The Drum Horse

The British Drum Horse is a type, not an actual breed.It originated in the British Isles.Traditionally, drum horses are nearly always spotted-- usually black or bay tobiano with a rare sabino popping up occasionally. Frame and splash overo patterns are not native to the British Isles, and so they have not been seen in the native drum horse.The Average Height is 16.0 hh and over with various weights recorded.The build is usually heavy boned and now recently feathered. Incredibly good temperament is a must, as they must handle parades and public well.

Their main use as British Drum Horses is by the remaining ceremonial British cavalry as part of their regimental band. As their name suggests, these horses carry two kettle drums--plus a rider--during the Royal Parades. Because the drums are made of solid silver, these Drum horses must be big and powerful to carry this great weight. The drummers control the horses with reins attached to their feet. For this reason, horses used in the regimental band must be mature and even-tempered with the patience to stand in place for long periods of time.

A brief history: Although they have the same characteristics, British Drum Horses are not an official breed; they are a type of horse sharing similar characteristics. They are also very rare as there are only a small group bred, raised and trained for the ceremonial British cavalry. In the past, drum horses were recruited in the way that if an officer saw a suitable horse on his travels, he would purchase it. Although colored heavy drafts have never been particularly common, this was not a problem as only a handful of horses were ever required. The horses could be of any breeding and from any background, as long as they were of the right type. For instance, one horse called "Paddy" was bought from an Edinburgh dairy,where he pulled a milk float in the early 1960s,after HRH the Queen saw him during a visit. "Cicero" the Drum Horse went on to become quite the most famous of ALL Drum Horses. However,with the reduction in working horses over the last fifty years, replacements for retiring horses became gradually more difficult to find. Finally, in the 1980's, the Queen of England decided that in the future, the Crown would have to provide its own horses. Presently, a tobiano Dutch Warmblood stallion, owned by Her Majesty, supplies the pinto element; it is thought that the mares used are either Clydesdales or Shires. The breeding program is probably based at Sandringham, England, where Her Majesty's Thoroughbreds are kept, though this is not known for sure. The Dutch Warmblood stallion, whose name is Mars, is available to outside mares. Drum horses' names are traditionally taken from Classical Greek or Roman myth or history; for example, there is one drum horse whose name is Hercules Cicero.

The mounted drummer can be dressed in a variety of colourful period uniforms, including Medieval, English Civil War, Napoleonic and Victorian, with the copper kettledrums carrying appropriate banners. Before mechanisation, all British Army Cavalry Regiments had a Mounted Band headed by a Drum Horse. There are currently only four Drum Horses in the British Army: The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals, based in Knightsbridge Barracks, London, both have a Drum Horse. These are seen at the head of their Mounted Bands on State occasions in London and elsewhere. Two ‘Line’ Cavalry Regiments, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Queen’s Royal Hussars, also keep Drum Horses.


Here is a picture of a Drum horse saved by King George. "Old Joe" the Lifeguards 20 year old drum horse was appearing in the Royal Naval and Military Tournament in London as the horse of King Charles II in the Pageant. Old Joe was to be put to death after the Tournament owing to his great age. H.M. the King visited the Tournament and was so struck by the fine old horse that he particularly asked that Old Joe should be reprieved from his sentence and that he should be allowed to remain on duty with the lifeguards so long as he was fit. After that the King promised that "Old Joe" should end his days in the Royal paddocks at Windsor.


The British Drum Horse prior to 1998 was basically unknown to America and up to these days they are still rare in this country.Originally they were usually the result of breeding two heavy "Drum" horses from the regiments stables together although other draft breeds have been bought and brought in and used thoughout historical records.

(Now recently Drum horse groups in the USA register a Gypsy Horse crossed with a Clydesdale or a Shire as the same type. Now being classed as an "American Drum". A term we like as it is quite the appropriate way to describe a new line of horses raised a world away from British regimental duties).

They are usually pinto colored these days and stand at least 16 hands tall. Nearly always piebald or skewbald in color, the Drum Horse must be strong and steady enough to carry the stout kettle drums during such ceremonies as Trooping the Color at Buckingham Palace. The horses are only controlled by reins attached to the rider's feet.

It takes a very special horse to carry such a prominent role in the Queen's Household Cavalry and they are one of the most popular and recognizable members of the regiment. By tradition, the honorable equine is given the name of a classical hero. Horses called Alexander the Great, Bonaparte, and Constantine have all carried the drums with pride!.Whilst most of the army horses are now primarily used for ceremonial duties, some still work as pack animals, and some play a valuable training role for soldiers.The British Army still keeps a stable of more than 400 horses.They range from the pack ponies to black troop horses and grey trumpeters and coloured drum horses used daily by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.


