Queen's 90th birthday celebrated with gala concert and 900 horses

Queen’s 90th birthday celebrated with gala concert and 900 horses

Anyone who has ever had to think of a 90th birthday gift knows just how tricky it can be to find something appropriate, but when it comes to the Queen the answer is simple: whatever it is, just make sure it includes lots and lots of horses.

Some 900 horses took part in the celebration
Some 900 horses took part in the celebration Credit: Ben Cawthra/LNP

No matter what gifts she receives from monarchs, presidents and world leaders this year, none will top the spectacular equine pageant staged for Her Majesty in the grounds of Windsor Castle last night, as the smile on her face clearly showed.

Accompanied by her family, the Queen was treated to a two-hour gallop through the key events of her life, told by 900 horses, 1,500 performers and plenty of famous faces.

It was the closest thing the Queen has ever had to an appearance on This Is Your Life, a reminder that our sovereign has not only clocked up a record-breaking reign, but has been a first-hand witness to some of the most momentous events of the past century. 

The Queen arrives with Prince Philip
The Queen arrives with Prince Philip

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, to a huge cheer from the arena, and chose a sea green dress with a lace overlay and a matching jacket, all made by her dressmaker Angela Kelly, with a turquoise diamond surround brooch.

After joining the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex in the royal box, together with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and, freshly returned from the Invictus Games in Florida, Prince Harry, it was time for the show.

A celebration of the Queen's 90 years
A celebration of the Queen’s 90 years

It began at the beginning, with the Queen’s birth and childhood, and the start of her lifelong love affair with horses.

Kinvara Garner, a 13-year-old who has the same teenage passion for horses that burned in the young Princess Elizabeth, had the honour of playing the future monarch as she learned to ride, while another rider, Hannah Robinson, played Princess Margaret.

Kinvara rode a black fell pony called Bert, a breed loved by the Queen. Indeed, although there were 6,000 people in the audience, they were merely party guests at a show that was tailor-made for just one person.

Horses and their riders came from as far afield as Oman, Chile, Canada and Azerbaijan to perform spectacular stunts for Her Majesty. Omani Cavalry riders stormed into the arena standing in the saddle, Azerbaijanis rolled underneath their horses and back, and Canadian Mounties rode in lockstep formation.

Dame Helen Mirren looked fittingly regal
Dame Helen Mirren looked fittingly regal

The human performers including such garlanded names as Dame Helen Mirren, Damian Lewis, Imelda Staunton and Gary Barlow, but at every turn they were upstaged by the real stars of the show – the horses.

Kylie Minogue is used to performing in the world’s biggest venues, but on this occasion she was merely an aural backdrop to the French horse-whisperer Jean-Francois Pignon, who transfixed the Queen with his total command of ten bareback horses and ponies, which formed up, rolled, reared and circled in response to the slightest flick of a fishing rod-like wand.

The Royal Cavalry of Oman
The Royal Cavalry of Oman Credit: AFP