One of Britain’s most enduring eventing enthusiasts celebrated her 100th birthday this week — while still an active supporter of the sport.
Lady Kingsley, who describes herself as “almost an original eventer”, initially competed before becoming involved as an owner and breeder.
Her best mare Aeolia, completed Badminton in 1974 and 1976, ridden by her son Hugh Kinglsey, going on to produce a line of eventers who still compete.
The last of Aeolia’s great-grandchildren, Tommy Tittle Mouse, currently competes at three-star level with Jo Rimmer, and Lady Kingsley regularly travels to watch him.
“She is a wonderful owner and we all adore her and respect her enormously,” said Jo. “She has many wise things to say about the sport, and when she speaks she is always worth listening to.
“She has also been a great supporter — when I was competing abroad, my 17-year-old daughter Jess had three horses at Nunney and she went to support her while I wasn’t there.”
This season, Lady Kingsley travelled to watch Tommy compete at numerous venues including Houghton and the three-star at Bicton, where he finished sixth out of more than 70 starters.
“The events have been excellent in helping her get close to the action for all of our cross-country round,” Jo said. “Richard Mitford-Slade at Pontispool and Michael Munden Bricky have both organised buggies in the past so she could follow Tommy around the cross-country. She announced that it was so she could scoop me up if I fell off!”
Tommy, the last of his line after the loss of his 24-year-old dam this spring, is an old-fashioned event type who Jo said would have excelled in old long-format competition.
“He will gallop and jump til he drops, he’s brave, fearless and fast. I have never known a horse recover so quickly after a three-day or have so much petrol in the tank,” she added.
Lady Kingsley, who said she preferred the “proper three-day event”, when it was long-format, said she had witnessed many changes to the sport over the years.
“It was very, very different to what it is now,” she said. “You had a velvet hat and an old jersey and if you fell off someone just put you back on and handed you your hat back.”
She added that one of her most memorable moments was seeing Hugh and Aeolia at the start of Badminton cross-country — although she couldn’t always bring herself to watch their round.
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‘I’ve always thought, ‘I couldn’t do that in a million years’ – and I still actually think that!’
“He had just gone out to the start when an enormous dray pulled by horses came past — the mare took one look and shot off in the opposite direction but the kind starter let him start again,” she recalled.
Lady Kingsley still looks after Tommy during his holidays and plans to continue following the 10-year-old’s career next year.
“I travel quite a long way to watch Jo, I have a long-suffering son [Ian] who has a half-share in the horse and we watch them most places. It keeps me alive!” she added.
Lady Kingsley celebrated her birthday on Thursday (14 November) with a family lunch, also receiving her telegram from The Queen.
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