In our new column, three horses, we’re asking top riders to talk about the horses that have made the biggest difference in their careers to date. In today’s edition, eventer Emily King talks about “Timmy”, her first horse who very nearly wasn’t; “Zippy”, who brought her to Advanced level and taught her about the sport’s highs and lows; and Brookleigh, the kindest horse she’s ever ridden.

#1. Brookleigh

You have to ride him well to go well.

Name: Brookleigh (Brook/or Broccoli (!!!!)
Breed: Westphalian
Years competed: 5 years
Level(s) shown: Intermediate – CCI4*

Brookleigh is the kindest horse I’ve ever ridden. He has the sweetest heart and just gives you his absolute all! He gave me my first CCI4* ride at Pau, where we finished 4th, and also my first Badminton ride, so he has a very special place in my heart.

He has quite a peculiar style of jump; you have to give him space to fences and have plenty of energy. If you don’t, he does occasionally stop—not due to naughtiness, though. It’s just down to finding it hard [to jump] when you put him in that position! This has really improved my riding, as you have to ride him well to go well, and when you do, he rewards you greatly.

Brookleigh also crib-bites, so you can always hear him making these funny sucking noises from his stable! Also, when he’s being tacked up or when it’s feed time, he always tilts his head right to the side, pricks his ears, and sticks his tongue out—it’s hilarious!

#2. Mr Hiho

You had to always ride him with empathy.

Name: Mr Hiho (Zippy)
Breed: KWPN
Years competed: 4 years
Level(s) shown: BE100 – CIC3*

Patsy Mason very kindly bought Zippy for me to ride. He was the first horse to take me to Advanced level and to my first European Championship, so he really was a special horse. We did our first Advanced class together when I was 16 years old, finishing 3rd, and won Individual Silver at our first Junior European Championships together.

He was a very tall horse and very sensitive, so you had to always ride him with empathy. When you exited the start box, though, he was phenomenal—so smooth, strong, and straight. He gave me my first feel of what it was like to ride a top-class cross country horse. Zippy was a gentle giant to handle from the ground; I remember we had this kitten who used to climb up the cross ties, jump onto Zippy’s back, curl up, and fall asleep!

At the Junior European Championships in Jardy, [France] in 2013, we were lying in the top few going into the final showjumping. Zippy knocked a fence quite hard, which was heading towards the ring gate. When I then went to turn him back to the next jump, he stopped between fences and [headed] towards the ring gate, resulting in elimination and the chance of an individual medal. It was devastating—I remember crying the whole way home! So Zippy definitely taught me the ups and downs of the sport.

#3. King Joules

[He] was a fundamental part of my career.

Name: King Joules (Timmy)
Breed: Selle Français
Years competed: 3 years
Level(s) shown: BE90 – Intermediate

Timmy was my first-ever horse I rode. We found him in the Pau horse sales whilst Mum was competing in the CCI4*. I used to sneak out and watch the horse sale when I was meant to be doing my grooming duties! He was the first horse I rode at British Eventing shows, so he gave me the real bug to compete. He was beautiful—white with a jet-black mane—and a fantastic cross country horse.

When we bought him from Pau, I viewed and tried him all unbeknownst to Mum! I asked Yogi Breisner to watch me ride and jump Timmy and give his opinion. When I then went back to Mum, I informed her what I’d been up to, and quickly skipped to “Please, please, please can you buy him for me??!!”

She quickly said no. In fact, my parents never bought me a horse; they said I had to find owners and sponsors to support my career. So that evening, I pinched Mum’s phone and texted one of her owners asking if they’d be at all interested in buying him for me. Long and short of it, they (amazingly) agreed to buy him for me to ride, and the rest was history. I couldn’t believe my luck! [Zippy] taught me a huge amount and was a fundamental part of my career.

Photo credit: Libby Law Photography. All images courtesy of Emily King. 

Get a behind-the-scenes look at Emily King & Mary King’s picturesque yard in Devon, U.K., in our Fall 2017 feature story, “Wearing the Crown”