Queen Elizabeth Reveals Her Favorite Horses — and Why She Only Rides Ponies Now

Stephanie Petit

Queen Elizabeth has ridden, raced and revered many horses since her childhood — but a few stand above the rest.

The 94-year-old monarch revealed eight horses that her family has loved riding over the years as well as five racehorses they've loved watching on the racetrack in a royal edition of the U.K. magazine Horse & HoundAmong the 13 honorees is Sanction, the last horse the Queen rode before she made a significant change to her riding routine.

"Sanction was almost telepathic and had a very strong bond with Her Majesty...Sanction was the last home-bred horse that Her Majesty rode before making the decision to start riding native ponies," the Queen's head groom Terry Pendry said. "A little closer to the ground, so to speak."

The Queen's list dated back to the 1960s with Betsy, a black-brown mare the monarch would ride, and Burmere, a mare gifted to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

There was also Doublet, a horse that Princess Anne rode when she won the European Eventing Championships with at Burghley in 1971. As Pendry noted, "The Queen bred both the horse and the rider!"

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Queen Elizabeth also honored Columbus, another horse that Princess Anne competed on before finding him too strong. Columbus was sired by Colonist, Winston Churchill's stallion, and was a favorite of Captain Mark Phillips, Anne’s first husband, and the Queen Mother.

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The monarch also named three ponies in her selections: Balmoral Jingle, Balmoral Curlew and Emma, a Fell pony that Pendry said, "has been a wonderful servant to Her Majesty and is still going strong at the age of 24 as one of The Queen’s riding ponies."

Lichfield/Getty Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth also chose five of her favorite racehorses including Aureole, who was bred by George VI and the first horse the Queen inherited from her late father.

She also honored Doutelle, Highclere, Phantom Gold and Estimate, all of whom she cheered onto many victories on the racetrack.

"These incredibly highly charged creatures, full of blood and muscle, are developed from birth with kid gloves and the sophisticated jigsaw of trying to put all the pieces together is a constant challenge that continues to intrigue The Queen," John Warren, the Queen’s Bloodstock and Racing Adviser, wrote. "To deal with the constant challenges and disappointments, as all horse people will know, the greatest asset you need to have with horses is patience – which luckily The Queen has in spades."

Chris Jackson/Getty Queen Elizabeth attends Royal Ascot

Throughout her life, the Queen has always had a fondness for horses and was given her first horse (a Shetland pony) when she was just 4 years old.

The monarch also attends the Windsor Horse Show every year and is known to get rather spirited when watching horse races, including Royal Ascot, which is still set to take place in June, although it will not be open to the public due to coronavirus concerns.

Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Queen Elizabeth

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Her love of horseback riding has also been passed on to the next generations of royals as well. The Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, became the first royal to compete in the Olympics when she rode in the equestrian three-day event at the 1976 Games in Montreal. Following in her footsteps, Anne’s daughter, Zara Tindall, competed in the 2012 Olympics and won a silver medal as a member of the Great Britain Eventing Team.