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Runaway horses gallop through central London, blazing a path of mayhem and injuries

Two horses bolt through the streets of London near Aldwych on Wednesday.
Jordan Pettitt
PA Images via Getty Images
Two horses bolt through the streets of London near Aldwych on Wednesday.

Five military horses — including one seemingly covered in blood — got loose in central London early Wednesday, galloping through rush hour crowds, smashing into vehicles and injuring several people before being recaptured.

"A number of military working horses became loose during routine exercise this morning," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence told NPR. "All of the horses have now been recovered and returned to camp."

According to the ministry, six soldiers and seven horses from the Household Cavalry — specifically the Life Guards, the most senior regiment of the British Army — were conducting an "extended exercising of horses" around London, known as the Watering Order.

About a mile into their journey, as they passed by a construction site in the Belgravia area, the sound of concrete hitting the ground "caused the horses to spook."

Five of the horses bolted, unseating four soldiers. Three soldiers were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and the horses kept running.

"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," Westminster police wrote on X (formerly Twitter) just after 9 a.m. local time.

Over roughly two hours, the horses wove a destructive path across some 6 miles of the city.

Bystanders and British news outlets flooded social media with footage of two saddled horses — one black and one white, with bright red liquid covering its chest and legs — hurtling through busy city streets.

Reports and photos emerged of horses smashing into vehicles, panicking commuters and knocking at least one person to the street.

A cab driver named Sean told BBC Radio London that he saw a parked Mercedes "with its side smashed in and covered in blood." The company Big Bus Tours said a horse had run into one of its parked double-decker buses. No one was injured, but photos show a massive crack in the bus' front window.

Eyewitness Bashir Aden told The Telegraph he saw a soldier fall to the ground, "screaming in pain," after one of the horses ran into a car.

"The horses come down this route every day, but today the horse looked stressed or panicked," he added. "I saw the horse run away after it hit a bus. People were screaming and running all over."

A spokesperson for the London Ambulance Service confirmed to NPR that four people were injured across three separate incidents, and all were taken to the hospital for treatment.

The first, at 8:25 a.m. local time, involved a person being "thrown from a horse" on Buckingham Palace Road. Two minutes later, responders were alerted to reports of "an incident with a horse on Belgrave Square" involving two victims. And they got a third call at 8:35 a.m. about another incident with a horse, this time at the junction of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street — over 2 miles east of Belgrave Square.

The London Fire Brigade said in a statement that its crews helped respond after a person fell from a horse in Belgrave Square. They also responded to the scene of two collisions, "including one near Victoria Railway Station where a horse was involved in a collision with a taxi."

Shortly before 10 a.m. local time, City of London police tweeted that officers had contained two horses on the highway near Limehouse — which is in London's East End, about 6 miles away from Buckingham Palace — and were waiting for the Army to transport them for veterinary care.

About half an hour later, Westminster police said the rest of the horses had been accounted for — concluding a frenzied search but leaving many unanswered questions.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
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