We were thrilled to interview Emily King who kindly found time in her very busy schedule to speak to us at Everything Horse. We chatted about big changes to her life and career and how she has coped through them. Talking about the everyday and into the future, we get to know more about the rider behind the name; Emily King!
More recently, you made the move from Devon to Cheshire. Are there any differences on between the two locations for training and competing?
I moved up to North Wales/Cheshire border about three years ago, it was after I won Branham in 2019. The main difference for us is that we are more central to the competitions and closer to all the 1-day events so it’s much easier with travelling.
We’re very lucky with the facilities at Hafod Stables where we are based. It’s absolutely incredible!. We have an amazing indoor and outdoor school, all inside stables, the dry treadmill, a vitafloor. It’s a huge benefit to have all these facilities for the horses which we didn’t have at home in Devon. We also have more training venues, within a closer distance, which is great for getting the young ones out and about.
The sad thing is I don’t have Mum around all the time anymore, but I still speak to her everyday either on the phone or on Whatsapp. We’re still as close as ever! If I ever have any questions or need any training tips she’s always there to help. I know I’m really really lucky to have that.
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You only need to look at your social media to know that you work extremely hard for top results! What does a typical day look like for you?
This year my routine has been slightly different to usual. I have quite a few more horses than I have done in the past because Sam, my partner, had a big fall in the spring. I’ve had 4-5 of his that I’ve been competing and ticking over.
On a normal day, I try to get all the horses worked in the morning. This means that I can help the guys on the yard to be able to do the stables, turn out and get finished on time, or even try and finish early which is always nice! I always get done before lunchtime. I’m usually off teaching, either locally or people coming to us, or doing other jobs on the yard and admin in the afternoon. I do all the schooling and jumping of the horses myself. The girls help me with the gallops but I do usually gallop them myself too and they do one or two with me. The girls also help with the hacking.
If I am home, I would ride minimum 6-7 in a day and maximum 15, depending on the time we start – but earliest is 6.30am, the latest is 7.30am. I’d never get on my first horse later than 8! I like to get them all done early so they get as much time as possible as I hate to be rushed on a horse knowing I have to be finished in time for another job that I need to do. I’m an early riser and an early to bedder – so that would be my normal day.
This year we’ve been away a lot competing every weekend and quite often midweek as well so there’s a lot of lorry organisation and reorganisation, managing of the yard and staff logistics. I have an amazing yard manager, Sienna Morgan-elles, and Sam’s sister, Lucy Samuel, helps with all my invoicing. Both are incredible and crucial to the operation.
Earlier this year, you released a candid dialogue on your own story with mental health. With lockdown also impacting mental health nationwide, can you describe your experience and how you worked to improve your mental health whilst working in the equestrian industry?
I released that article with Noelle Floyd on mental health in the spring. Noelle actually approached me about how she was running the articles on mental health and their views on mental health within equestrianism. I was really keen to be part of it as it was something that hasn’t been talked about that much. It’s a very very tough industry. Money is always hard, you work ridiculous hours, it’s a dangerous sport. There’s a lot going on mentally, whether you’re a rider, a groom, a trainer, a manger. There’s a lot of pressures. I thought the least I can do was share my story. I had the view of people being kinder, not jumping to conclusions about things and always be there to help out.
The equestrian world can be a hard sport to be in. I think there is a lot of judgement based on talent, with both the rider and the horse, so there is always someone with an opinion. Quite often there’s a feel that people don’t always speak their mind, but people should always be open and kind to others. They should be there to support someone and be there to elevate other riders rather than put them down. You beat other riders at shows and in competitions – you don’t beat them by belittling them or saying snide comments. Not only have I received some personally, but I’ve seen it quite a lot how people react to each other. Although this probably happens within a lot of other industries, I thought the least I could do was share my story. I had the hope that it would enable the eventing community to be a healthier, happier, more fun and supportive environment to be in.
Personally, for my mental health, I try and make a conscious effort to be more open. I am discuss how I’m feeling with friends and family, Sam my partner, and everyone I work with. I feel that a problem shared is definitely a problem halved. I know it’s something said a lot but it’s so true and if you keep things bottled up, it is so easy for everything to top up in your mind. It is not a healthy place to be in. I’d be very guilty of that! No matter how little or small it is, keeping it inside makes it escalates and become a much bigger pressure. I also just try and make a conscious effort to be kind. Sometimes in the equestrian sport there’s this feeling of people being judgey and people saying snidey comments. I try and speak to people how I would like to be spoken to myself. Also be a shoulder for someone to cry on, if need be. I always try to give time to people.
