Horses Run Loose Through Central London in Surreal Spectacle

Several runaway military horses galloped through the streets of London on Wednesday morning, alarming pedestrians, sideswiping cars and buses, and turning an ordinary rush hour into a frightening, almost surreal spectacle.

Four people were treated for injuries, including a soldier who was thrown from one of the horses, according to the London Ambulance Service. The horses, which belong to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, a unit that parades in royal pageants, are normally well-trained symbols of London’s regal past.

On Wednesday, however, they broke into a panicked stampede that had more in common with the Wild West. Galloping past some of London’s most famous sites — from Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge — they left a trail of damaged vehicles and shocked pedestrians, some of whom had to dart out of their way.

By 10:30 a.m., the Metropolitan Police said that all the horses had been recovered and were back in their barracks in Hyde Park. But some had suffered injuries, including a white horse that had blood splashed on its neck, chest and forelimbs.

The drama began shortly after 8 a.m. when the horses, apparently spooked by the noise from a nearby construction site, threw off the military riders who were taking them out for routine exercises. Photographs showed one of the soldiers being treated while lying on the ground on Buckingham Palace Road.

Video footage captured a pair of riderless horses galloping in Aldwych, a stately area in central London. Their hooves clattered in the shadow of grand stone buildings as passers-by scattered, buses jerked to a stop and cars honked. The white horse, wearing a saddle and stirrups with its reins flying behind it, was caught on video later galloping in the vicinity of Tower Bridge.

Other pictures showed the result of unexpected encounters between animals and a busy urban landscape: a double-decker tour bus with a smashed windshield and a gray Mercedes van with a dented door and smashed rear windows.

As the incident unfolded, newspapers and broadcasters began carrying live coverage, briefly riveting much of the city. The Metropolitan Police said in a statement, “We are aware of a number of horses that are currently loose in central London and are working with colleagues, including the army, to locate them.”

Shortly before 10 a.m., the City of London police reported that its officers had corralled two of the horses near Limehouse, a neighborhood adjacent to the city’s docklands. That indicated they had made their way across Central London, from Westminster through Covent Garden and past the financial district.

“We’re waiting for an army horse box to collect the horses and transport them to veterinary care,” the city police said in a statement.

An army spokesman told The Daily Telegraph that horses had been recovered and returned to their camp, but he added, “A number of personnel and horses have been injured and are receiving the appropriate medical attention.”

The Household Cavalry — made up of the two most senior units in the British Army, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals — is a familiar sight in royal pageants. They trooped in the coronation of King Charles III last May and during the state funeral of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September 2022.

The cavalry’s horses are trained to be comfortable in busy streets and around people, which made the incident on Wednesday extraordinarily unusual.

Tourists often pose for pictures next to the horses when they stand guard in front of Horse Guards Parade, a ceremonial parade ground on Whitehall, north of Downing Street. The soldiers astride them only occasionally scold the tourists for getting too close or otherwise disturbing the animals.