The "Drums of Horse" of the 3rd King's Own Hussars (1896)
The 3rd Hussars possess the unique distinction in her Majesty's Army of being allowed an extra kettle drummer and drum-horse, a mark of special honour conferred on the gallant regiment on Christmas Day 1778 by King George the Third. The kettle drummer receives a special rate of pay and wears the uniform of a sergeant of Hussars, with a silver collar engraved with military devices, a gift presented to the regiment in the year 1772 by the wife of the then Colonel of the 3rd Dragoons, the Hon. Charles Fitzroy (afterwards Lord Southampton). The silver kettle drums of the regiment have also a unique interest. They were captured at the sword's point, under the eyes of King George the Second, by the ancestors of the 3rd King's Own Hussars, the old 3rd Dragoons aforesaid, on the battlefield of Dettingen in 1743.


To Quote Colonel Douglas McDonald, British Army : "I could rashly say we built an empire on the back of the British military horse but perhaps that would be overstating it. But they have been a fantastic contribution to the defence of our nation for many hundreds of years, not just the past one hundred.".

We at D'Archangel farm would like to follow these traditional historical lines as close as the history books will allow us.Breeding bloodlines and breed styles to bring back what these majestic War-horses used to be..

The "New" Drums

There is a lot of controversy about the "DRUM HORSE" here in the States right now..
Many people have their own views of what they should be and will try and "pigeon-hole" them to one particular style or color.Drum horses have been around many,many years before they reached the United States and sadly they are beginning to look nothing like what the history books tell us they used to be..
This is why we have included this little paragraph. Please feel free to read the "history" of drum horses on our site (No..We are NOT the authors) and scan the many websites devoted to this style of horse but remember it IS a Style rather than a breed..Personally we wanted to breed for the more "Traditional" style of "Warhorse" and that is what you will see us working with..
We can all see what their history is through hundreds of years of records and pictures.So it's a shame how money and marketing ,here in the USA ,dictates what they "Should" be changed into to be "Registered" or "Classed" in new and current associations that have existed for a FRACTION of the time these true "Warhorses" have existed..
We like to think that we chose our horses along the same criteria that the old military cavalry would have used.Unlike the one horse that was noted in the history..We have no Milk Float horses from the big city...But we think our "Traditional" style Drum foals will turn many heads when they mature and will turn out to be every bit as good as their ancestors....If they don't grow to the required size and stature to "qualify"to the newly made rules.Oh well...We will still know what their TRADITIONAL background is through PEDIGREE and HISTORY....
That is what we would prefer to see so our Drums are bred with the old WARHORSE lines,directly linked to the Royal breeding and we in NO WAY want them confused with the new forms of "Gypsy" horses that have suddenly been marketed here in the USA.We would rather have documented blood..Not rumored romantic tales or hearsay...!!.
Things MAY be looking up with newer registries appearing on the scene so hopefully we will hear good things of them.We will have to see..There seems to be quite the future with Gypsies AND Drums but we feel not on the same lines..

Drum horses are a historical Tradition..They are not just "Big Gypsy Horses" as all the registries seem to want to make them.

A thought for all these new "breed" registrations would be....

How many of the True Romany Gypsy people are dealing horses with the Queens cavalry regiments??.

I would say that they would not get through the gates...!!

1906 8th Hussars Drum Horse and an Undated 1st Lifeguards Drum Horse


But..first of all...from
..Please let me introduce a "TRUE" Drum Horse.... "Grandpa" to Eowyn and Arya...

"Galway Warrior is the world famous Drum Horse stallion that was once owned by the Queen of England, as a sire of drum horses! .He stands an honest 17.1 hands high, and is by the Immortal champion Shire stallion, Edingale Mascot. Mascot won the Shire Horse championship in England many times before being exported to the USA in 1984. He is one of the best known Shire stallions of the '80s, and has sired some fabulous offspring, including Galway Warrior, out of a colored, part-shire mare. Warrior has sired some fabulous horses in the UK, and is now has his career in the US. Warrior is a proven sire of sporthorses, breeding dozens of thoroughbreds and other light breed mares over the years to make some very accomplished offspring. Many of those offspring are competing in high levels of jumping and dressage in the UK, and are winning ribbons galore! Warrior has also made several fabulous drum horses like himself when put onto Shire and Clydesdale mares." (Please pull up BLACK FOREST SHIRES Web link on our links page for more details) "Warrior is sane and sound, and is a phenomenal riding horse, (of course! it's not every horse that gets to carry the Queen's drums!) He moves like a dream, and passes this on to his offspring. His temperament is the best you can find, being as sane and gentle as the day is long."

Galway Warrior and Black Forest's grey shire mare "Gracie" were invited to attend the 2003 Breyerfest at the Kentucky Horse Park. Both Warrior ( On the left) and Gracie were made into Breyer models. Warrior's model was made of fine porcelain, and sold out in record time. His model is no longer available except through dealers and occasionally through auction sites such as Ebay. "

** Text and pictures quoted / used with kind permission of Jeff and Christine Bartko of Black Forest Shires


We try to research as well as we possibly can.If you see anything here that you believe we are wrong about, please feel free to email us.Or..Do you know of information or links that you would like to share with draft enthusiasts that you don't see here? Are we missing anything? Let us know at