5 months ago I was writing a blog post about the adventures that lay ahead for me as I made preparations to move to England. Here I sit with 48 hours left in England before I start a new adventure. Moving home.
I won’t lie. Of course I have missed home. I missed home from the day I left. As with most things in life, you don’t REALLY appreciate what you have until it’s taken away from you. But despite that, I have LOVED every single second I have spent in this amazing country. I would not change a thing that I have seen or done with my time here. This is a little post to recount some of the highlights of my time abroad and to thank those that have meant the most to me.
Racing is what I moved to England for. I could have chosen any country on Earth to see and do something different than I’m used to, but England is the home of Steeplechasing, and Steeplechasing is what I love! From day one, I have been neck deep in this fantastic industry. I have visited more race courses than I can remember. I have watched and or photographed racing at Castle Geogehan and Tinahely point to points in Ireland, Hexham, Catterick, Ripon, Thirsk, Bangor on Dee, Windsor, Goodwood, Nottingham, Haydock, Market Rasen, Pontefract, Redcar, Sedgefield, Southwell, Wetherby, York, Cheltenham and of course Aintree. My head spins thinking about how many races I’ve seen in the short time I have been here. (If you were counting, that is 20 different race courses and many of them I visited multiple times!)
While the racing has been fantastic, getting to know the styles and uniqueness that makes each stable it’s own personality has been even more rewarding. In my time in England and Ireland I have ridden out for 9 different trainers ranging in barn sizes of 4 or 5 to upwards of 150 horses and everything in between. Because it is all so new to me, I notice the differences each trainer has in preparing their horses more than most would. My time in England and my enjoyment of going to the races has snowballed the more places I have ridden out and the more tracks I have been to. No lie, in any one race I will know at LEAST one of the lads walking a horse around, I may know an owner or two, will certainly know a trainer or two and because I have traveled to so many race meetings, I may even know a race course manager here and there not to mention most of the photographers.
Much like the different stables I have ridden for, the places these stables train are unique in their own ways too. I have galloped in all three of the major training facilities England has to offer. Middleham, in North Yorkshire, is where I have called home for most of my time here and this area will always have a special place in my heart. But I have also spent mornings at both Newmarket, known for it’s many thousands of flat horses in training, as well as Lambourn better known for it’s steeplechasing community. In addition to the major training facilities, I have galloped a little here, there, and everywhere. Nigel Twiston Davies’ yard sits on his private farm in Naunton, near Cheltenham, and Paurick O’Connor’s yard trains on a 1 furlong all weather crushed glass gallop in a swampy lowland area of Ireland. I have truly seen and done it all.
But it hasn’t all been about the racing for me. I was able to spend an incredible 5 days in Italy where I fulfilled a dream to visit the historic tree lined circuit of the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Monza for short, outside of Milan in northern Italy. Here I watched the Italian Formula One Grand Prix. Having been a life long Ferrari fan (Tifosi), visiting the track was a dream come true capped off with a perfect pole on the Saturday and a win on Sunday for the Italian squad. It is tradition for the fans to run onto the race track after the last car has passed on it’s way back to the pits, and of course I was not about to miss out on this! So I joined thousands of screaming, yelling, air horn blowing, Ferrari flag waving fans as we sprinted the 1/4 mile from the first chicane down to the podium. It was incredible. It brings a smile to my face thinking about it.
Because of the amount of traveling I did while in England visiting different yards, going to different race courses, I was given a unique glimpse into life in England like few have ever seen. England is stunning. It’s natural beauty makes me despise the construction crammed, disgusting parking lots we call neighborhoods back in the United States. America does not appreciate the value of open space or conservation, and though many English would argue the zoning laws here are a pain in the ass, believe me, the alternative is much worse. Anyway, England’s stunning beauty is something that I will not soon forget. The snow covered moors of North Yorkshire, the autumn colors of the rolling hills in Cheltenham, the summer green beauty and lush grass in southern England and the emerald green pastures of Ireland. I have put nearly 4,000 miles on my car driving from one end of the country to the other and back again. The one place I regrettably did not get to visit is Scotland, but I have been before and I will surely go again in my lifetime.
But the thing I enjoyed the most about being in England was the people. From the moment I landed, not a person I met hasn’t been willing to bend over backward to help me in some small way. The little things mean the most and I’m sure I didn’t say thank you enough to the people that meant the most. So consider this a small token of my undying appreciation for everything you have done for me. I have shared pints with some of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’ve partied until 5:30 in the morning with a film cast and crew in Ireland only to take a nap for 30 minutes before getting up for work again at 6. I have learned the intricate differences between the words that mean one thing to me, and something TOTALLY different, and often for more inappropriate, to the English, but mostly, I have just enjoyed the company of people that I will call good friends for the rest of my life. I cannot begin to tell you what you have all meant to me. Some of you I have been able to get to know much better than others, but every single person I met changed me in some small way. The thing about life in racing is that working with horses is far too much of an arduous task to not have fun every single morning. And I think that is what I enjoyed the most. Singing Barbara Streisand on the gallops with Sam even when its pissing rain and freezing cold, having laughs with Becky, Jo and Kevin watching 80s classic Christmas music videos and mocking the the crazy things you all say, laughing with Mikey and Elle watching Friends in their house, impromptu snowball fights late at night, sledding down giant hills on empty bedmax bags, feeding pub dogs cheescake only to learn it could kill the poor thing…I could literally go on forever. This job is far too dangerous, and this life far too short not to enjoy every single day you have. No matter what the weather and no matter the time of day, there is always something to laugh about when you are surrounded by amazing people.
So when I look back on this chapter of my life, it will always be with the fondest memories. I will probably always laugh out loud at the inside jokes I have with friends that no one will EVER understand back home simply because they couldn’t begin to comprehend the things I have seen and done with you all. I absolutely made the best decision of my life to come here and do the things I have done. No matter where life takes me and what I end up doing with it, no one can take my memories away from me. Those memories are mine to have and keep forever and I hope there will be many more to come. I promise I will come back and visit as much as I can. My phone is always on and my door is always open if any of you fancy a trip to the United States, assuming they’ll let you across the border 😉
I love you all from the bottom of my heart. Thank you again for the memories, the spare rooms, the pints of lager, the laughs, the love, the nicest horses to ride and everything else you have given me with open arms. I can never repay you for what you have done.