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Tribesports Olympic Mum: Mary King

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Posted by Rose K under Equestrian Vaulting on 7 March 2012 at 1:00 AM

It is a pleasure to have been able to talk to Mary King as our Tribesports Olympic Mum! Now not only does she run her own stables, have 2 children and a farming husband but she's also in training for what will be her sixth Olympics!

Can you outline for us what it means to you to have represented your country in sport at such a high level over such a long period?

It’s been a real honour to have been representing GB already at 5 Olympics and possibly feels I’m that being a bit greedy! It must be every sports person’s dream to go to one Olympics and here I am striving for my sixth!

There was talk that you were hoping for Brazil as well so your son could go and watch football? I say do as many as you can!

Fortunately I’m doing a sport you can do until you’re quite old - as long as you keep your nerve - you improve the older you get because it’s very much a sport of experience and that’s why us oldies keep doing quite well!

I don’t like the way you’re calling yourself an oldie, you’re not old! Now my next question is regarding breeding your own horses – do you feel this gives you an advantage when eventing?

Well no, I don’t think it’s an advantage but I have been very fortunate that I have bred some horses that have been very successful. One of my potential Olympic horses is one that I have bred which is very satisfying. I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage I’ve been quite lucky how they’ve turned out.


Growing up in a ‘non-horsey’ family I feel that you would have to work WAY harder to get what you want as it wasn’t just put on your plate – with your daughter Emily doing so well as well, do you think her motivation is different to yours as she’s had horses there since she was born?

Yes it’s obviously so different for her than it was for me, but she’s always done the horses herself and always from quite little she wanted to do all her own plaiting herself and her own studs and she’s quite an independent character – quite bossy! So I suppose she has that sort of drive, whereas it is all very much there for her with the stables, arena and horsebox available.

She’s done so well, takes some serious drive to get there! We were also wondering whether the tensions are high if both you and Emily are competing at the same event?

Oh no, not really! We’re both pretty relaxed – I mean you have to be to be an event rider, with the huge ups and downs you’ve got to be a pretty-level headed sort of character because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to cope! I really enjoy it when we’re at an event together; although we’re doing our own thing we are there to support each other.

Are there sly words across the collecting ring, I mean my mum used to be like ‘do this, do that’ and I’d always shout ‘I know what I’m doing leave me alone!’

No I’ve learnt to keep my mouth shut and only if she asks do I offer advice but just try to keep quiet otherwise. She needs to learn from her mistakes, though it’s so tempting as a mother when you see that your child is doing something so obviously wrong to interfer! I sometimes find myself going to tell her but then I think ‘no shut up Mary, she’ll work it out’ and it usually turns out fine!

Whereas growing up in a non-horsey family, you must have made a lot of mistakes on your way up which is how you learnt so much.

Well precisely – I didn’t have anyone there, I didn’t have a horsey-mum so I just learnt by my mistakes and I think that it’s good for Emily to be similar.

And how do you balance home, sport, family and friends and day-to-day life because it’s only just recently that your stables have moved to your home isn’t it?

Well more home has moved to the stables, we built a house at the stable yard so we live there now rather than back at the farm – our farm and my stables are half an hour apart, we used to live at the farm and I would drive to the stables every day; whereas now we’ve built a really nice house at the yard and my husband’s having to do the driving – well I did it for 20 years! He found it hard to start with but he’s fine about it now.

I just have to be very organised, I’ve got a fantastic mum – not that she’s horsey at all – but brilliant with my children when they were growing up, always there to help and David my husband has always been very supportive and comes to the major events though he is very busy with his farming work.

Have you ever had to struggle to get your kids off the sofa or have they always been pretty active?

Haha, no they’re both pretty active, both very sporty – yeah they both love Facebook and that sort of thing in the evenings, so sometimes I tell them not to be on it so much. Freddie’s very sporty – not horsey – and has always been very active. They’re not kids to get stuck lying about on sofas too much!

And will they all be there at the Olympics?

Oh yes the whole family will be coming along to support me!

How exciting is it that the Games are in London this year?

Oh it’s fantastic! Because I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Olympics all around the world, to now have them on home ground is going to be quite strange, only driving an hour in the lorry and you’re there – especially compared to flying to Sydney!

Does it mean that you’ll be able to do more competing this summer? With previous Olympic Games were you out for a lot longer and going away with only one horse too?

Yes, but actually you only really fly in a couple of days before and you’re out as soon as you finish your bit so it won’t be that different. We are not allowed to compete after a certain date leading up to the Olympics.

So you don’t fall off and hurt yourself?

Yes exactly, when you get so close to a major competition it’s silly to be riding novice horses at minor competitions and having a silly fall. So there is a cut -off date for competing.

If you get the chance which other Olympic sport would you like to see?

Well like everybody I suppose – the 100m finals would be awesome!

As far as injuries - what happens to the horses when you can’t ride them?

Well I haven’t really missed too much through injury – although I’ve had a couple of bad breaks I timed them quite well. Ages ago I did strain my knee ligaments which took me out for a couple of months, so the horses just ticked over until I was better. I’ve been quite lucky, I mean when I broke my neck – which always sounds so disastrous – from being bucked off a young horse at home, it was when all the foot and mouth disease was about so there were no horse trials on anyway, so it was fine – good time to do it!

Obviously keeping horses is very expensive, were there ever times when the costs were outweighing the benefits? When you just thought ‘oh my god what am I doing!’?

There were times like that when I was trying to make a go of things but always my determination over ruled. But during those times I just worked harder and did butcher’s delivery rounds and all sorts of odd-jobs to bring in extra money to make my business work. I was offered a decent price for Divers Rock when he got up to intermediate level and I was so torn about it! But in the end I said “no, I’d rather be famous than rich!” and he ended up being the first horse I got to Badminton with. 

I know this will be hard for you to answer, but have you got a favourite horse and which is the one that everyone remembers?

Well King William is the most memorable horse but I have to say that Boris, dear old King Boris was my all-time favourite because he was so lovely – he was so forgiving, I made such bad mistakes on him and he kept plugging on. And because he was a bit chunkier he found it harder, he wasn’t a thoroughbred event horse, he was more a ¾ bred and he had to really dig deep and he just did. He just kept digging deep! He was extraordinary and such a lovely friendly character at home so I think out of all the horses he was my favourite.

And one last question Tribesports want to know: if your horse does very well does it get any special treats?

Haha, oh just a big kiss and a cuddle!

You can read more about Mary in her autobiography as well as watch some of her best performances from Badminton and get some tips on how to improve your own cross country riding.

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