Mary King has retired her former four-star winner Kings Temptress.

The 15-year-old Primitive Rising mare known as “Tess” did her dressage at Badminton this year, scoring 47.1, but when Mary took her out for some exercise on Saturday morning (9 May), she got a “real shock”.

“I trotted on and thought, ‘She doesn’t feel sound’,” Mary told H&H. “We lunged her and she was very lame on the left hind. I gave her a little walk around the park, but it didn’t wear off.

“We found she had some arthritic changes, which were obviously something that’s been brewing. It does make you wonder if there was a little bit of something going on for a while as she has had the odd run-out to the right through her career.”

Kings Temptress has amassed 1,099 British Eventing points since she started competing in 2005. She completed five four-stars in her career, taking fourth on her debut at the level in Luhmühlen (2009) and finishing seventh (2010) and third (2011) at Burghley. But her career high came at Kentucky in 2011, which she won.

Mary said: “She was the third horse I bred out of Kings Mistress and when I started jumping Kings Gem and Kings Fancy they were really neat and organised from the start. When I started jumping Tess, she really couldn’t do it and I thought, ‘What have I bred?’”

“But when she got to intermediate level she started to learn to get high enough and she went on to become really confident. It’s amazing she did what she did. Her two older sisters both reached four-star, but she’s the one who won one.”

When Tess was seven Mary wanted to keep the ride but needed to sell her to fund the building of her new house. Derek Baden, who had supported Mary for a number of years, bought the horse and a syndicate of six people called The Mares Team came on board to help with her running costs.

“Derek has now kindly given her back to me to use for breeding as I wish, which is very generous of him,” said Mary.

Tess had a foal by Mednight Mahout when she was four, who was bred with the intention of being a suitable teenager’s horse for Emily. Initially called King Casper, he was later renamed Everys King and competed with Mary and then Emily until she went on to bigger things, when he was sold on.

While competing, Tess has had five embryo transfer offspring, who are all still with Mary — two five-year-olds and a yearling by Chilli Morning, a four-year-old by Grafenstolz and a foal born this year by Future Gravitas.

Tess will hopefully have her own foal next year — she is being scanned tomorrow (Tuesday 16 June) and will undergo artificial insemination on Wednesday. Mary is still confirming her choice of stallion, but it is likely to be one of the Billy stallions.

“She has a lovely, calm, contented temperament and I was always having to put her on a diet, so now she’s loving eating as much as she wants!” said Mary.