Today is Chinese New Year and 2014 is the year of the horse. This got us thinking about the important role that horses have played in the castle’s history from cavalry horses to working horses and everything in between.
Through the centuries the horse has been integral to the day-to-day running of the castle from those used in the farming of the land and transportation to more sensational pursuits like hunting, jousting and even battle.
However the role of this magnificent animal is not relegated to the distant past - some of the most poignant stories have emerged in more recent times. A few years ago when the movie 'Burke and Hare' was being filmed at the castle, one of the scenes involved horse drawn carriages. Hearing their hooves on the cobbles was a powerful experience that instantly transported you to a completely different time.
When our former artist-in-residence, Iona Leishman, first began her tenure she surprised herself when her art started to heavily feature horses which she freely admitted she hadn’t drawn since she was a young girl. As she began to discover more of the castle’s history she realised what a central figure the animal had been at the site and the many different areas of castle life it was involved in.
One of the more charismatic creatures to have carved a place in the castle’s history and people’s hearts is Cruachan, the Shetland pony mascot of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. Cruachan was a gift from Princess Louise, the regiment’s original patron, and was their official mascot from 1928 through to 2009 when it was adopted by the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Many of the former soldiers based at the castle always remember his antics with a smile and can recount the amusing stories of this beloved animal. Cruachan III made his final public appearance at the Military Tattoo in 2012 and now enjoys a happy and peaceful retirement after 23 years of service.
So next time you visit the castle, keep an eye out for all the equine references and try and imagine our kingdom without the horse.