In the early days the majority of our residents were London cab horses. By the 1920s many of their roles had been taken by motor vehicles and most of our residents were cobs and ponies belonging to London tradesmen. After the Great War we had provided retirement to our first Army horses; a proud tradition continued to this day – a well earned rest for these loyal public servants. In the 1970s the first of many Police horses came to us. Brave animals that have worked hard, often in terrifying situations. Today public service is a defining criterion for horses retiring to our Home of Rest. Police horses, Military horses or those who have worked to improve the lives of disabled or disadvantaged children such as the Riding for the Disabled Association and The Horse Rangers form the core of today’s residents.
In 1900 more than 300,000 horses were needed to keep the city on the move, hauling everything from private carriages and cabs to buses, trams and delivery vans. By 1915 everything had changed. Horse buses and horse trams had disappeared in London, and motor taxis heavily outnumbered horse-drawn cabs.
However, the number of horses taken in by The Home of Rest for Horses continued to increase. Many shopkeeper and small traders, such as greengrocers and rag and bone men, continued to use horses to transport their goods.
Modern roads were ‘hard and smooth as glass’, which was suitable for motor vehicles but not for horses. Many horses were brought to The Home of Rest were suffering from lameness caused by these new roads.
Contrary to all expectations, the numbers of animals continued to increase; in 1968 the number of residents reached the hundred mark for the first time in the history of the charity.
The Home for Rest for Horses began to take in a wider variety of working horses including pit ponies and seaside donkeys. We even provided a few months respite for 16 huge Clydesdale horses, who appeared as winged horses in the 1983 film ‘Kroll’, whilst the film company found good homes for them.
From the 1970s onwards we began to provide retirement and respite for an increasing number of horses from the Police and Military. A proud tradition that continues to this day.
A grand old Police horse from the City of London who retired to us in July 1975. “It did not take him long to realise that two o’clock in the afternoon was time for the arrival of visitors, and with them came tit-bits!”
A drum horse who retired from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in the 1980s, was a great favourite. Cicero was famous and not only had two books written about him, but was a guest star on ‘Blue Peter’ and a film was made about his life.