EQ LIFE: Late last year you relocated to North America with Eurostar and Joevaro to pursue international experience and hopeful World Championship selection; you must be thrilled with the outcome?
JAMES: We left hopefully with the intention of getting on the team for the World Championships, but really unsure of what the outcome would be. I am absolutely ecstatic with how well we’ve been going. Both horses have really stepped up and jumped better and better as we have progressed, and we’ve gone to some bigger and bigger shows. To be jumping at CSI5* level at Spruce Meadows (Calgary, Canada) and Thunderbird Show Park (Canada) was amazing, especially being right up there. As the commentator said, we’re going out and playing with the big boys and really getting results, so that was very exciting.
EQ LIFE: What have been your highlights in North America so far?
JAMES: The whole trip has been great. It’s been a fantastic group of people. Firstly, the Nations Cup in Wellington (Florida), was my first time competing on an Australian team, and I think we all went out and put on a pretty good performance and learnt a lot from being there. It was great being in a team environment and I think it really put us in good stead this World Championships coming up. Then I went up to Kentucky – I was third in the CSI3* Grand Prix there, which was one of my best results so far at that stage.
From there we went up to Thunderbird, and to jump a double clear in the Nations Cup there was probably the biggest highlight. There was only myself and Andrew Bourns that jumped a double clear. So, we put on one of the best results of the day in a CSI5* Nations Cup – I think that’s a pretty incredible result. Obviously going over to Spruce – it was just an amazing facility and one of those bucket list opportunities. So, to go and jump there for five weeks I think it has really put us in good stead to perform well at the World Championships, because there are a lot of big jumps and a lot of strong horses… it really sorts them out there at Spruce!
EQ LIFE: Tell us about 10-year-old Eurostar? You’ve had him from a very early age and brought him up through the grades?
JAMES: A mutual friend of mine suggested the owner send him to me; they imported him as a two or three-year-old and I got him rising four, so he was broken but really green and he had never been to a show or anything like that. I have produced him from the beginning, but he has just been the most amazing horse to work with. He’s got the most amazing temperament; he’s quieter than most geldings and super easy to deal with and he’s got a huge personality.
He has pretty much won every major competition that he has stepped up to in Australia. He was Champion of Champions at the young horse show in Sydney – he was a four-year-old having to compete in the five-year-old division because of the age rule – and then he went on to win his first Futurity and he won the Mini Prix final at the Australian Championships and then stepped up to Grand Prix. He was fourth in his first World Cup. Every time I have asked the question, he has really stepped up. He has got all the scope, and is very careful, as brave as they come, and super rideable… I couldn’t really ask for a much nicer horse, to be honest. I think he is a fantastic horse to be going into my first championship on.
EQ LIFE: You’re about to leave for Europe – what are you plans between now and Herning?
JAMES: I am flying to Luxembourg then flying across to Belgium and staying near Antwerp with Tiffany Foster – Eurostar will have this weekend off. Next weekend we will go and do a small show in Lier and we’ll probably do a couple of 1.45m classes there just to get him in the ring and have a little jump around, because it would’ve been a few weeks since he has jumped, and I want to do something before the World Championship. And then we head up to Denmark.
EQ LIFE: Is Joevaro going to Europe as well? Do you plan to do any more with either horse post-Herning or will you be heading home with both horses following the Championships?
JAMES: Joevaro is not coming to Europe; it was just too expensive. My plan is to come back after the World Championships to Canada to the Spruce Meadows Masters, which we’re trying to get an Australian team together for the Nations Cup there. There is also a $3 million Grand Prix which I believe is one of the richest in the world. I’d like to come back for that, so I have left Joevaro in North America. He’s actually with Australian rider Matt Williams who is going to keep him ticking over and do a show or two on him before I come back.
EQ LIFE: What do you feel you’ve learnt from the process of travelling overseas to campaign?
JAMES: I’ve learnt a hell of a lot, to be honest. Just the level of competition over here is a lot stronger, the horses are tougher, the times are tighter, there are obviously more competitions, so I have really had to sharpen the pencil a little bit. We’ve got them pretty good with the time now – I still need to be a bit faster in some of the jump-offs to be really up in the top three. But it is just great jumping such international level horses. I have jumped on some of the most amazing rings in the world, so there’s just so much opportunity for exposure and there’s so many shows that you can get the horses going at.
It’s quite expensive but the prizemoney is very good; I think I have done well with the prizemoney, as I’ve pretty much covered most of my expenses. The horse market over here is really strong and the prices are really high, so there is also opportunity to make money selling the horses that you produce. It’s just a really big business here – and knowing the right people and getting contacts, I have learnt a lot and just continue to learn a lot.