In the grand scheme of things, I think we all just need to take a step back from our own problems. We need to be there to help each other more and not keep things too bottled up!
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In the autumn of 2019, you suffered a massive blow to your string of rides. Can you tell us how you bounced back from this?
It was a real shock and surprise when it happened. Not only for the horse part, but for the business and my staff who worked with the horses. Everything changed very quickly and was a bit turned on its head – it really was a big blow. I tried to focus on the things we still had and put things in perspective in the grand scheme of things.
Honestly, I just kept on grafting and working hard to try and keep the money coming in. I chatted to more owners and sponsors to get back out there with my name and attract new rides. It most certainly hasn’t been easy! Having been so fortunate to have those horses, I knew what it was like at the top with big things happening. To suddenly start from square one was a huge thing to digest. I worked my socks off and forever will do to try and keep a string of talented horsepower coming through! Also to get to those big shows and try and be selected for the British team.
Keeping everything in perspective has been hard but I’ve tried not to let my problems feel too enormous in my own mind. I have friends, I have family and a roof over my head, so I tried to keep everything in perspective and keep working hard!
When building up your new team, what have you looked for in the horses?
I had three horses left when I had to rebuild my string, and to be honest I wasn’t picky! I would have the ride on anything I could train, produce and get out competing. Whether they were sale horses or schooling horses, I would take anything that would help pay the bills and give me exposure to go out.
With that, I met Philippe Brivios in France at Le Lion D’Angers, the breeder behind the Biats Stud. He offered me the ride on a couple horses which I had to fund myself. But they were two super horses and one I have kept who is my top horse, Valmy Biats. It’s amazing how things work out! I’ve managed to get Ehorse, The Event Horse Owner Syndicate, to help support him and his running costs. This enables me to compete him at the higher levels as it’s not cheap!
If you do want to be involved with Valmy and the Ehorse syndicate, do get in touch as it’s a great way to be part of a 4* – hopefully soon 5* – horse!
I just keep networking and advertising to slowly rebuild my string to a really good team of horses.
Bouncing back, big-style, you now have some absolute superstars under your wing! Can you tell us a bit more about the horses we should keep our eyes on?
My top horse, Valmy Biats is a superb horse. He has had some fantastic runs at 4* this year and I am so so lucky to have the ride on him. I am hoping to aim him for Badminton. I will slowly try and attract the eyes of the GB selectors for either Nations Cup teams, Europeans or Worlds. And hopefully in the future even Olympics! He’s a very exciting horse.
The second horse to him is called Imposan, owned by the Kerr-Dineen family. He had a super win at Houghton in the 2*L this spring and has stepped up to intermediate this autumn really confidently, having two wins in this new section! He won his first intermediate and then his second at Richmond. He will keep at Intermediate for this autumn, aim to do a 3* next spring and step up to Advanced in the summer. Imposant is another really exciting horse and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do!
I then have a big gap to four absolutely lovely 5-year-olds – two I am especially excited about. One of them, Mellow Lane, is young but is truly exceptional and I can’t wait for her six-year-old year. Then we have a bunch of four and three-year-olds too!
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What’s your next big career goal?
To try and get a top result at Badminton! And then some form of senior team selection – whether its Nation Cup, European, Worlds or even the Olympic team. That would be incredible, but I feel that might be a few years to come!
Finally, can you leave us your top tips for riders wanting to push their career to the next level?
A saying I really like is “Work hard until your idols become your rivals”.
I feel that’s a motto I go by, and it can be relatable for anyone. You have to work hard in this sport and it’s a hard sport, job, life to be in. It’s a lot of early mornings, awful weather, injuries for but it’s important to keep plugging way. Even when you have down times, try to always take away the positives from anything even when things haven’t gone to plan. There will always be things to take away and focus on. Enjoy the good times because you have to! If you have your heart really set on something, anything is possible.
Instagram @emilykingofficial [permission granted for Interview Emily King]