New Year’s Day Parade, London

Iberian horses annually parade the Streets of London on New Year’s Day

For the last 5 years on New Year’s Day, a group of riders with their Lusitano horses take part in what is now one of the biggest parades in the world. The Parade has more than 8,500 performers representing 20 countries worldwide and is filled with marching bands, cheerleaders, horses, acrobats and much more. All the Queen’s Horses forms the equestrian section masterminded by Caroline Marsh.

London New Year’s Day Parade 2017
The theme was ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ and this set the imagination going.

4 Lusitanos joined in the London Parade this year.
Photos and report courtesy of Jo Monck.

Maria O’Hare with Zig Zag and Julianne Fernandez with Xis as ‘Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert’, stride down The Mall after the display on their way to the Gates of Buckingham Palace

 A forecast of rain didn’t bode well for this years Parade, my iPhone though inclined to be wrong was promising that it was going to be 100% wet, its never normally that positive about anything so I set off for London armed with a box of see through Poncho’s to hand out, the thought of all those wonderful costumes getting soaked didn’t sit well at all! Mayfair was totally deserted at the time I arrived, I approached the Ritz wishing that London was always this easy to get through! Turning the corner I spotted the the row of horse boxes lining Piccadilly like a temporary equine village set up in the city, horses were standing outside their boxes looking chilled yet curious at the busy scene that was unfolding before them, contemplatively munching on their hay nets, some riders had taken the opportunity to take a hack in Green Park and down the Mall, I mean how often do you get the chance to do that on a normal day?! I grabbed a sausage baguette from the wonderful lady who had transformed her horse box into a temporary kitchen and began to set up my cameras.

Chris Hannaford riding Saltibanco as part of the Ben Hur team



Its always trememdously busy behind the scenes at the Parade with an atmosphere of anticipation yet an air of calm, as we all know horses need to be surrounded by a stressless attitude, especially when they are going to take part in something as big as this event, as people began to get dressed up the major transformation from normal horse and rider to fantasy Parade figure takes place, ribbons and flowers are woven into manes, glitter is stencilled onto hind quarters and shoulders, hooves are painted bright colours, it really is quite extraordinary to watch, the scene had now transformed into one of a film set, there were Priscillas of the Desert wearing costumes guaranteed to brighten up the greyest London Day, ready to take the Parade by storm on their wonderful Iberian horses.

Ed Hannaford (centre) on Zeus a Lusitano





Further up the line of boxes I find Annie Get your Gun, a Red Indian riding bareback and Quarter horses looking like they had just stepped out of a Western movie, a remarkably realistic Oliver Twist trotted past me, a step back into Dickens 19th century London! Then dancers from the Moulin Rouge in incredibly intricate ruffled skirts what a colourful happy group they made. The Parade started off outside the Ritz Hotel led by Caroline Marsh who is the creative brain behind All The Queens Horses and its creator, this team were the Marvels, cartoon heroes, outstanding costumes and guaranteed to bring a smile to the crowds faces, followed closely by 101 Dalmatians, unbearably cute, the ponies wearing spotty onesies or painted with spots, all the horses left in teams one after the other this year which really made a great impact on the crowds.

The Lawrence of Arabia team with the two grey Lusitanos of Chris Hannaford – Saltibanco, (left) and Ed Hannaford – Zeus



All the Queen’s Horses is the biggest group taking part in the Parade which has around 8,500 participants and possibly 500,000 people line the streets of Westminster to view it. It is the biggest Parade in the world and we are lucky enough to host it in London. As the Parade entered Piccadilly Circus the Arabians came into view, all impeccably behaved and looking as if they had just popped in from the desert for the day, flowing manes and exquisite costumes, what a contrast to the lights of Piccadilly Circus!






The wonderful Fjord Horses made up the team of Ben Hur, what outfits, and complete with a chariot pulled by a little Shetland pony…. ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’ ….:) The gorgeous Fjords never fail to give me a nose rubbing shot, almost like they are exchanging information en route 🙂 Under the watchful eye of Nelson on his column the Star Wars and Mary Poppins teams made their way up toward Whitehall followed by Peter Green on his beautiful horse adorned with the most amazing array of flowers in memory of his daughter Molly who also rode in the Parade.

Maria O’Hare’s Zig Zag receiving outstretched hands





All the teams passed through Parliament Square under Big Ben that had only just rung in the New Year the night before and rode on up to Horse Guards and then up the Mall to Buckingham Palace where it finally started to spit with rain, my iPhone hadn’t been wrong just its timing was slightly off thank goodness, as we walked back to Piccadilly the heavens opened, all the horses were by that time safely tucked up in their horse boxes a fabulous day over and another new year begins. What an amazing day every Parade never fails to reinstate how much trust the horses put into their riders and vice versa. Incredible creatures aren’t they. As I got into my car to drive home I met Wonder Woman walking down the pavement, now where else would that happen other than the New Years Day Parade?   written by Jo Monck


London New Year’s Day Parade 2016

This 2016 theme was ’30 Magical Years’ and was  a totally unforgettable experience for the riders and a day out not to be missed. ‘All the Queen’s Horses’ is a section comprising 14 groups of horses including 60 horses in total. Within those groups, there is the Iberian section which has comprised 10 – 14 horses in total, Lusitanos and PRE’s. The crowds absolutely love the “dancing horses” and they always attract much attention and cheering – the riders make a point of interacting with the crowd that line the streets of London and around so many of its beautiful landmarks.

