On Saturday 3rd November 2012, Sam John and her daughter Carenza realised a dream and spent the afternoon sipping tea, eating scones and talking riding holidays at the iconic Ritz Hotel in London, with none other than 6-times-Olympic rider, Mary King!
Having won a competition in the October issue of Horse & Rider magazine courtesy of equestrian travel experts In The Saddle, Sam was in a state of disbelief when she heard the news that they had been picked. “My daughter Carenza didn’t believe me at first,” Sam said. “I called her as soon as she came out of school and she was screaming and nearly crying with excitement!”
The day began by a visit to the Riding Holiday Show at the Royal Overseas League in London, where Mary was giving an exclusive presentation to guests at the show. “I found the Riding Holiday Show so interesting,” says Sam. “I didn’t realise there were so many places you could ride and how professional and organised the exhibitors would be with their film clips, photographs and fantastic knowledge.”
“Neither Carenza or I have been on a riding holiday,” Sam admits. “We were both really interested in the Spanish holidays as we think this would be a great place to start with riding holidays and I have since asked for more information. I was really surprised at how reasonable the prices were and how interesting and varied the itineraries are for the places we looked at.”
After talking travel for several hours Sam and Carenza, along with just two other guests, got to spend the afternoon with Mary.
There is nothing like sitting next to one of the most famous event riders in the world to leave you stuck for words, however Mary’s relaxed nature soon put Sam and Carenza at ease. “I found it scary at first,” Carenza admits. “Especially when Mary asked me to sit by her in the Ritz and we had to decide what kind of tea we wanted! She was such a nice chatty lady though and insisted on pouring my tea all afternoon and made sure I ate plenty of sandwiches and cakes! I didn’t expect her to be so keen to hear about my own riding but she was and then she talked to us about embryo transplants – a strange conversation to have over afternoon tea but it was fascinating!”
“The whole day was a fantastic experience and one I will remember forever,” Carenza tells us. “Mary kindly signed a book for me and wrote a lovely personal message wishing me well with my riding and thanking me for a lovely afternoon at the Ritz.”