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Catching up with Mary after a busy few months!

Wow – we had some much to catch up on with Mary King this month! Hope you enjoy her detailed recap of Badminton and Kentucky, find out what she thinks of endurance riding and hear how she is  planning to spend a birthday milestone in the next few weeks!

First stop... Badminton
“We went to Badminton with Imperial Cavalier and Apache Sauce, both horses are naturally very lively and energetic so I prepared myself for a hard week,” Mary tells us. “Badminton is busy anyway, juggling my time between my horses and seeing sponsors and doing signings on their stands means it is fairly full on! Apache Sauce can be quite lively in the dressage but can do quite a good test, unfortunately he didn’t do such a good test at Badminton and because the standard was so high, his owner Gillian Jonas, and I, decided that it was best not to run him and re-route him to Luhmuhlen 4*. He was 6th last year there so hopefully we can be in the top ten again!”

“Imperial Cavalier is always bursting with enthusiasm and can do a very good dressage test as long as his exuberance doesn’t get the better of him (which happened at WEG last year)! I was chuffed to bits with his test and although it still wasn’t the very best he is capable of, it earned us a very respectable score of 46. The cross country didn’t have anything that really horrified me, some years I have walked the course and there have been certain fences that have really played on my mind but this year there wasn’t anything but the ground was quite hard and there were still some tricky fences, plus you had to go back on yourself three times around the course which I am never a fan. However Imperial Cavalier did great! We took one long route at the double of corners which cost me a small amount of time but I made up for it elsewhere on the course and only finished with just over 1 time penalty. I was so pleased with his show jumping on the Monday, it was the best round he has ever jumped. This time last year he was quite strong and a bit cocky in this phase so I have changed his bits and am now riding him in a Vulcanite Pelham which he is very comfortable in. It turned out that the show jumping was a very important phase this year as the there was just one fence between the top 12 riders so our clear round pulled us up to third place which we were all thrilled with!”

Jetting off to the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event...
“I had a very quick turnaround after Badminton,” Mary admits. “I drove the lorry home, managed to do one load of washing as I needed some presentable white breeches, had one hour of sleep before setting off at 2.30am to drive to William Fox-Pitt’s home in Dorset, where he had arranged for a friend to take us both to Heathrow. The horses had already been travelled out there and my groom, Emma Moore, was out there with them. We met up with the other riders, Oliver Townend and Mark Todd, along with Yogi Breisner, at the airport and embarked on our journey. I was very happy that our plane was only half full which meant I could have a whole row to myself and slept most of the way! In fact I only got to see one film on the plane which was quite disappointing as I enjoy that part of flying!”

“Kings Temptress and Fernhill Urco are very different to the two I took to Badminton and both are quite relaxed and quiet in terms of temperament, so I knew it was going to be a slightly easier week! I arrived Tuesday and the competition was due to start on Wednesday however on the morning before the trot up we had an announcement at the hotel to say that there was a tornado warning and we had to be evacuated to the ballroom below the hotel. At the same time the horses were being evacuated from the stables, across the horse park and in to a large indoor arena, it all happened very quickly and there wasn’t even enough time to put rugs or boots on – just headcollars and off they trotted through the horse park! All we could do is sit tight and peer out of the window at the wind and horizontal rain. Luckily the epicentre was a few miles away so we only got the tail end of it and despite the trot up being held off a few hours it was back to normal not too long after.”

“Both horses did really great dressage tests, Kings Temptress had a couple of little mistakes and Fernhill Urco surpassed all expectations! He has come on in leaps and bounds especially as I am now riding him in a double bridle, as recommended by my trainer Ferdi Eilberg. He is naturally a very forward going horse and strong in the rein so using the double helps control him so I can work on engagement of his hind legs. After the dressage we were 2nd and 4th which I was thrilled with.”

The cross country was a pretty tough course, it was very intense with a lot of questions and after the heavy rain we weren’t even sure if they could run on the ground, however the organisers worked very hard and the soil drained quickly which meant that apart from a couple of soft parts it rode extremely well. Kings Temptress is the more experienced so she went first. She was awesome and trucked along, finishing comfortably inside the time. Fernhill Urco was a different kettle of fish, it was his first 4* and I didn’t know how we could cope with the extra distance. He is slightly strangely bred for an event horse with some Portuguese blood, Holstein and a bit of thoroughbred in him, but he has a big heart and lots of will so I went out on the course fully prepared to pull up if he need be. I needn’t have worried as he kept to a steady pace and jumped well throughout the whole course. I was chuffed to bits with him and we ended up in the most amazing position over night of 1st and 2nd place! It was so exciting! I try not to do pressure so I thoroughly enjoyed the moment and thought whatever will be, will be in the show jumping.”

“Urco is naturally good at jumping and Kings Temptress hasn’t always been quite so good but this year she hasn’t touched a pole. Usually when you have two to jump close together they allow you to jump one out of order earlier on to give you the time to prepare in between, but they were televising just the last 6 horses so they wanted to film both rounds, which meant I had to jump Urco’s round and then quickly jump on to Kings Temptress and jump her round – it wasn’t ideal but it was fine! I was over the moon that they both jumped clear and Kings Temptress won, with Fernhill Urco coming second. To win on a homebred mare was so special and lovely for her owners, Derek Boyden and the ‘mares team’ who formed a syndicate. Urco’s owners, the Davies’ and Janette Chinn also had a fabulous time, especially as they also own Imperial Cavalier – so it was a good couple of weeks for them!"

Back to reality?
“I came straight home on the Monday and the horses arrived home on the following Thursday,” Mary tells us. “As I drove in to the yard at home I was greeted by bunting from all the villagers and the local Pony Club had come to welcome me back with party poppers and champagne! We had a lovely yard party which then turned in to an evening do at the local pub – we had a lovely evening!”

“Shortly after coming back it was time for Liz Brown – team vet – to come and check the horses. I have all of my horses legs scanned 2 weeks after a three day, as even if they feel good you never know what is going on inside. I am very pleased to say that all three were fine! Kings Temptress had a two week holiday, her leg scanned and then went straight to the Tremlow Stud to be covered by the stallion Grafenstolz for embryo transfer, hopefully that will be successful.”

A change of tack...
“After Kentucky I got back on with King Albert’s training as was aiming for Saumur,” Mary tells us. “He had a run at Hambleden as a final preparation where my daughter Emily also ran and came third in the Open Intermediate Under 21’s riding her Mr Hi Ho, who she is hoping will be her Junior team horse. The next big thing on my agenda was a bit different to what I am used to! I agreed to ride in the Golden Horseshoe ride across Exmoor for Endurance GB – and despite being slightly sceptical it was a great experience. I only did 40km but got to ride a very experienced Arab who really impressed me. They are so tough and very clever, he would really pick where the going was good and we did it at gold speed, which meant we set of at a good trot and did plenty of cantering with only a small amount of walk down the steep stony bits. The views were fantastic and it was a good clear day. I did it in just under 3 hours and have to say my calves were very tender for a few days afterwards! Everyone was very friendly and it was a great experience but it isn’t going to take the place of eventing for me!”

Mary_King_for_websiteNext stop Saumur...
“Straight after the Golden Horseshoe race I came home, grabbed a quick shower and it was straight in to the lorry with King Albert in the direction of Portsmouth to take the ferry to France for Saumur,” Mary states. “His owner, Patsy Mason, and her daughter Lucy came with me and we had a lovely sunny week in France. Albert scored a respectable 50 in the dressage, and went well cross country. He is a careful jumping horse and is not ready to be hurried so we took one long option and came home clear but with time penalties. He then show jumped well, just having the one down which was my fault, and finished 20th – which doesn’t sound great but I was very happy with him and he now has his first 3* under his belt.”

Looking forward to the big 50!
“Now we are gearing up for Luhmuhlen with Apache Sauce, however there is a small matter of my 50th in between times,” Mary admits to us. “Because we had originally not been planning to go to Luhmuhlen we booked to go to Croatia for a week on a boat with 6 friends! I will feel a bit guilty leaving just before a 4* but the girls at home, Jodie and Emma, are very capable of keeping him going!”

Keep an eye on the Nedz website to find out how Mary got on at Luhmuhlen and find out what her plans are for the rest of the season!