The Parade begins outside The Ritz in Piccadilly, proceeds to Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Pall Mall and then the full length of Whitehall, inwards turn halt and  salute at The Cenotaph. The Parade finishes at Parliament Square having passed the VIPs and dignitaries. The horses are then invited to go onto Horse Guards Parade for press interviews, photos and there’s time to relax and have a little play. We then march line-abreast down The Mall to the hallowed Gates of Buckingham Palace before returning up Constitution Hill.

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At the Gates of Buckingham Palace 2015. Photos : Jo Monck.

Happy New Year!          Photo: Fleur Churchill

Huge crowds Piccadilly, Regent Street, Whitehall 2016.  Photos : Jo Monck
Taking part this year were:  Eda and Chris Hannaford on their Saltibanco and Zeus, Patrick Kempe riding Jenny Myerscough’s Violetta with Emma Smith on Jenny’s Nelson, Amander Cutler-Little – Quejaz, Hannah Doggett – Hecho, Sherene and Leila Rahmatallah on their Quota and Zig Zag, Caroline Clinkard on Balastro and Maria O’Hare on Zig Zag da Tramiguera.

London New Year’s Day Parade 2015 
The Iberian Team as part of ‘All the Queen’s Horses’

Tetuã stepping out in time to the drum beats

Photos by Jo Monck and Paul Ruffle

“My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Portuguese and Spanish are coming to London on their fine horses. They want to visit everywhere in the City, see everything that London has to offer, experience the good life, savour fine food, wine and dance.  These guys love you, there could be romance, fun and laughter, so please give them a hearty round of applause. “

The Iberian Team is one of several teams which make up ‘All the Queen’s Horses’, which is one of 70 groups that take part in the London Parade.

The cold wet weather did nothing to deter these guys. It really did ‘chuck it down!’

The horses taking part in the London Parade came from  Yorkshire, Wales, the West Country and even two from Belgium. Such is the popularity of the event.








Corinne Farinha in Piccadilly

The Iberian horse goes way, way back in history to the Holy Crusades. He has been at the fore-front of our history as a war-horse. He is aristocratic, powerful, enthusiastic and proud yet with a superb temperament. His agility and spectacular looks provide him with this ‘look at me’ attitude. These horses just love working with you and taking part in events wherever they may be. His versatility is enormous.  Above all else, they can be your greatest friend.






The Mall 2015

Line abreast along The Mall – A great occasion 2015 Photo: Paul Ruffle

The hallowed Gates of Buckingham Palace


London New Year’s Day Parade 2014

If anyone has ever said that the ambient temperature within a large city such as London is generally about 2 degrees higher than the countryside, this should not to be disputed,  they are in all  probability right, but do not let them tell you that it feels any warmer, because proximity to buildings can turn a moderate storm into a howling hurricane, and the resultant wind chill facture will be a whole lot more than just two degrees!

So our Iberian mounted section  found this New Years Day, taking part in the world’s biggest parade on this date. Over 40,000 participants, taking over two and a half hours to pass from beginning to end.  We were part of Caroline Marsh’s “All the Queens Horses” sector of the parade. 

Assembling in a little side street just off Piccadilly we were relatively sheltered, but as soon as we moved into our places in the main procession, there was lift off!  Many hats were kindly retrieved by the crowd and handed back to riders who then jambed the wretched things down as hard as they could.  Some of the first time horses were justifiably alarmed by the huge swirling flags belonging to the marching band immediately in front of us.  We witnessed some really spectacular rein backs and half pirouettes! 

The gusts were so strong that I swear you could actually see our own personal jet stream tearing down from Green Park to the Ritz.

Then, of course we had the rain.  Proper British rain.  The penetrating, gets to your knickers in no time, horizontal sort.  Anyone from Yorkshire, North Wales or the West country will expect this as a matter of course when above 2,000 ft , but to be subjected to such conditions in the middle of London, with our clipped horses, beautiful Iberian tack and summer showing habits, was no wholy comfortable.

Despite all this, the horses soon settled down , comforted, no doubt, by being in a herd situation ,and moving along after all the waiting around . Apparently 250,000 people were expected, and I would not be a bit surprised if this was accurate on the day. 

And what a jolly lot the crowd were!   Smiles and cheers all round, we must all have responded “Happy New Year” a thousand times over!

