Christiansborg Palace is located in the very heart of Copenhagen. Boasting more than 800 years of history, it holds the Danish Parliament and the Supreme Court as well as the stunning Riding Ground Complex. It’s here at the Royal Stables that you’ll find farrier extraordinaire Jakob Algot hard at work.
Text MARIA GRAAE Photography KAMILLA BRYNDUM / The Horse Rider’s Journal No.5
Christiansborg Palace is located just a few minutes walk down cobblestoned streets from the office of The Horse Rider’s Journal in central Copenhagen. However, once you’ve stepped across the canal via the elegant marble-paved bridge and onto the little island Slotsholmen, it’s easy to believe that you’ve entered another century alltogether.
Dating back to 1740, the Riding Ground is the first sight that greets you. The large arena is beautifully framed by old trees, with a fountain in the centre and the former royal palace in the background. Marking out the perimeter of the Ground are two curved wings of a rococo building: The home of the royal horses, equipped with stunning stables and a high-ceilinged indoor arena.
The Royal Stables still serve as the home of the monarch’s equine treasures. They are open to the public and include a museum displaying fabulous carriages and antique saddlery, and the 15 royal horses themselves, most of them elegant white Kladrupers.
Despite the presence of the museum, this is still very much a working stable. The stable master and his staff take meticulous care of the horses and their high-level training requirements on a daily basis.
In addition to the general staff, farrier Jakob Algot and his two apprentices visit the stables every fortnight or so. By trimming and shoeing each horse every six weeks, he makes sure the royal hoofs are in tip-top condition at all times.
40-year-old Jakob has been coming to the Royal Stables half his life now, since he himself was an apprentice. He knows his way around the historic buildings; he knows every hoof of each horse, and every detail of their personalities.
As a young boy he never had any doubt that he wanted to devote his life to horses, and now, still a passionate horseman, he takes great pride and joy in his work. “The Royal Stables are a very professional environment to work in,” he says, “in the very best meaning of the word ‘professional’. The horses are well handled and well taken care of, and we maintain a good dialogue if changes need to be made. A little extra effort spent on hoof care means you have a well functioning horse who will remain healthy and able to work for many years to come.”
Horse-drawn coaches have been an important means of transportation at the Royal Danish Court for centuries. When they were built in the 1740s, these beautiful stables were the home of a total of 87 hunting horses and 165 carriage horses. Only a few years ago they underwent a thorough renovation and are now in pristine condition complete with marble decorations, while meeting the requirements of modern-day animal welfare laws.
Cheered on by eager crowds, both carriages and the white Kladrupers are often on the streets escorting Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II to major events such as royal weddings and state visits. Every January at the traditional New Year’s Day celebrations, the Royal Couple takes to the road in the eye-catching Gold Coach. Built in 1840, with its gilded crowns and 24-karat gold-leaf covering its surface, it fully lives up to its name.
It’s a special job being a royal carriage horse, and the carriages are driven through the streets of Copenhagen every day to train the horses to deal with city traffic. This often means working on potentially slippery asphalt and cobblestone surfaces – a factor Jakob takes into account when he is shoeing. “Unlike a riding horse,” he explains, “a carriage horse carries more weight on the hind legs while working. The outside of the hind shoes gets more wear and tear, and a carriage horse needs a really solid shoe with crampons in order to maintain footing.”
The Kladruber is a baroque horse breed, over 450 years old, and the Royal Stables currently have 11 geldings and stallions. Jakob describes the Kladruber as “a noble and majestic breed to work with; they are friendly but still energetic and alert”. It was in 1994 that Kladrubers first came into service at the Royal Court when a team of six young horses was acquired. The breed originates from the National Stud in the Bohemian town of Kladruby nad Labem, east of Prague in the Czech Republic. Kladrubers are dappled when young but turn white as they grow older, characterised by a convex Roman facial profile, a relatively long back and an upright shoulder with a high-stepping Spanish-style leg action – which is what makes them such particularly elegant carriage horses.
Jakob inherited his fascination for horses and baroque breeds in particular: He comes from an equestrian family, and at home on his farm he still has a couple of baroque Frederiksborg horses descended from his grandfather’s stable. “He never quite got around to getting a tractor,” Jakob laughs. “So during the 1980’s I walked many, many kilometres through the fields, following a pair of horses, ploughing the old-fashioned way.”
Historically, there wasn’t a farrier’s forge at the Royal Stables, so a special workshop has been built for Jakob and his crew, designed to meet modern demands – in particular fireproofing safety standards, an absolute must when working with red-hot sparking iron and a furnace that burns at a 1,000˚C. The sound of hammering and the distinctive smell of burning metal emanating from the stables often attract the attention of passers-by. “Horsemanship and understanding of the horses’ nature is essential when working in a place like this,” he explains, “and knowing and understanding the horses is truly important – especially when you’re working in such a
Jakob has many other prestigious clients, including Carlsberg and the Danish mounted police: “I’m quite the inner-city farrier,” he laughs. It’s no wonder his expertise is in such demand; he takes great pride in his work and is a craftsman at the top of his game. He has attended the Black-smiths’ World Championships in Canada twice and participated in numerous Danish and European championships.
“I will only take on apprentices who have a genuine passion for horses,” Jakob explains. “A good farrier has to know so much more than just the skill of shoeing: it’s about making the team work efficiently, about continuing to evolve, staying up to date with research. And most of all it’s about horse welfare and handling the horses themselves.”•
For more information on the Royal Stables, visit ses.dk