New Zealand event rider Lucy Jackson is at the threshold of an exciting new venture, moving her horses into a new purpose-built yard at the old Brockhill Quarry near Naunton, Glos.
The building of the yard is a partnership between Lucy and her partner Harry Wallace, and her owners Neil and Louise O’Hara.
“About a year and a half ago I was talking to Neil, who’s a businessman, about how frustrating our industry is because we work so hard and yet it’s still difficult to pay the rent,” explains Lucy.
“I’m 41 and the morning of Millstreet [Event Rider Masters, which Lucy won] I woke up with £9.12 in my account. Neil said that rent is the killer, because the profit margins are so small if you’re then paying rent on top of that, that’s a very expensive part of the business. I’m not saying people are overcharging, but I worked out the sum I’ve paid in rent over the past nine years and it is astronomic and terrifying. So if that rent money had been put into a mortgage I would be quite a lot better off now than I was nine years ago — but I’m not.
“So the idea is Neil and his wife Louise and Harry and I are going to go into partnership. We bought a bare block that was a quarry and we’re going to end up with 30 stables, a 60x30m school, on-site gallops, a covered walker, a lunge pen and some lovely turnout and beautiful hacking. It’s with a view that instead of putting my money into a rent pot, I’m putting it into a mortgage pot.
“It’s really exciting, although there have been a lot of steep learning curves in my life in terms of project management!
“I’ve watched Grand Designs often enough to know these things take a long time and they cost more money than anyone ever thinks possible. But it’s quite fun having an input on where things go and why they’re going to be done that way. I’m hoping it’s going to be a really efficient way to work — the girls have done brilliantly in well tidied-up farmyards, but it should make things easier with mod cons, hot water, good pressure. I don’t want to change what we’re actually doing too much — I’m proud of the way the horses are going and I like what we do with them — but doing it in an easier environment would be a good thing.”
We visited on the day Lucy moved to check out her new base…
Having a canter before the move — Lucy Jackson riding Pencreek, Ella Hitchman riding Monks View and Lucy’s head girl Emelia Hazell riding Quick Grabhim.
Unloading at Brockhill Quarry
(Right to left) Lucy Jackson’s headgirl Emelia Hazell, her 2014 World Championship ride Willy Do, Lucy, Chloe Eastman and Ella Hitchman at the new yard.
Lucy speaks highly of the girls who work for her, describing them as “magic” and praising their willingness to muck in in all weathers and to be flexible in helping with childcare as well as with the horses.
The school is ready for action.
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Brockhill Quarry has 37 stables at present, with 47 planned in total.
Read our full interview with Lucy Jackson, including her candid thoughts on her difficult decision to sell her top horse Superstition II, in the current issue of Horse & Hound (issue dated 28 November).