Patick Kempe and Tetua were as spectacular as ever, half passing across the route from hand shakes on one side of the road to high fives on the other, and still managing to doff his hat to all the ladies.  The man has three pairs of hands!

I think that there was a prize for the whitest horse in  the parade.  I would love to know who won.  You can be sure it wasn’t my Nelson.  He looked immaculate in the stable, but his bed is mahogany sawdust at the moment, so ten minutes out of the trailer we had some decorative pink stripes where the rain had started to wash the dust out of his winter coat.  Not a really good look!

Our route came to a close all too soon, and we all headed off to Horse Guards Parade.  Fortunately we found a bit of grass, so Nelson and his daughter, Dolly had a monumental ,communal pee before posing for photographs.

Finally all 14 of us rode abreast down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, for more photographs in front of the gates, then a quick scamper up through Green Park and back to the trailers and haynets.   The latter items being foremost in our mounts minds , I suspect, judging from their enthusiasm for a bit a speed through the park!

Morgan Wride, my twelve year old gentleman escort and rider of Dolly, had his clothes peeled off him, some sandwiches inserted that were subsequently washed down with coke, and promptly dropped off to sleep, but only after commenting “That was fab’. Can we do it again next year, please?”

Jenny Myerscough

London New Year’s Day Parade 2013

Patrick Kempe and his Lusitano horse Tetuã present the Iberian Theatrical Company of Spanish and Portuguese Lusitano horses.
These versatile horses are typical of the type that you will see in many films.
They are lovely horses to ride as well as being masters of competition.
Through history they were highly prized in battle and were ridden by the Kings and Queen’s of England.
‘Hats off to London.’  –  Saluté!!

The dawn drew crisp and clear as I drove into Piccadilly, complete with my horse behind me. It still hadn’t sunk in that we had come to ride in the New Year’s Day Parade in the centre of London. Our designated street was full of horseboxes and horses of all sizes and descriptions, from miniatures to super-size sports horses. English breeds, Spanish and Portuguese all being groomed and plaited to perfection. Meanwhile costumes were being rolled out ready to be climbed into. In another street nearby, the massive American Bands were tuning up, each one out-blasting the other. Soon they were all at full volume. It was like being backstage at some great movie in the making. A few nerves jangling here and there as we were called to take our places in the line-up. ‘Parade mount’ I yelled, not that anybody could hear me!

            Everyone mounted, we took our place outside the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly. All of a sudden, one of our riders shrieked, ‘is there time to go to the loo?’ Opposite was such a portable necessity in the middle of the ever growing crowd. ‘If you very quick’ the steward called. Sliding off her horse with long flowing skirt, she fled to the little box opposite. The door kept opening somewhat as she wrestled with her robes. The deed completed she emerged from this tiny cocoon to the mischievous applause of the crowd.

            Final checks and with military precision we were off on the 3 mile route with our horses looking their best and flags held high. Just ahead of us were the VIPs in horse-drawn carriages, a marching band and the Olympic Games Makers. Then our turn, ‘All the Queen’s Horses’ with 40 steeds, the sound of their shoes ringing out as we strode down the middle of Piccadilly High Street. The Parade was well under way. 10,000 participants, 150 groups, half a million spectators and world-wide coverage on television for this is the Worlds’s largest New Year’s Day Parade. Turning into Regent Street, the crowds grew and grew. A lady holding her pooch was giving her commentary as her little dog barked his own story. Big bands from across the world followed us booming out their best loved pieces of music. Now into Waterloo Place and by now all riders and horses were into the swing of the show, acknowledging the crowd and waving to spectators who had squeezed themselves onto all manner of vantage points. Ahead of us lay Pall Mall, Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall. To be riding through ‘the Streets of London’ seemed quite unreal. So exciting. I was almost waiting for Ralph McTell to start singing his song of the same name.2013 combo

            All of a sudden we were in Whitehall passing Downing Street and giving a salute at the Cenotaph. We’d reached the end but not before entering the small arena to form up in front  of the VIPs, Lord Mayors and dignitaries. Everyone was clapping and cheering. The Parade complete. We made it! I breathed a sigh of relief to myself as I led our 40 horses out and away …. but our day was not finished yet.

            We had been granted an invitation to muster on Horse Guards Parade. Here, we had time to savour this remarkable day. We formed up in groups for photographs and interviewed for television. I could not believe that we were riding where Trooping the Colour is held – and now we were here too. Our day hadn’t finished yet as our invitation had also been extended to the Gates of Buckingham Palace. Riding line abreast down The Mall was surreal, the Victoria Memorial ahead of us and then those gorgeous golden gates. I have always wanted a good photo of these gates but never for a moment did I ever think I would have one sitting on my horse there along with all the other horses and riders. I was pinching myself to see if I would wake up from this dream.

            Then it was now time to return across Green Park to our horse boxes, each of us recounting our own story of that amazing and fabulous day.

By Patrick Kempe.