A True Cavalry Horse

On this day, 29th August 1984, one of the most famous horses of the Household Cavalry Regiment, Sefton, retired from the Household Cavalry Regiment. Sefton had gained fame for his miraculous survival from injuries sustained in a bomb blast in July 1982 that had killed four members of the Blues and Royals, as well as seven other horses of the regiment.

Sefton was being ridden to the Changing of the Guard on Horse Guards Parade on July 20th 1982 when the IRA detonated a car bomb in Hyde Park that claimed the lives of four men and seven horses. Sefton was one of eight horses left injured by the blast, but his injuries were the most severe, including a severed jugular vein, wounded left eye, and 34 wounds over his body. Sefton was the first horse to be removed from the scene and brought back to barracks, where he was treated in an emergency operation lasting over 90 minutes to save his life, and then an additional 8 hours of surgery (a record in veterinary terms in 1982); each of the injuries he’d sustained had the potential to be life threatening. He was given a 50/50 per cent chance of survival.

Sefton recovering from the injuries he sustained on July 20th 1982

Over the following months, he made continual progress; his nurse was quoted as saying “He took everything in his stride”. During his time in the hospital he received huge quantities of cards and mints from well-wishers, while donations exceeding £620,000 were received to construct a new surgical wing at the Royal Veterinary College which was named the Sefton Surgical Wing.

Sefton returned to his duties with his regiment, and he often passed the exact spot where he had received such horrific injuries. That year he was awarded Horse of the Year, and with Pederson back in the saddle took centre stage at the Horse of the Year Show, to a standing ovation. On 29 August 1984 Sefton retired from the Household Cavalry, and moved to the Home of Rest For Horses at Speen, Buckinghamshire where he lived to the age of 30 before having to be put down on 9 July 1993 due to incurable lameness as a complication of the injuries suffered during the bombing.

Even before he become a public name, Sefton had something of a notoriety amongst troopers; he was nicknamed “Sharkey” for his tendency to bite at troopers and horses he didn’t like. Despite ‘passing out’ in June 1968 (marked with the regimental number 5/816) also had something of a reputation for being something of a difficult horse, as he had a tendency for breaking ranks, fidgeting and napping. For these reasons, Sefton was sent with the Blues and Royals on deployment to Germany. He joined the Weser Vale Hunt, a bloodhound pack set up by Captain Bill Stringer, chasing volunteer runners. He quickly became the whipper-in’s mount, and excelled in this task, with a bold jump and fast pace. This made him a very popular horse, and due to his nature, he was not given to recruits to learn on, but offered as a prize for the best recruits to ride.

Sefton showing how he got his nickname of “Sharkey” amongst the troopers…

Sefton also competed in showjumping, and whilst on deployment between 1969 and 1974 won 1434 Deutschmarks of prize money, and made the army team competing for the British Army of the Rhine, as well as competing in and winning a point to point race.

In 1975, there was an outbreak of strangles at Knightsbridge Barracks, leaving a shortage of large black horses for ceremonial duties in London. At this time, Sefton had a suspect tendon, possibly due to being overridden, and was immediately chosen to return to England. Here, he worked for the Household Cavalry for the next four years, performing his guard duties, as well as appearing in Quadrilles, and tent pegging. He continued to showjump, including appearances at the Royal Tournament and other smaller shows, although from 1980 he was gradually retired from the sport as he reached the age of 18.

Sefton with Trooper Michael Pedersen of the Blues and Royals, who rode him on July 20th 1982

In Memoriam, July 20th 1982

Today is a rather solemn occasion for the Household Cavalry. On this day 35 years ago, four members of the Regiment and seven horses lost their lives when the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a car bomb at 10:40am in Hyde Park. The Blues and Royals, riding down from Knightsbridge Barracks to perform the Changing of the Guard at horse Guards Parade were hit by the explosion.

The blast was one of two such attacks that day in London (a second bomb blast at 12:55pm in Regent’s Park claimed the lives of seven members of the Royal Green Jackets).

Four members of the Blues and Royals (Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Corporal Major Roy Bright, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young and Trooper Simon Tipper) were killed by the bomb, while seven of the Regiment’s horses (Cedric, Epaulette, Falcon, Rochester, Waterford, Yeastvite and Zara) either died in the blast or were put down due to the severity of their injuries.

The Museum has in its collection several items connected to this tragic event, including the helmet worn by Trooper Simon Tipper on that day, as well as the hoof and damaged bridle of horse Sefton.

Sefton wounds from bomb blast were so severe it was believed he would not survive. He endured 8 hours of surgery, a record in veterinary terms at that time, treating over 34 injuries, all of them potentially life threatening. After the surgery he was given a 50/50 chance of survival, but made an amazing recovery that turned him into a national symbol of defiance. He returned to active duty with the Regiment, being awarded Horse of the Year that October.

Sefton retired from active service on 29th August 1984 and lived out the remainder of his life at a rest home for horses in Buckinghamshire. He died at the age of 30 from health complications believed to be related to the injuries he sustained in the bombing.

Remembrance

Helmet of Trooper Simon Tipper of the Blues and Royals, who died 20th July 1982 in an IRA car bombing.