coach – Royal Central

Photo by Cpl Rob Kane MOD © Crown copyright 2022

The Gold State Coach is unique: it’s over 200 years old, solid wood, and so large it can only go at a walking pace. 

Leading that walking pace are eight Windsor Grey Horses, the only horses allowed to pull the Gold State Coach.

Windsor Greys are not a specific breed but are grey horses that the Royal Family chooses to live and train at the Royal Mews. Most of the Windsor Greys are Irish draughts. They got the name Windsor Grey because the horses were stabled at Windsor during Queen Victoria’s reign. 

Windsor Greys only pull the carriages of the Royal Family. The ones in official service stand at least 16.1 hands (1.65m) high and are chosen for their appearance, steady temperament and stamina. 

All Coronation participants need to practice, the Windsor Greys included. For weeks, the horses have been up and on the streets of London before dawn, walking the 1.3-mile parade route. When they return to Royal Mews, all the staff greet them with loud cheers, drums and flowers to get them used to large crowds. The horses will also practice in Hyde Park for off-road work. 

The Coronation parade is set to be the largest military ceremonial operation in 70 years. Windsor Greys will be only one set of horses on display that day. There will also be 6,000 members of the Armed Forces, RAF fly pasts and gun salutes.

The eight Windsor Greys who pulled the Gold State Coach last year for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee will be used for the Coronation. The newly crowned King Charles III and Queen Camilla will ride in the Gold State Coach to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Abbey. To ensure that the horses are ready for the weight of the carriage, trainers will place weights in the practice carriages to build up the strength of the horses’ necks. 

When pulling the four-tonne Gold State Coach, the key is how the horses start the walk. All must move together to keep the coach steady on its leather straps. If a horse were to act up, the King and Queen would feel it in the notoriously uncomfortable riding coach.

On the way to the Coronation, Their Majesties will travel in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach. This coach is pulled by six Windsor Greys undergoing the same training. 

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