Rider jobs: All in a day’s work

Never let it be said that event riders are stereotypical. Over the years, British Eventing Life has shone a spotlight on numerous amateur rider careers – here are more from across the competitive levels

The grassroots rider

Julie Richardson (pictured top) might have a ‘normal’ job as a Trading Standards Officer, which she has done since leaving university almost 20 years ago, and she is currently Lead Officer for Food Standards for Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards. However, more unusually, she is also a guinea pig breeder, which she has been doing since she was 16 years old.

“At the peak I had around 120 ‘cavies’ – all purebred exhibition standard. I run the North Somerset Cavy Society and am a Rex Cavy Club Panel Judge.”

This year, she even ran a virtual guinea pig show.

“I started keeping guinea pigs because, as one of four siblings living in urban Surrey, a pony was out of the question! I breed all year round, but now only have three to five sows in pig at any one time – I needed more time for eventing!

“I’ve sold cavies around the world, but my most exciting visitor was William Fox-Pitt, whose mother used to drive him around local pet shops as a child, selling his baby guinea pigs. My BE coach Sarah Thorne told him about me and out of the blue he texted me, discussing exchanging breeding stock! He came over and fell for a dark-eyed white baby rex boar, while his daughters picked another two. He was totally laid back. I was somewhat star struck! He sends me photos of them, and even invited me and a friend to his yard to meet the team and watch him ride, plus I was treated to a lesson on one of my horses.”

Julie has two horses, Emm and Cooga, kept on DN livery and competing at BE90 level. She got her first horse when she left university and started jumping in her mid-20s. She was placed third at the BRC National Horse Trials Championships and competed at the Blenheim Palace grassroots eventers challenge.

“My dream is to ride at the Science Supplements Cup at Badminton, and hopefully progress to BElO0 with Cooga. Friends help out and I have some great coaches, but on a day-to-day basis I do all the care and riding around my full-time job. I’ve been working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, so the guinea pigs have attended virtual meetings – a ¬†surprise for most of my colleagues who had no idea I have almost 100 of them!”

The intermediate rider

Julia Fairbank (10th from right in above photo) is another amateur eventer with two jobs to juggle, plus four horses to compete. Her day job is with Zip Travel, a travel company which, among other things, organises tours for eventing fans to watch the year’s major championships. Out of hours she co-ordinates evening events at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

“Both jobs are part time, and I love the variety,” she says. Currently furloughed, but with the museum having reopened in August, Julia is hoping that events can restart soon.

“The travel, cultural and events sectors have taken a massive hit from COVID-19, so I’m grateful to have been working my horses throughout. It’s given me a focus. Before COVID I felt I’d got the balance between the two jobs, the horses and my life absolutely right – being busy but able to organise my time flexibly enough to enjoy each element and adapt to opportunities.

‘”Normal’ life is busy. Riding, followed by a few hours with Zip, and then the hour-long drive to Oxford to be in the museum for around 5pm for an event that might not finish until midnight. This isn’t sustainable if you want to have any sort of life, sleep or horse time, so when possible, I work the different jobs on different days. I have extremely supportive bosses and try not to work long events the night before a competition! Fortunately, I’m busiest with Zip in the run up to a championship, and Ashmolean events tend to be quieter in the summer. I’m lucky with both jobs in that I get to meet some fantastic people.

“The higher up the competitive levels you go, the more difficult it is to balance life. As well as the time you need to prepare the horse, don’t underestimate how much more of you it demands mentally to focus and perform at everything 100 per cent. I’d love to ride at Advanced again, but I’m getting a huge amount of satisfaction from producing young horses at levels where it’s easier to balance the workload and am enjoying getting my Intermediate horse, Shannondale Sonoma, re-established at the level after some niggles followed by COVID.”

The advanced rider

Lauren Innes (above) has a more conventional work life. For the last three years she has worked for the Reading branch of KPMG and, assuming her recent exams went well, will shortly be a qualified chartered accountant.

COVID has worked in her favour regarding her horses: “I normally get up at 6am to ride before work because I never know what time I’ll get home. With COVID I’m working from home so the time I would usually be commuting can be spent riding and sleeping!” With a Biological Sciences degree from Oxford and a Masters in Investment Banking, Lauren also found time to take a couple of gap years to focus on competing. Now, 15 exams down the line, she is looking fonvard to not having to worry about juggling work, horses and revision.

“I couldn’t run at Burgham because it was two days before my last exam. Generally my managers are very supportive of my competing, but I struggle to get time off at short notice, and it’s not unusual to work a weekend day to meet a deadline if I have done a mid-week event. The hours are very long¬≠particularly between January and March. However, working with different clients makes every day engaging, and I’m always learning.”

Lauren competes her home-produced Advanced horse Global Fision M and is producing a recently acquired four year old, Camee de Muze. She also occasionally competes a local teenager’s horse.

“Time is the biggest challenge. I don’t have a groom, so it’s not just the riding but the mucking out, turning out, feeding, etc. In winter I ride in the dark, but fortunately have a walker and the use of a water treadmill. I couldn’t do it without my parents, who both help out when necessary.”

The hard work has reaped rewards. Lauren was part of the 2019 silver medal-winning three star British European Cup team, and also completed the CCI4*-L at Blenheim Palace.

“Blenheim was a dream come true. Global Fision M is possibly the most talented horse I’ll ever ride. Next year I hope to do Bramham 4*-L and then ideally Burghley. I’d also love to be selected for some Nations Cup Teams.


This article was first published in British Eventing Life Nov/Dec 2020