All the Queen's Horses

Exhibit Dates: April 26 – August 24, 2003
Collaborators: The British Museum
Publications: All the Queen’s Horse: The Role of the Horse in British History, Edited by Patricia Connor

All the Queen's Horses is the most comprehensive exhibition ever to explore the rich equestrian heritage of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. It offers an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the width and breadth of British history through the eyes of their most steadfast partner - the horse. Three years in the making, this world-exclusive exhibition features 450 artifacts and 58 paintings, most of which have never been exhibited outside of Britain.

All the Queen's Horses has been assembled from 70 public and private collections throughout Britain including those of the Royal Family, Royal Collections, British Museum, British Library, Royal Armouries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate (Britain) Museum, Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, National Museums of Scotland, National Museums and Galleries of Wales, National Horseracing Museum, Yale Center for British Art and the Museum of London.

The artifacts reflect the exhibition's broad scope and include the earliest known example of human art ever found in Britain - a flat bone with a detailed incised horse's head dating from 10,500 BC. Other artifacts include a 3rd century BC Scottish pony head armor decorated with intricate Celtic designs; gilded bronze Roman cavalry helmets and face mask; a knight from the famous 12th century Lewis chessmen; Henry VIII's Burgundian horse armor; Elizabeth I's sidesaddle; the spurs of Charles I; paintings and artifacts relating to the development of the thoroughbred and racing; an outstanding collection of material from the Battle of Waterloo; two miniature carriages of Queen Victoria's children, and various items from the current Royal Family.

All the Queen's Horses also features a stellar collection of 58 paintings selected not only for their artistic merit, but also for their ability to enhance the exhibition's outstanding collection of artifacts. Some of the artists represented include George Stubbs, J. F. Herring, Sr., Edwin Landseer, James Pollard, John Wootton, Lady Butler and Sir Alfred Munnings.

One of the exhibition's highlights is the complete reconstruction of a sixth century gravesite of an Anglo-Saxon warrior and horse. This extremely significant site was discovered near Cambridge in 1997. A fiberglass reproduction of the burial pit was cast and archaeologists have brought the actual grave goods and skeletons to the Horse Park where they have been placed into the pit as they were originally found. This is the first public exhibition of the material.

The horse has been an integral part of British history for more than two millennia. In 55 BC Celtic warriors used cavalry and horse-drawn chariots to oppose Caesar's invasion. As a result, horses were essential cargo for the successful second Roman invasion in 45 AD, and remained a critical element in Rome's four centuries of occupation. In the 9th century, Viking raiders routinely stole horses from local inhabitants, providing the marauders with the mobility necessary to seek their plunder.

Horses have played an important role in the English monarchy since the early Anglo-Saxon rulers. When William the Conqueror and his Norman knights invaded the island in 1066, their advanced cavalry techniques and larger horses won the day at Hastings. In the fourteenth century Edward III integrated mounted archers using the native longbow into his army. The added mobility provided by the horse, combined with the archer's skill, elevated the English to one of the most respected military forces in Europe. Henry VIII, an avid fan of the medieval tournament, imported heavier breeding stock from the continent in an effort to develop an English horse capable of carrying the heavy armor of the day - this despite the fact that the heavy warhorse had already become pass? on the battlefield. Charles II was known to have raced against his courtiers in Newmarket, and established the Town Plate race which he won in 1671.

In England today, the Royal family remains intimately involved with horses. Queen Elizabeth II still rides for pleasure and also maintains a stable of excellent Thoroughbred racehorses. Prince Philip has been one of the leading carriage competitors in the world, while Princess Anne has represented her country as a member of the British three-day-event team. Many members of the Royal family have provided pieces for the exhibition.

All the Queen's Horses is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm through August 24th. One-day admission is $19.50 for adults and $13.50 for children seven through twelve. Children six and under are free. Tickets include the exhibition including audio guide, all Kentucky Horse Park attractions and the American Saddlebred Museum. Horseback riding and carriage tours are available but are not included in the general admission ticket.