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There were 24 horses and ponies. There were 24 riders, aged 12 upwards. The place was Odense in Denmark. It was the early 1970s. And riding as part of that magnificent quadrille performance sparked a life-long, on-off love affair between quadrille riding and me!

Fast forward some 50 years, and I am now involved in the creation of, what I believe to be, the first stand-alone, quadrille-only club in the UK – the East Midlands Quadrille Club.

The EMQC is the evolution and culmination of a quadrille team that I created in 2016 and have managed since as part of a local riding club. 

Why – I hear you ask – such a love affair?

Well, quadrille is phenomenally healthy for the equine body and mind.

The natural habitat of our horses is in social groups, and quadrille enforces the herd mentality of collaboration and adjustment.

The pinnacle of quadrille is that every horse is in the right place at the right time – at all times; and to enable that to happen, horses must be physically flexible so that they can bend, turn and adjust the speed and length of their strides in all three gaits.

They must also display their friendly psychological disposition, so that other horses can get ‘up close and personal’, moving around other horses at close quarters.

They look to one another for security and safety, when we ride in unknown and often scary environments, and take comfort from one another.

On one highly memorable occasion, the EMQC performed at Belvoir Castle a couple of days after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. That day, all our horses stood side by side during the castle’s long and loud gun salute. Not one of them moved!

Quadrille is also good for us human beings.

Firstly, it is fun because you are riding WITH others. Having fun and a good laugh is always good for our mental health.

Secondly, many a great friendship based on this shared interest has been formed as part of quadrille riding.

Thirdly, it is extremely disciplined and requires a significant degree of focus and ‘linear thinking’ to be able to ride in absolutely straight lines horizontally and laterally – simultaneously. Our club rides a military style quadrille, which is commanded by a retired Cavalry Officer, so riders need to be able to listen carefully, think fast, and execute commands promptly. That also necessitates a good level of physical fitness. This year’s display lasts over 15 minutes and there is no walking, only trot and canter!

Fourthly, there is something uniquely rewarding about trotting, shoulder-to-shoulder, with 11 team mates down – or up – the centre line. Try it!

As you cannot fly solo with quadrille, the organisation of it is also a most challenging and rewarding team effort. A quadrille performance needs a floorplan, music, dress, an arena, a group of suitable and available riders and horses, risk assessment, insurance, commentary, a picnic – and much else besides.

There's a lot involved and the planning is intense. We started developing this years’ GREASE display in October 2023.

But, where does quadrille come from?

The short answer is ancient warfare. People started to ride horses into battle in around 900BC. Survival necessitated riding accuracy and complete unison.

Many of the quadrille movements and commands that were used for centuries continue to be used today by the Household Cavalry and the King’s Troop, undertaking parades such as the King’s Birthday Parade and the State Opening of Parliament. They are also used in many other countries, certainly in my birthplace of Denmark.

In the past, many of these ‘conventions’ were passed down orally, from generation to generation, with regard to rider safety and precision ‘dressing.’ And as ceremonial duties became part of the role of the cavalry, military music began to accompany displays, making quadrille riding an enjoyable form of entertainment.

So, why is there so little of it about?

Perhaps because the words we use to describe it are so variable. Some people say quadrille, while others refer to it as ‘formation riding’ or a ‘musical ride’.

It is also extremely challenging to find riders who are prepared to come to the training, dress rehearsals and performances with the frequency needed to develop complete mutual trust and safety when riding in large groups.

Quadrille riding is generally not part of the training and development of equestrian coaches. It really is the specific domain of Cavalry Riding Instructors.

All my former and current quadrille coaches are Cavalry folk. David Boyd, who is the coach and a committee member of our club says: “Quadrille riding is a fantastic way to ride in an exciting team sport. It encourages teamwork, discipline, style and is immense fun. After 28 years as a military riding instructor, I never imagined using these skills again. But joining up with EMQC has given me a new and rewarding phase in my equestrian career.”  

While British riding clubs do have an annual quadrille competition for their clubs, their maximum number of riders in each team is four. There are no other competitions, no specific coaches, judges and no national structure.

In contrast, the USA appears to have quadrille firmly embedded in a national structure, which includes a progressive collection of floorplans for different levels of riding.

Perhaps it’s time we created the same in the UK?

The EMQC runs regular taster sessions in the East Midlands. If you want to give it a go, check out their new FB page here.

And if you want to watch the EMQC in action, you can catch their 16-horse display – choreographed to music from the blockbuster film, Grease – at:

  • Rutland County Show (2 June, Oakham)

  • Ashby Show (14 July, Heather)

  • Equifest (1-4 August, Arena UK, Lincoln)

  • Rearsby Lodge Riding Club Charity Event in aid of the Air Ambulance (19 July, Aylesford, nr Melton Mowbray)

  • Veteran Horse Society Championships (Arena UK, 30 August, Lincoln).


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