Mary King: There’s life in the old girl yet! *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s eventing columnist enjoys competing in the “new normal” – and scores a win

    I’ve now been to six events and it’s been a strange time: very enjoyable in many aspects, but always with the underlying worry that this cannot be sustainable long term. What has been great are the sensible practices – such as printing your own number sheets and paying start fees online (and getting them refunded if you don’t compete), all of which I hope will stay and reduce organisers’ workload and riders’ time at events in future.

    Being able just to turn up, compete and go home has been refreshing and relaxing. The warm-ups are quieter and, as Andrew Nicholson mentioned (column, 30 July issue), the lack of commentary was blissful – Tweseldown, the first competition I went to, was so peaceful. Of course, riders are rarely aware of commentary while on course, but the continual noise can be tiring in the lorry park. I always try to avoid parking next to a speaker.

    Owners have been forbearing about only one per horse being able to attend events (or two if from the same household); fortunately for me, I own most of my youngsters, but Bobby (King Robert) has a syndicate of eight. Some of them would love to come and watch, while others are happy just to support and keep in touch.

    The livestreaming is a brilliant idea and has kept everyone interested and in the loop. I’m looking forward to watching Burgham this weekend, where lots of top horses will be on view. I know Paul Tapner has been working on this livestream; best wishes to him for a speedy recovery after his horrible fall.

    Thanks to organisers

    Everyone is just happy and grateful that competitions are running, particularly when there is no income from spectators or tradestands and some must barely be breaking even. It’s especially good of the smaller, less commercial events to run and I hope the fact that they’ve caught the eye of more riders than usual will benefit them in the future.

    Launceston in Cornwall is relatively local for me. They had many more entries than usual, the ground was good and, as a result, organiser Andrew Reeves was enthused and is now hosting a second running. Moreton, another local one, was a lovely outing; I went quite steadily on the firmish ground, but they’d done a great job.

    At Dauntsey, Beanie Sturgis produced her usual decent, beefy, natural cross-country course over farmland, jumping from field to field. You can tell she’s a hunting person: there were hedges and ditches and it was educational.

    Bicton, where Helen West and her team did their usual brilliant job, got through a huge number of competitors – and I won the open intermediate on Bobby. There’s life in the old girl yet!

    Aston-le-Walls ran well over 1,500 horses over six days – it was a huge feat, and not helped by diverse weather conditions. Scorching heat on the earlier days and electrical storms on other days – but the show went on, with horses and riders happy to be out.

    On top with the tech

    I have the impression that most riders have quite enjoyed lockdown and having the time to spend with their young horses. Since the easing of lockdown, those of us who are more established have also had the advantage of being able to earn money from teaching.

    I’ve been teaching near Durham and combined it with finally being able to catch up with my daughter Emily, who has been under much stricter restrictions in Wales. I accompanied her to Cholmondeley where she had an intermediate win with a promising new French-bred horse, Valmy Biats.

    I’ve also had to get to grips with the new technology. I recorded a voiceover for a new Australian PlayStation game. They ordered a microphone for me on eBay, set me up via Zoom and, hey presto! So much easier than going into a studio. It’s definitely the way forward.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 August 2020