Life with all the queen's horses

The new wave of trainee troopers took to the sea with their horses yesterday to let off steam after weeks of gruelling training at Bodney Camp, near Watton.

The new wave of trainee troopers took to the sea with their horses yesterday to let off steam after weeks of gruelling training at Bodney Camp, near Watton.

For many of the trainees, some of whom have been soldiers for more than 17 years, the last few weeks were an astonishing learning curve as they struggled to learn all aspects of horse care and riding to the regiment's high standards.

Andy Grimwood, 34, from Wrexham said: "We have been at the riding school for eight weeks, riding every day. Before that I had never been near a horse. I've got a crazy horse this week, because we all keep swapping round, and he's bucked me off twice already."

Local boy Nigel Hawkins, from Beetley, near Dereham, was celebrating the end of his training along with some of the other trainees. He said: "Of course I love it in Norfolk - I get to go home every night. But it is great to come out here and relax a bit. It's still really hard work though."

This particular batch of new trainees leaves tomorrow to begin their ceremonial duties so they will miss the Open Day this Sunday.

Officer Mike Harley, 26, said: "We actually have two divisions - the mounted division and the armoured division.

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"The armoured division in Windsor teaches trainees the discipline of soldiers and basic operational things. I think it works best to start there and then you have the discipline already before you start training here.

"The mounted division is based in Knightsbridge, which is where most of these trainees, many of whom are in the band, will perform ceremonial duties. It is very hard work because the trainees have to look after their own horses as well as cleaning all of their equipment and riding every day.

"They need a lot of discipline and an ability to work really hard."

But the boys - and girl - work hard and play hard.

Many still bear the scars of Wednesday night's paint-balling trip and yesterday there was also an officers' cricket match and a barbecue for the troops.

With Monday nights out in King's Lynn, the pub in Swaffham and a seemingly endless string of barbecues it is easy to forget that the regiment spends much of its days, and some evenings, training, feeding the horses, mucking them out, preparing their uniforms and polishing their tack.

But today is their day off, and I am playing groom - tacking up, fastening travelling boots, passing out tail bandages and cleaning up the sweaty horses after a long hot day in the trailer.

And all I got for my trouble was an unceremonious dunking in the sea . . . thanks boys!

But the regiment take their duties very seriously and all of the trainees and nine of the horses were travelling yesterday afternoon to meet Colonel Daly whose son, a lieutenant in the regiment, was killed by a bomb in Hyde Park in 1982.

Cpt Rob Gibbs said: "It is an honour thing. It is important to the regiment to honour the dead and to keep in touch with their families."

Eight soldiers were killed in the Hyde Park and Regent Park bombs a 24 years ago yesterday.

The Open Day takes place on Sunday at Bodney Camp and features, in addition to the horses, a motorcycle display team and a freefall display team.

It is open from 11am-5pm and a car ticket, costing £8, includes a free programme and entry into the raffle.