Work Experience With Olympic Champion

Work Experience with Olympic Medal Winner and World Champion, Mary King

During February half term I completed work experience at Mary and Emily King’s yard in Devon, England.  Mary is one of Britain’s most prolific equestrians, winning 2 world championships, Team Olympic bronze in Hong Kong, Team Olympic silver in Athens and Team Olympic silver at London 2012.  Mary has also won many more medals throughout her career.  Her daughter, Emily, is following closely in her footsteps.  At 18, Emily has competed and won medals at the European Championships and other competitions.

The opportunity came about when I met Mary at Tattersalls International Horse Trials in July 2013 and on 14 February this year I set off to Devon to join Mary at her yard.  I was very nervous and excited to meet Mary as she has been my idol ever since I started riding and eventing.  On 15 February I began my first day working for Mary.  I was picked up by Mary herself and introduced to Emma and Lauren, Mary’s full-time grooms.  I also met Emily who was just finishing giving the horses their morning feeds.  On my first day we travelled in their fabulous lorry to Birmingham where Ferdi Eilberg is based.  Ferdi is Mary and Emily’s dressage coach and a well-known rider and his son, Michael, was nominated to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games.  This was a very exciting day and one which I will never forget.  However, it was a long day, as we left the yard at 7.30am and didn’t get back until 11.00pm.  I was also very lucky to make this trip again later on in the week with more of Mary and Emily’s horses.  The journey is very long but, whilst in the lorry, we could all watch television or sleep and we could make our dinner whilst on the move!  Throughout my stay we were often out in the lorry competing at local show-jumping events or going to lessons.

Throughout the rest of the week a normal day at the yard started at 7.30am where Emma, Lauren and I would muck out the stables.  At 9.00am Mary and Emily would begin riding the horses, doing either schooling, hacking or fitness work.  Around 1.00pm we would stop for lunch where we would be accompanied by the cat, ‘Barney’ the dog and ‘Henny’ the chicken!  After lunch the horses would be turned out in the field or the horse walker and would be groomed and mucked out again.  We would also do odd jobs such as yard sweeping, tack cleaning, lorry washing or preparing for a show the next day.  At 5.00pm all the horses were fed and we could finish.

Each day was completely different but we were always kept busy!  At one competition we had seven horses to get ready, so you can imagine the stress!  Even on our lunch breaks we could be running about, as there are lots of Mary’s sponsors and owners coming and going!  I was very fortunate to do some fitness work on two of Emily’s horses, Miss Indigo (Indie) and Walitze Vejgard (Zara).  Fitness work means galloping the horses up a large hill, which prepares them for their event season.

I loved every minute of my stay and was really sad to leave.  I got to meet Imperial Cavalier (Archie), who is Mary’s Olympic horse and I really enjoyed hearing about their journey and the last days leading up to the London Olympics.  My last day was 23 February and I couldn’t believe how quickly it all passed.  I have made friends with Emily, Lauren and Emma and we hope to keep in touch.  In May we plan to all meet up when they come over to Ireland to compete.  It was great to see how much hard work and training Mary and Emily put in and how much dedication Emma and Lauren have as they work so hard throughout the year.

I can’t wait to go back to Devon again as I’m delighted that they invited me back whenever I am free.  I am so grateful to Mary, Emily and the girls for welcoming into their yard, it was an experience I will never forget and I have learnt so much from it.

Leah Jackson 12C