Talking to Mary King

  • How did you get the ride on Star Appeal?

    “In 1990, Mr and Mrs Pinder wanted to buy a young horse for me. We went to the same dealing yard near Newbury where King William came from and fell for Star Appeal (Apple).”

    What was your first impression of him?

    “Although Apple didn’t strike me as particularly attractive, he had a bold, purposeful outlook and a carefree attitude which I liked. He looked “all horse” and I could imagine him galloping around Badminton Horse Trials.”

    Tell us about his character.

    “We affectionately call him “Policeman Plod” as he’s unflappable, especially on hacks. He never spooks and always walks in a straight line with his ears forward.

    “Despite his strength, he is a sensitive horse underneath, especially when working at home or competing, and he’s friendly in the stable.”

    What’s his breeding?

    “Apple’s a 16.3hh bay gelding, by an Irish Thoroughbred stallion calledI’m a Star, out of a _ Thoroughbred X ¬ Irish Draught mare. So he’s 7/8 Thoroughbred and 1/8 Irish Draught.”

    Any likes or dislikes?

    “Apart from food, Apple likes attention. He’ll stand happily while his mane is plaited or his tail washed.

    “His main dislike is having his tummy groomed or girth done up as he’s quite ticklish.”

    How does he compare with your former top horse, King William?

    “Apple has won more at the age of 12 than William had, but he doesn’t have as much team experience.

    He finds show jumping easier than dear William, although he’s just as bold – but stronger – across country. However, Apple’s not as talented at dressage as William.”

    What makes him a good horse?

    “Apple is consistent in all phases. His dressage is reasonable, his cross-country bold and his show jumping not bad.”

    Any weaknesses?

    “Apple’s working trot is OK, but his extended is disappointing. More work on his lengthening of stride is needed.”

    What’s his exercise regime like at home?

    “Where we live in Devon, there are a lot of good hills, which are ideal for fittening work. Depending on competitions, Apple does fast work every third day, and schooling or hacking on the days in between. I jump him once or twice a week.”

    What are his dietary requirements?

    “At the beginning of the year, Apple is given Spillers’ Horse and Pony Nuts and Coolmix. Then, once he’s competing, he gets Spillers HDF Sports Cubes and HDF Sports Mix, with some Spillers Showing Chaff mixed in. He has extra salt in his breakfast and dinner and a cup of corn oil, for non-heating energy, when he’s at peak fitness.”

    What tack does he wear?

    “At home Apple wears either an eggbutt or a McGenis snaffle. The latter has rollers on the mouthpiece and is a little more severe, making him easier to control when he’s strong.

    “At competitions he wears the McGenis for show jumping, an eggbutt for dressage and a Dutch three-ring gag, with the rein on the middle ring, for cross-country. Ian Stark introduced me to this bit, which has proved ideal for Apple as he can be strong butalso has a sensitive mouth. The gag has a Waterford mouth-piece which suits him because he goes better in bits that don’t have a nutcracker action.

    “Finally, he wears a combination noseband, which fits slightly lower on the nose.”

    Having your daughter Emily doesn’t seem to have disrupted your career. Has it been easy to juggle your child and horses?

    “Emily hasn’t been a disruption at all – the only difference is that I have to get up a bit earlier before seeing to the horses. She’s good company and is relaxed about being woken up at ridiculous times to go to a competition.

    “I’m lucky as my mother takes good care of her when I compete.”

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