MHS King Joules, the horse that Mary King was riding at Bramham last year when she received a two-month ban for dangerous riding, looked to be a reformed character at the International Eventing Forum held at Hartpury College on Monday (2 February).
The 10-year-old gelding, who joined Andrew Nicholson’s yard shortly after Bramham, was one of the horses the New Zealander partnered during a showjumping workshop.
Mary was negotiating a rail-ditch-rail combination at Bramham when the horse hit the first element. Its frangible pin broke, which enabled the horse to stay upright and prevented a bad fall.
At the time Mary described the horse as “disappointingly strong and unruly across country”.
Due to it being Mary’s second yellow card within 12 months — the first was handed to her at Le Lion d’Angers in October 2013 — she received a two-month ban.
Andrew competed MHS King Joules four times last season, culminating in 19th place in Blenheim’s eight/nine-year-old CIC3* in September with a clear cross-country round.
On Monday, however, Andrew admitted that he hasn’t found the horse easy, due to MHS King Joules’s tendency to shake his head and drop the bit in front of a fence.
“You need to have a feeling with the mouth and he drops the bit, is very strong, and brings his neck in short,” said Andrew. “In the autumn, at turning combinations he would shake his head and drop the bit, and lose his back end.
“When he’s doing that he can’t see the fence. He’s got so much talent, but unless he’s rideable it’s a struggle.”
Andrew also said MHS King Joules is fast, and the further around a course he gets, the keener he becomes.
“He goes from nought to 60 in a couple of strides, and he’s got such a range of stride that having a fence to jump doesn’t help. The other problem is he’s very spooky.
“I want him to jump, land quietly and let me steer him to the next fence.”
During the International Eventing Forum Andrew explained how a circle exercise (details below) has been crucial to MHS King Joules’s training.
Are you keen to get your horse to think for himself and jump more efficiently? This exercise from Andrew Nicholson
“The first time he did it, it was a disaster,” admitted Andrew. “He couldn’t pop a little pole and keep the canter and rhythm. Instead he would speed up, drop the bit and trip over the next fence. It took half a dozen times for him to realise what he had to do.”
Andrew said that he has had to adapt his riding style to suit MHS King Joules.
“I know now that after 5mins on a course I have to sit against him — not pull on the reins and cause him to shake his head — because he’s getting too brave and keen.
“But he has to know that whoa means whoa, otherwise he might get away with it at one fence, but by the time we get to the next we’re in trouble.”
- Next year’s International Eventing Forum will take place at Hartpury College on 1 February 2016