Princess Anne makes ‘devastating’ admission during rare podcast appearance

Opening up!

Princess Anne, Princess Royal attends day 1 'Champion Day' of the Cheltenham Festival 2020 at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 10, 2020 in Cheltenham, England
Princess Anne has opened up about Equine Grass Sickness
(Image credit: Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

The Princess Royal has opened up about the sudden death of the Queen’s beloved horses, after they were struck down with a deadly disease.

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Princess Anne has revealed the “devastating impact” a deadly equine illness had on her family, after Equine Grass Sickness killed five of her mother’s horses in just one year.

The Princess Royal has launched a new fellowship for research into Equine Grass Sickness – a fatal illness that has affected her own family’s horses in recent years.

During a conversation about Equine Grass Sickness – a disease of horses, ponies and donkeys in which there is damage to parts of the nervous system which control involuntary functions, producing the main symptom of gut paralysis – Princess Anne revealed her own experience with the illness. 

“Yes,” she said. “More so recently at Balmoral where they've had quite a lot of losses sadly. And that’s – you know, particularly when you’re breeding Highland Ponies and you lose two really nice colts in one go. That’s a pretty devastating impact, as well as the fact that they are working ponies. It’s important to keep those gene pools relevant.”

Queen Elizabeth II watches the runners in the parade ring for the Epsom Derby at Epsom Racecourse on June 1, 2019 in Epsom, England

The Queen lost five beloved horses to Equine Grass Sickness

(Image credit: Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

Sylvia Ormiston, who is in charge of the monarch’s Balmoral Highland Pony Stud, previously revealed that the illness had killed five of the Queen’s horses: Hercules, Friendly, Clunie, Lord and Omar. 

Revealing more about the devastating impact the disease can have on a horse’s body, Sylvia said on the podcast, “They are doomed, there is no return, they are dead on the inside... and it’s so devastating because you are standing there wishing you could do something for what looks like a perfectly healthy animal.”

She also said the Queen had wished to say goodbye to Hercules, before his death in 2018.

“He started to show signs of being sick on the Friday evening. The Queen came to see him on the Saturday... It was enough time that the Queen could come to see him, to actually say goodbye – because there was nothing we could do,” Sylvia confessed. 

“It just shows you that no matter who you are, no matter who the animal belongs to, you still can’t save them.”

It’s no secret that the Queen adores her horses and we know Her Majesty was “making the most of the time” in lockdown by “riding out every day”.

Georgia Farquharson

Georgia writes across Woman & Home and Good to Know and specialises in all things royal. Previously labelled the "Queen of the royals," Georgia knows the whose who and what's what when it comes to the monarchy. When she's not eagerly following the royal family, Georgia enjoys shopping and self-care. She lives with this motto in mind; "if your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough."