Mary King's blog: Looking at the bigger picture


As we chat to Mary this month she is sitting in the sun watching Emily train with Kyra Kyrkland in West Sussex. Not quite the usual Burghley preparation Mary is used to but she is making the most of her quieter time.

“Emily had training with Kyra over the winter so wanted to have more training with her before the Junior European Championships. After this she will be going to Vale View for official team training. I am really enjoying being a groom and watching!”

“At the beginning of August we went to Gatcombe for the Festival of British Eventing with four horses on the lorry – two a piece for me and Emily. MHS King Joules (Jay) and Cavalier Venture (Chubby) for me and Emily had Brookleigh for the Advanced and Mr Hi Ho simply to exercise before his final trial the week after.”

“I was really chuffed with my two, it was a step up for both of them. Jay did a really good test of 26 and was right up there. Chubby did a 31 which was also pretty competitive especially as it was the first time he had done a more advanced test. Chubby went clear in the show jumping and Jay just had one pole down. The Gatcombe arena is always very well dressed and the marquees and spectators are very close so I was pleased with the way they both jumped.”

“Chubby then trucked along the cross-country and gave me a really good ride, he really pulled out all the stops. Jay got a little bit strong and buzzy about one third of the way round the course and I thought ‘Mary, don’t be tempted to go too fast’ so jumped the next few fences slightly slower to get him more relaxed before allowing him to jump the rest of the course. Sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and try not to be competitive even though it is tempting! Despite not getting any prizes I was really pleased with both of their performances. Emily did a very competitive dressage with Brookleigh, a clear show jumping and decided to go for it in the cross country resulting in a third place behind William Fox-Pitt and Oliver Townend. She had to do her first ever press conference and received her prize from HRH Princess Anne. I was thrilled to bits for her!”

“It was then a very quick turnaround as we headed home from Gatcombe on the Sunday evening, and we had to be back at Windsor for Smithslawn by 8am the next morning! Emily rode Walitze F Vejgard– aka Zara who had her third win in a row, I had Lottie – Kings Choice - who is a 5 year old and Emily had her 5-year-old Peter. Both jumped lovely double clears in their second ever novices. Lottie was a bit keen in the dressage - in fact I couldn’t actually stop her at the end of the test! You had to canter down the centerline and then trot before halting, just before we got to the judge I had managed to get her trotting but as I got closer to the car I had to circle to halt! That is the first time that has ever happened! Both the judge and I laughed! I had a really superb cross country round on her I can feel that she is a very class horse.”

“We then had the excitement of Emily’s final trial at Aston for the Junior European Team selection. She took four horses up there and I went as groom! Brookleigh didn’t need to run because the selectors were happy with his performance at Gatcombe so she took Miss Indigo, Charlemagne, Mr Hi Ho and Redpath Eucanfly. Mr Hi Ho did a beautiful double clear and finished 2nd. Charlemagne did a good dressage and went double clear. Miss Indigo had 20 penalties at an arrowhead but otherwise was great and unfortunately Redpath Eucanfly didn’t feel like she was enjoying it anymore, so Emily decided to pull her up cross country. It has now been decided with her owner Bridget Burbridge that she will go back and do riding club activities and have some fun instead of eventing. We then had to stable overnight locally and be up the next morning to trot the horses up before the team was selected. Emily is in a very nice position to have been selected on three horses, Mr Hi Ho – who is her first choice, Brookleigh and also Charlemage.”

“Next up it was West Wilts with the 5 year olds. Lottie quite cleverly – as 5 year olds do –cut her leg while in the field and had to have some staples the day before so we didn’t run her. Emily had Zara in the novice and had her 4th win in a row which means she is technically upgraded to Intermediate.”

“In the mean time I had been facing a little uncertainty as the Davies had decided to sell MHS King Joules (Jay), however they did offer me first refusal. I am very fortunate that Gabriella Atkinson from Bedgebury Park in Kent and Tom Joules have kindly bought him – it was a huge relief!”

“I then went off to Bicton Horse Trials where I rode Chubby in the intermediate who went very nicely and came 4th which means he is now upgraded to Advanced level. Then, rather embarrassingly, Jay’s new owners came to watch him for the first time and having done a lovely test and show jumping I had a bit of a steering issue at an arrowhead! It was the first cross country mistake Jay has ever made but the only heartening thing was that a lot of other good horses did the same so it did make me wonder whether the horses could see something that we couldn’t! Lottie did just the dressage and show jumping and despite being in the lead I decided not to run her cross-country because of the cut she had sustained before West Wilts. It is hard when the temptation of winning is there but you do have to look at the bigger picture! Zara and Emily had their fifth win in a row and also a second with Brookleigh.”

“It was then off to Sapey with Zara – who came third in the Open Novice – and Lottie and Peter did their last events of the season. Lottie did a lovely 26 dressage and double clear to come 2nd in the Novice which I was thrilled with. She now feels settled at this level and she will come out next season to be competitive at Novice as a 6 year old.”

“Chubby and Jay then went to Wellington and Chubby was double clear in the open intermediate and went well. Jay redeemed himself after Bicton by doing a beautiful test and lovely double clear! They are all now having a bit of a break until mid September when they are next out.”

“It was peculiar watching the Europeans on TV and a hard lump to swallow knowing the team was training without me beforehand. I enjoy training and watching the others ride so much and get so much out of it. I watched the coverage whenever I could and it was a bit of a disappointing time for the Brits. If there was one year I had to miss it perhaps this was the right one. I really felt for them, as I know how it would have felt to be out there and be disappointed. I am going to Burghley at the weekend to see sponsors but then we are focusing on going out to France for the Junior Europeans in Jardy, France. It is really exciting!”