Reflections in uncertain times

Eventing legend Mary King MBE on her preparations for the season, and her love of Dartmoor

After 24 fabulous days at sea last winter race sailing across the Southern Ocean, from South Africa to Perth, it’s been brilliant to be back home in Devon with the horses. Time away always leaves me refreshed, though I did not realise at the time how lucky I was to have such an adventure at all!
I really have enjoyed the last weeks of winter and the first ones of spring doing the horses on my own; I’ve no groom at the moment so it’s just me. They live out in the field in the mud and I brush them off and off I go.  
I’ve four horses I had hoped to be eventing this year, one of them advanced and hopefully heading for the highest levels, plus three youngsters  — and three of the four are home-bred. Young horses take much longer to develop fitness and you don’t want to hurry their education.  They’re certainly going to be given time to grow up now!
This of course was supposed to be an Olympic year, and I usually feel a little jealous of teammates aiming for the Olympics — despite having been lucky enough to have been to six of them myself! Every year I have pangs at championship time — I still have this urge to ride at the top level, but I’m realistic about it. I haven’t got the horse power now and I’ve had neck troubles which impeded my balance a bit. Happily, the neck is much better than it was and I feel like I’m riding a bit better again.
I’m a big believer in taking a break from what is always a very busy sporting calendar and trying to do other things both in the winter, and in the height of summer between what used to be the spring and autumn eventing season… maybe that’s what’s kept me going for so long! Even so, none of us could have imagined a break quite this long… but when the world is facing such a crisis, we must all do our part. 
Everything has been overshadowed by the disruption and anxiety over Coronavirus, and we don’t at this stage know how much of the sporting calendar will even happen… things we take for granted are suddenly uncertain and it’s a hideous time for everyone.
Since Britain is in lockdown for we know not how long, the special Liberty Trails ride I usually accompany in early June each year, is being postponed until 2021 (7 to 10 June), but bookings are being taken for it now.
Accompanying the ride always reminds me how fantastic Dartmoor is and what wonderful scenic treasures we have on our doorstep here in England… a rather apt message it would seem for 2020 when so much overseas travel is being curtailed.
A horse allows you to explore the moors brilliantly, taking in tors, stone circles, pony herds (and an excellent picnic lunch) with friends and fellow riders. I used to bring my children as they were growing up to climb tors on Dartmoor, but we never went there enough, and I used to feel guilty that I hadn’t seen “more moor”. Liberty Trails has helped put that right, and it’s lived up to every hope and expectation. 
Please consider signing up now to ride with me in June 2021, and by doing so, help support a range of Devon businesses for whom 2020 is going to be a challenging year. It would be great to see you there! 

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