Farewell to ‘amazingly knowledgeable horseman’ who dedicated his life to the industry


  • By Fred Parker

    John Parker, who dedicated his life to the horse industry from the arrival of his first pony in 1960, passed away on the 4 March aged 77, leaving behind his wife, Jacqueline, and son, Fred.

    John and Jacqui met on the hunting field. Starting out on their own, they took the plunge by leasing a yard with 30 stables in Liphook, Hampshire. They had a Land Rover and trailer, one horse and enough money for the first three months’ rent.

    John’s main passion was showjumping, and he also enjoyed dealing, breaking and schooling, and producing young horses. Local horseman Siddy Madgewick would send them horses to ride and sell. One day they went to look at a Bedford TK horsebox Siddy had, but they couldn’t afford it. Siddy said: “Take it and pay me when you can!”

    Horse transport started by accident after they sold that first lorry to Malta in 1977, which had to be delivered with horses on board. Back then, not many companies transported horses by road internationally. It really was off into the unknown – no mobile phones, no sat nav, no email, fuel cards or credit cards and no office at home to back you up. That first trip went well with Jacqui and her friend, Rosie Wilkins, completing the trip. Another Bedford TK was bought and they were asked to deliver more horses around Europe.

    That was the start of John Parker International and he expanded the business to what it is today, shipping more than 5,000 horses internationally each year.

    For many years the dealing and transport ran side by side. To say that John and Jacqui worked hard is an understatement. Those who knew them know that they never really took holidays or days off.

    In the late 80s John and Jacqui started going to Czechoslovakia to buy horses. Dealing directly with the communist government at the time, they were the only British people allowed to go and buy horses there. Over the following five years hundreds of horses were brought to the UK .

    They were often accompanied by those from the professional horse world, such as George Bowman senior and Gerard Napruce, plus many top showjumpers of the time.

    Eventually the transport became so busy it overtook the horse dealing . After 18 years based at Liphook the move was made to Hythe, Kent, as it was an ideal location for Dover docks and onward travel to Europe. They built the stables and office from scratch and had two trucks bound for Europe every week .

    John and Jacqui always did everything in house so they knew that the job was done correctly – something that is still John Parker International’s way to this day. Their own trucks, their own office, their own stables.

    John would transport to the farthest-flung places by road, with regular trips to Russia, Turkey, north Africa and all places in between. Even though these were such long journeys, John’s great horse knowledge and the fact that the welfare of the horses always came first allowed the equine passengers to arrive in good condition.

    For the last 24 years John Parker has been the name that has transported the British eventing and dressage youth teams every year.

    He has also organised many other teams’ transport and support, including British driving teams, endurance, working equitation, Iberian dressage, mounted games, Le Trec, jousting and horseboarding – not to mention the hundreds of horses transported to the Spanish showjumping tours.

    John built up a “bus route” for horses’ travel throughout Europe with his fleet of nine trucks.

    Over the years the horseboxes were designed in house to be horse-friendly over long distances, with John and David Gazeley collaborating on them for more than 25 years.

    Alongside all of this John also built up weekly horse flights back in the 80s with the likes of Jim Paltridge, Eddie McMullen and Dave Thomas.

    At the time of John’s passing, he was in the middle of a new chapter; three new barns bringing the business’s stabling capacity to nearly 100. He worked seven days a week, right up to his last day.

    He was a very quiet man, completely unflappable and an amazingly knowledgeable horseman. He will be greatly missed by the loyal John Parker International team, who hope to carry on as before in his honour.

    John had a private funeral. A memorial will be held on 20 April from 4pm onwards at the main yard (CT21 4JJ) for any who would like to attend.

    Instead of flowers, a donation to his chosen charity, Injured Jockeys Fund, would be greatly appreciated.

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