Supported Rider, James Adams, tells us about the thrills and the spills of building a career in the Equestrian world.
Competing at three and four star level at the likes of Bramham, Blenheim, and Burghley Horse Trials, not to mention training with some of the most knowledgable individuals that the Equestrian world has to offer; living the dream right? Agreed.
However, as they say, nothing worth doing is ever easy…and there is no substitute for hard work!
Many of you reading will be surprised to hear that James Adams didn’t come from a ‘horsey’ family as many equestrians do. His passion for horses sparked from his first lessons at a riding school at the age of eight, in the same way that many of us caught the Equestrian bug…
We caught up with James to find out what it’s like being a Professional Eventer, and get some insider tips for aspiring riders...
Did you always imagine working with horses from a young age?
“After being in a riding school for two years, I got my first pony for my 10th birthday, and was hooked from there on. I always imagined working with horses; I didn’t enjoy school very much and spent most of the time at school thinking about horses, it was a natural progression and there was never an alternative!”
What was your first Equestrian job?
“Upon leaving school at sixteen, I secured an apprenticeship with Barkers Northallerton who were a Showjumping team. Ian and Paul were riding at top level competing, I learned a lot during my two years there”
What has your career journey been since then?
“After a great grounding at Barkers, I attended Bishop Burton College. The intention was to do a degree, but I didn’t enjoy the study of university and decided to complete a Horse Management course which I enjoyed. I was keen to gain as much experience as possible, and worked in several different yards from Showing yards to International Showjumping yards and Race yards. Whilst working at a racing yard, I learned a lot about conformation, and off the back of this I got a job in Australia at a Thoroughbred stud called Emirates Park where I worked for a year and progressed a great deal”
“On returning home, I felt that I was in a good place to start my own business. The first pony I bought cost me £700, and I sold him for £1500; any money I made went towards building stables and an arena at my family home. This has evolved somewhat now, since I bought the land next to my family home which is now Oakwood Stud! I started Eventing about ten years ago, and went from the first steps in Eventing right up to four star. I’ve competed at Burlghley, been in the top 10 at Bramham, and the year before last I was picked to to represent GB at Le Lion at the World Horse Championships on a horse that was homebred. My focus recently has been on producing young horses, but I have two fantastic horses this year and my hopes are that one will go three star and one will go four star.”
What is the worst part about your job?
“Falling off! I’ve broken my pelvis and hips, fingers, feet, ankle, shoulder and my collar bone…falling off is definitely the worst part”
Has there been a ‘made it’ moment for you along the way?
“I remember watching at Bramham, and thinking how amazing it would be to ride there but never really thought it would be possible. The moment when I first thought I’d made it was pulling into the drive at Bramham ready to go three star, and we finished in the top ten on our first attempt”
Is there anyone in particular you have learned a lot from?
"I’ve trained with some top trainers; one to mention is Kenneth Clawson, who sadly passed away a few years ago. I learned a lot from him."
Have you worked abroad?
“Yes, in 2014 I worked in Australia for Stuart Tinney, two-time Olympic medalist for the Australian team”
What would your advice to an aspiring Eventer be?
“Prepare yourself for hard work, for long hours, and to compromise your social life massively. Be prepared for knock backs; a real wise guy I knew told me that if you can crack it at this sport, you can do anything”
Can you describe a glamorous moment in your career?
“Myself and a friend got invited to the ‘Gold Party’, which was to celebrate the success of the British Dressage team at the London Olympics. It was hosted by Carl Hester who put on a great party, and I remember being completely star struck in the company of some of the world’s leading riders, several of which were my heroes”
Do you have a favourite place to compete locally?
“Locally, Richmond Horse Trials is a firm favourite of mine. Also, Floors Castle, which is where I won my first event”
How many horses do you ride a day?
“On average seven or eight”
What hours do you work on average a week?
“Generally twelve hours a day, from 7am until 7pm, but fourteen hours on two weekdays per week”
How many people work for you in your team?
“Maria works mornings and has done so for fifteen years, so she knows me inside out! I also have an apprentice and someone who works two days a week who is great with the youngsters. I have a girl who works weekends and I get support from my sister Sally and my friend Rosalind who are both at the yard a lot”
What are the pros and cons of being self-employed?
“You are your own boss who calls the shots! However, even when you’re not making money you’ve got all the bills to pay and it’s your responsibility”
Are the horses you ride owned by yourself or do you have owners?
“Initially, the horses belonged to owners. However, more recently I have been able to invest some of my money into good horses. It’s probably half and half at the moment, and the owners that I have are great people who I enjoy working with”
What’s the next step in your career?
“I would like to get back to three star and four star level, I hope to qualify for Bramham this year. Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out, but the ambition is to get back up to that level and hopefully do Badminton and Burghley again”