Zara Phillips: “Looking after horses was great preparation for motherhood!”

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  • She’s an Olympic athlete, 15th in line to the throne, a wife and now a mother, but Zara Phillips just seems to take it all in her stride. She’s even found time to work on a new children’s game.

    We caught up with Zara to talk work, motherhood and horses, and see if she’s got any tips on juggling everything on an exceptionally full plate…

    gtk: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt since becoming a parent?

    Z: I’ve probably enjoyed it more than I thought! I think I’d been around a lot of people who were like, “Oh my god, it’s dreadful!”, but I’m surprised. I’m not comparing her to a horse, but, you know, when you work with horses you’re used to looking after animals and keeping them on a schedule, you’re kind of already used to that ‘looking after’ aspect. And travelling back from foreign events is always very tiring, so I’ve had good preparation!

    gtk: And your favourite thing about being a mum?

    Z: Everything, really. I love getting my horse work done, and then being back to do things with Mia in the afternoon. With each age bracket, it just gets better and better and it’s fun being able to share your childhood experiences with your own children. It’s crazy how fast they grow!

    Zara with daughter Mia in August 2014

    gtk: Mia will be up and running around before you know it. Any plans to get her on a horse so that she can follow in your footsteps?

    Z: She’s actually been on a horse! Riding is so good for kids. It’s good for their balance, it’s enjoyable and it’s a great way of getting them outside, getting them used to animals and the fresh air and having something physical to look after. Owning a horse has lots of good components to it.

    gtk: Did you struggle to get back into riding after giving birth?

    Z: It was hard work – I didn’t realise how fit I was before! It’s not easy to get your core back – luckily I had my good horse [Zara’s Olympic horse, High Kingdom] to come back to and he gives me confidence, so I can then work on my strength and fitness. I didn’t go back too quickly. When I returned, I still wasn’t as good as when I left off, but that won’t happen until next year. It’s just about taking it slow enough that your body can recover and get back into training and restrengthen everything again.

    gtk: Well, Mia’s not even a year old yet, so you’ve come a long way in a short time!

    Z: It’s a slow process, but we’re getting there!

    Zara with her husband, rugby player Mike Tindall

    gtk: Have you got big plans for Mia’s birthday in January, have you got anything special planned for that?

    Z: Um, no. [laughs] I’m getting through Christmas first!

    gtk: Ah yes, it’ll be her first Christmas too – are you going to start any traditions with her?

    Z: I don’t know, I mean, everything that you’re brought up with I guess you pass on, so hopefully we can do that.

    goodtoknow: So, tell us about Howrse and how you got involved in an online game?

    Zara: It’s really educational, anyone can play it, and it’s evolving all the time. I give tips at the beginning about the horse’s lifespan up to about four years, and then you go on and set up your own stables and do competitions and things like that. It teaches you about trust and how to look after your animal, and obviously it’s fun and can even get addictive! Hopefully, my tips can help support the game and increase the community of horse lovers.

    gtk: We hear you’re also training for the 2016 Olympics?

    Z: Yeah, hopefully. Next year we’ve got the Europeans (Championships), so, that’ll probably be the next goal. We’re off season at the moment, we finished at end of October and don’t start again until the beginning of March, but we’ll be starting a pre-season thing soon.

    gtk: Sounds like you’re pretty busy! Is it hard balancing work and motherhood?

    Z: No, I’m pretty lucky, with the horses, I’m kind of self-employed, so I can work around my horses and Mia – she’s very well behaved!

    Zara Phillips is the in-game mentor and guide for the internationally successful equine game Howrse, which is available as a free-to-play browser game for PC, Mac, iOS and Android mobile devices.