Rider and Horse Fitness Tips by Emily King

Published : 25/03/2024 07:59:28
Categories : Latest News

Rider and Horse Fitness Tips by Emily King

Decorated British Event Rider, Emily King, has long been a sponsored rider of Hiho Silver. As U25 National Champion, Youth European Gold & Silver Medallist and both a CCI4* and CCI5* rider, Emily follows in Mary King, her British Olympic Gold Medallist mother’s strides, though is both ambitiously and successfully riding her own way, doing so with her own string of talented horses based in the picturesque North Wales.

We caught up with Emily ahead of the upcoming 2024 Eventing season and asked her to share with us some of her rider and horse fitness tips for the start of the season, which we could pass on to you.

Emily, can you give us a rundown of how last season went and what are your aims for 2024?
So, 2023 was probably my best year yet to be honest. I won my first senior CCI4* on my top horse Valmy Biats, so that was a real milestone achievement. He also took me to my first Burghley  Horse Trials in the Autumn which was amazing. We had some super 4* results, he won at Thoresby Park in Spring, he was 3rd at Burgham in Autumn and then we completed our first Burghley together. We actually had a little blip, so it wasn’t the perfect run as such but we did finish it!

Then we have Jackpot, who is my second horse in line to Valmy and was new to me in November 2022. Last year (2023) was my first season on him, getting to know him and he also had some amazing results. When he ran competitively, he wasn’t out of the top 3 all year which was pretty impressive. He had 3 International wins, I think I’m right in saying. He won the CCI3* Long at Millstreet and Osberton, and I’m pretty sure he won a CCI3* short somewhere as well. He was a super horse to get to know last year and stepped up to CCI4* in the Autumn and cruised around with little pressure put on. 

Those two this year are my two top horses for the upcoming season. Valmy will be aiming for Badminton Horse Trials in Spring (May) and we would love to try and have a really good result there. Then maybe Burghley in Autumn with him if all is good and then again just trying to get a really good, proper result there.

Jackpot will be stepping up more consistently to CCI4* next year, so we’ll get the wheels rolling. The Spring aim will hopefully be Bramham and then maybe Blenheim in the Autumn for him. So he’ll be starting to step up to that next level without big pressure runs but to dip his toe in the water so that he gets used to that level and then once he’s ready I’ll try and be competitive on him. Valmy’s done all that, so now he just means business!
When you have runs that aren’t what you hoped for, how do you deal with that?
The welfare of the horses always comes first. I always try and really step back for a minute and try to look at the bigger picture and to look at things in perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment. I think we really have to step back every now and then and realise how lucky we are to be doing what we are doing, and that we’re both safe and sound and we live to fight another day.

Even when things really haven’t gone to plan, maybe you’ve had a big fall or the horse has injured itself, there are still quite often things you can take away that have been better than the last time out. I try and non-emotionally analyse the situation, which is the hardest thing to do when we put our heart and soul into it but I try and figure out what went wrong and what we can do to try and avoid it next time and then pick out the positive things that have come from that run. 

Much easier said than done but it’s something I always try and do. It’s having that conscious reminder to pull yourself back and not let yourself be consumed by it. You’re allowed to feel it and not feel on top of the world, but then it’s also pulling yourself back and realising that feeling like that is no good for you or the horse so, how can you make things better going forward. 
Do you have a rider fitness tip you can share with us and our Hiho audience for the start of the season?
So… I ride a lot, about 12-13 horses a day and so I keep myself pretty fit already by riding all day every day, but I do try and keep as light, healthy and symmetrical as I can for the horses. Last year (2023) I ran the London Marathon which I won’t be doing again but, I do still try and run a bit to help me keep as fit and light as possible for them. We can get so obsessed with having the lightest tack as we know that any extra weight they’re carrying has an impact in the way they go. I try to watch my diet, and try not to have too much chocolate! 

I’m very conscious of how I sit in the saddle. If I am unsymmetrical somewhere, I will work on fixing that and strengthening muscles that need it so that I can ensure I am straight when in the saddle. This is something which is often overlooked but is important for their health, if we are putting more weight down one side of our body it can have a big effect on them.

If I have had any injuries over the past season, and I’ve had lots of broken bones over the years, I made sure I have focused on my rehabilitation as it is really important, and all too easy to get complacent and then before you know it you’ve built up muscle in the wrong places from compensating after an injury.
What about how you get your horses fit at the start of the season, what’s the focus?
We’re a bit old fashioned here I think. So we always start the horses off with a solid month of roadwork up and down the hills around us in January or December if they’ve come into back work early. By week 2 1/2 - 3, we start integrating the school. 

We do a lot of work on the grass, we canter on the grass, even this time of year though it is slower canter work if wet. We vary their work on different surfaces as much as possible because you don’t know what ground you’re going to get at events. If we work on the perfect sand and end up on deep mud at a competition, that’s when they start tweaking things. We prioritise their hill work and canter work over their dressage work at the start of the season. I’d prefer to have a fit, sound horse that I can work with for more years in the future, over one that is exceptionally well trained but is more likely to tweak something on tougher surfaces.
And finally, we’ll be following your progress on the circuit but, what is a key date in the 2024 calendar that you’re looking forward to?
I can’t really pin down one, but I’d have to say the big competitions with my two top horses Valmy and Jackpot. We’re very lucky to be able to go to some amazing venues that we’d never get to without the horses, especially those abroad in France, Germany and Ireland. For me, I just love being able to appreciate those incredible moments. But, Badminton Horse Trials (May) this year with Valmy Biats will hopefully be a very special week.

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