Monday, February 14, 2011

An Englishman on the West Coast by James Alliston

My name is James Alliston, originally form England, I have now been based at the beautiful Graceland Equestrian Center in Castro Valley, California, since the summer of 2009. Prior to this I worked for a number of years on the east coast for eventing legend Bruce Davidson Sr.

I hope that 2011 will be an exciting year for me. My best horses are my own Parker and Jumbo's Jake, owned by India McEvoy. Parker is a tall thoroughbred who is a fantastic, brave jumper and was the first horse I bought in America. We have been working very hard on his dressage in the close season and I am hoping all the progress he has made translates to the competition ring this year. Jumbo's Jake was a new ride for me in 2010 and is a lovely horse to ride in all phases having been beautifully trained by his owner and former rider India. He had a great year last year with a couple of advanced wins and a 3rd place at the Galway Downs CCI3* in November and has beeen a pleasure to ride everyday. I don't like to make plans too big to avoid disappointment but if all goes well this spring I would like to have a crack at Rolex with them in April, but we will see.

My typical work day is busy with riding and teaching students. I enjoy the variety of the job and I make my living through a combination of teaching students, training other people's horses and horse sales. I am fortunate enough to have a lovely group of students and clients who make the day much more interesting than just slogging away by yourself. I take great pleasure in going to the shows and helping them to be successful and have an enjoyable experience. All the events in California tend to be spread over three days which means it is possible to coach as well as ride a number of horses myself which is nice. The cross country course is almost always a tilled track rather than grass which is a big change from the east coast or England. One thing I like about this is most of the time you don't need studs and I definitely don't miss cleaning the holes and taking studs in and out. The season kicks off this weekend at Ram Tap in Fresno so everyone is getting geared up for their 2011 debuts.

A big change for this winter is that we now have a huge roofed arena to keep us dry in the wet season. This has been a huge help in enabling us to keep practicing and training when most other barns in the area are under water. A big thank you to Chuck and Peggy Moore, owners of Graceland Equestrian Center, for making this happen and continually improving the already outstanding facility. I am fortunate to have access to two enormous arenas, a gallops and a cross country course which is a real luxury. The photo is of Parker having an early morning ride in the new roofed arena.

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