Sunday, 22nd September 2013, 10:00am on a horse near you!
Following the 10.00am Sunday morning service on 22nd September, the vicar of St John’s Church appears before his congregation on a horse in the well established St John's tradition known as Horseman's Sunday. In 2007 Horseman's Sunday celebrated its 40th year. In 2013 the 46th Horseman's Sunday will be on September 22nd.
Following this long tradition, the Reverend Stephen Mason leads a cavalcade of horses and riders to the church in order to celebrate horse riding in the heart of London.
The blessing of the horses follows the main Sunday service, which starts at 10am. Most visitors come to the morning service after which everyone files out into the open space in front of the church. At noon the horses begin to arrive in procession, lining up along the forecourt and on Hyde Park Crescent. As well as horses of all shapes and sizes--including Shetland ponies!--there are also horse drawn carriages and buggies. There is plenty of entertainment for children, including games and activities, with music, raffles and tombolas for the adults. The local shops and businesses around Connaught St join in, providing generous hospitality and raffle prizes.
The horses gather on the forecourt of the church for a blessing, followed by a ride-past and a presentation of rosettes. Alongside the crowds, live music, children’s activities, and carriage rides all add to the festival atmosphere. The annual Horseman’s Sunday celebrations began nearly 50 years ago to highlight the need to maintain stables along the north of Hyde Park; at that time the stables were threatened with closure.
What began as a public and political action has become a unique local institution attracting local residents, tourists and horse lovers. As the Revd Mason says, “This occasion is one of the most colourful events in the Hyde Park calendar. After all, how often do you get to see a cloaked member of the clergy on horseback these days?”