If 19-year-old Emily King is at all nervous about striking out on her first trip around a CCI4* tomorrow, you can’t tell. She’s been all smiles since the event began.
“I’ve always dreamed of being here,” Emily explains, but what she means is being here on a horse. She’s accompanied her four-star mum Mary to Pau several times in the past, but this time the tables have turned.
“To be here riding is funny,” Emily says. “Before she’d be hacking and I’d be cycling on the bike behind, and now I’m hacking and she’s cycling.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she’s having a pretty brilliant week so far. Not only is she leading the CIC2* division with Dargun on a score of 40.0, she’s also sitting third in the CCI4* with Brookleigh on 38.3. The 13-year-old German-bred gelding owned by Jane Del Missier is nipping at the heels of Michael Jung’s two rides, which occupy the tip-top of the leaderboard heading into cross-country.
Emily took over the ride on Brook from Clayton Fredericks, who developed him through the CIC3* level, in 2012. Their partnership seems to have really solidified this year, during which the pair came third in the Chatsworth CIC3*, fifth in the Bramham under-25 CCI3* and second in the Ballendenisk CIC3*.
Their test today was poised and elegant yet dynamic, racking up plenty of 7s and 8s from the judges for a score of 38.3. You can play “what if” all day, of course, but had their second flying change, which scored a 4, 3 and 5, been a bit more like their first, which scored a 9 from one judge … watch your back, Michael!
Emily says Brook started out the year a bit excitable in the dressage but has been getting a cooler head with every outing, praising his performance today as “very rideable and focused.”
Tomorrow she’ll be looking to turn that focus toward Pierre Michelet’s cross country course, a twisty, technical gauntlet.
Emily says she’s excited about taking a crack at the myriad rider accuracy questions. “Brook is a good horse,” she says. “He does keep very straight, so as long as as I ride him well hopefully he’ll respond.”
Here she is talking through her fence 24 game plan for FEI TV:
In contrast to more British-style courses with big stretches of gallop and jump, Pau features switchbacks and some narrow runs through the woods, which can trick riders into feeling like they’re going faster than they are. Emily says kicking on is something she has to concentrate on anyway: “If anything he jumps quite high over things, so I forever need to come a little bit stronger.”
When I asked Emily yesterday whether her mother is a nervous bystander, she laughed. “She’s quite funny — she says she gets more nervous doing it herself than watching me. ‘Ah, you’ll be fine!'”
Mothers know best. Best of luck to you tomorrow, Emily!