by Jacqui Morley
At ease Trooper Penny. The Blackpool rescue horse who has paraded before the monarchy is finally putting her hooves up.
But only after a last hurrah at the animal sanctuary which made her life let alone her illustrious army career possible.
Penny of the King’s Troop returns home - for good - on Sunday, September 7.
She will bow out of public service at a very special ceremony conducted by the King’s Troop at the annual open day of the World Horse Welfare Rescue and Rehoming Centre.
Penny, an Irish Draught mare, has won her retirement spurs after 12 years of service with the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. She is one of the big gun horses.
Penny’s story is one to rival War Horse’s.
She was named after the animal welfare centre - then known as Penny Farm - which took her in 12 years ago and nursed her back to full health.
In a week when the deaths of horses as a result of criminal neglect of horses has once again hit the headlines locally Penny’s story is a timely reminder that earlier intervention can save lives.
World Horse Welfare Penny Farm manager Fran Williamson says Penny’s background - from humble beginnings to high status horse in the poshest stables in the land - is “your classic rags to riches story.”
Fran adds: “It’s amazing that a rescued horse who arrived at Penny Farm in 2001 as an emaciated and unhandled five year old has gone on to enjoy such a successful career.
“She is the ultimate example of the work of the charity.”
And now Penny’s coming home - not just on leave with the other horse troopers but for good.
Zoe Clifford visitor officer for Penny Farm explains: “Penny will be led out in full ceremonial dress before being retired. It will be very moving for those of us familiar with her story. She no sooner left us than she took part in the Queen Mother’s funeral - so it was one heck of an introduction to a lifestyle to which she was made, if not born.
“Penny has a great spirit. That was recognised in her right from the very start here.”
The open day will feature stunt riding, falconry, a farriers contest, fairground rides, classic cars, art and more.
But Penny is the undoubted star of the show. The King’s Troop, who bring their horses to Blackpool for a summer break, usually put on a very special display.
But this promises to be extraordinary for it marks Penny’s ceremonial farewell to hard work in the horse artillery.
It will be a poignant parting from her pals - but she will be reunited with them every summer.
Captain Owen Beynon-Brown of the King’s Troop say Penny is known as Hallmark within the Royal Horse Artillery.
“She has been a real asset to the regiment,” he adds.
“Penny does everything she is asked of her, she’s always right in there doing the work, but she can now enjoy a very well-earned retirement.”
During her 12 years of sercvice Penny has been involved in Royal Salutes at major ceremonial events including the funeral of the Queen Mother, state visits, Trooping the Colour and even taken part in preparations for the Royal Wedding.
Penny also played a key role in the Musical Drive at venues across the country which involves a six horse gun team demonstrating complicated skills of horsemanship, often at flat out gallop.
It’s hard to believe, looking at this splendid horse, that Penny was emaciated and lice infested when she first came to the sanctuary.
She was the youngest of four Irish Draught mares saved from appalling conditions by World Horse Welfare in March 2001 - up to their hocks in a muddy grassless field or in muck 24 hours a day in roofless stables.
All were suffering from malnutrition, worm infestation and lice and in urgent need of attention to their teeth and feet.
Penny was extremely difficult to manage. She trusted no one and was almost impossible to treat.
It took six months of rehabilitation, patience and understanding, before centre staff began to win her over with soft words and good care.
As the thin, scruffy, bay filly was the very first unnamed animal taken into Penny Farm, she was named Penny after Penny Thornton, the benefactor whose generosity enabled the centre to be built.
She was nursed back to health by the charity’s original farm manager, Tony Fleming and later made headlines by successfully being rehomed with the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery through Tony’s connections, having previously served in the King’s Troop for 25 years himself.
World Horse Welfare’s London Field Officer, Nick White, visited Penny at the barracks for the last time ahead of her return home - and plans to revisit her in Blackpool.
He concludes: “Penny is a credit to World Horse Welfare and The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
“Working daily on the streets of London, helping to pull one of the RHA’s field guns requires an even temperament, soundness and a high degree of fitness.
“It is hard to imagine that as a young horse she had such a bad start.
“She couldn’t be in better hands now.”
Penny Farm homes around 65 horses at any given time.
Every September it hosts the grand open day with displays by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and The Household Cavalry.
The open day starts at 10am on Sunday, September 7. The entrance to Penny Farm is situated on the A583, Preston New Road, near Peel Corner, Blackpool, FY4 5JS.
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