Mary King Lesson – ESRC Chinese Auction Star Prize

So, we embarked on our journey at lunch-time on Sunday; the lorry was loaded with food, tack and horses, and Lynsey and I were excited to get going on our girls road trip (Jasper was an honorary girl for the purposes of this trip)!  I had managed to secure our overnight stabling at the Land Rover Experience (West Country) site, so that’s where we headed.

Eland Lodge & Mary King 018

The journey was just over 3.5 hours. We arrived at LRE about 5.30pm and settled the horses into their overnight accommodation –  nice big Monarch barn stables with good thick straw beds.  Airy but warm – ideal.  We then went out for a short hack just to give the legs a stretch.  We slept well in the lorry and the horses seemed fresh enough.  We arrived at Mary King’s yard at 10 am and were greeted by her lovely smile as we pulled into the yard.

Eland Lodge & Mary King 015

We had our lesson in Mary’s outdoor school (lesson notes below).  After our lesson we went with her to see Imperial Cavalier (Bertie) and Kings Temptress (Tess) do their fast work.

The Head Girl rode Kings Temptress and led Imperial Cavalier down to the fast work field along the main A road in Sidmouth!!  Mary took us in the Land Rover and threw her saddle on at the side of the road (I held Imperial Cavalier for her while she tacked up).  She climbed on by standing on someone’s garden wall!   The 4* horses do fast work every 4th day.

We returned to the yard and Mary invited us in for lunch, we had a really good chat with Mary and Emily (who had just passed her driving test) and left around 3.30.  A great day and something to remember.

Lesson Notes

Mary’s school is a black rubber surface with no perimeter fence – this meant that I needed to really think about balance and co-ordination.  Mary assessed our tack – she didn’t like my jumping saddle and said that although it fitted Finn really well, she would find it difficult to ride across country in it.  The Barnsby ‘Mary King Extreme’ is what she uses.  However, she liked my new Jaguar stud-girth and said it gave her plenty of room to use her shoulder.  The girth she uses is the Barnsby comfort stud girth.

Eland Lodge & Mary King Lesson

Mary assessed my riding and commented that I had quite a loose body, and that I need to be stronger in my core.  This will help my aids be more effective.  She also noticed that I tipped forward, which means that Finn is able to drop behind my leg, especially in my transitions to canter.  I must keep my heels down and toes forward (not pointing outwards).

A good exercise for me to help to get her in front of the leg and responsive to to aids; to work on accuracy of the transitions and to make me think about my position (not collapsing into the transition) is to ride a 20m circle and pick up the canter and get it balanced and active, then ride a transition forwards to trot for six strides, then ride a quality transition to canter.  Then ride a transition forwards to trot for five strides – reducing and increasing the number of trot steps and concentrating on the QUALITY of the transitions to keep her on the aids.  Finn must respect the leg, if she doesn’t respond to aid then a sharp kick. Mary suggested that I wear spurs!

FWLR – work in a really collected outline so the horse is ready to stretch – then allow and encourage forward movement. Picking up from FWLR – if she jogs or resists etc. then make her halt and come onto the bit. Same for after medium or extended trot work – then when in test the transition into working trot is much more balanced as the horse is expecting to halt.


I need to think about keeping my lower leg more forward over fences and have my stirrups a hole or two shorter for XC, I must not swing my leg back (like a show jumper).
Also, I tend to over do the fold over my fences – I need to do less!  I should push my pelvis forward and slide my bottom back, this will keep my shoulders over my pelvis and then I don’t to fold too much.  Keep out of the saddle between fences – with my bottom lightly kissing the saddle each stride.

Think of the strength of the canter like bouncing a ball. To go higher you don’t bounce it faster or slower. You bounce harder! So I need a stronger canter, not faster – half halt, leg to support.  In the jumping I need a stronger and more forward canter than I’ve been riding.

Although we only worked in the school today, and not out on a XC course (she doesn’t have one), we did talk about approach and technique.  On the XC course keep moving positively forward don’t worry about stride – just keep positive and forward. Don’t fiddle in front of jumps trying to see a stride. Especially to trakehner…..

Land from the fence and gallop forward from the first stride. Don’t waste time congratulating myself after fences!

A great day and some fantastic tips and insights – I will definitely keep all of this in mind from now on.