A man who was in prison and “unable to put on a headcollar” less than five years ago has turned his life around to the point he has won a prestigious industry award.
Adrian Stewart, who works for Shropshire-based racehorse trainer David Loughnane, took the David Nicholson newcomers’ category at the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards.
The 29-year-old has worked for David for less than a year but the dual-purpose trainer said Adrian already has a senior role in the yard.
“Taking him on is one of the best things I’ve done,” he told H&H.
“He was working for [trainer] Kevin Frost while we were sharing facilities and when Kevin moved, Adrian asked if there was a position with us.
“I’d seen his work ethic and he was a nice lad who deserved a second chance.
“I’ve worked in racing all my life and have never known anyone to come in to the sport as late as he did and be promoted so quickly. He’s a real good lad.”
Adrian told H&H he was in prison for a string of small offences.
“I was on bang-up [in my cell] for 23 and a half hours,” he said. “I went to the chapel and there were people in there who asked what I planned to do with my life.
“I hadn’t got a clue, [my life so far] was the only thing I knew. They asked: ‘Have you considered racing?’
“I said no but I’d try it. I sent the forms to the Northern Racing College and they said to reapply when I got out.
“Horses and racing have kept me safe ever since.”
Adrian thanked Kevin Frost for “giving me a chance” and says moving on to David was “the best thing that could have happened”.
“He’s the best man to work for, and the best when you need someone to talk to,” he said. “[What I’ve achieved] is down to the support from him.”
David said Adrian is the first in the yard every morning and the last to leave at night.
“It’s hard to explain but when I’m with the horses, it’s as if they’ve given me the best life,” Adrian explained.
“I feel like I owe them for giving me this life; all I can do is the best job I can and make them as happy as I can as what I’ve got it’s down to them.”
David told H&H Adrian has responsibility for feeding, checking the horses’ legs, alone if David is away, and that he rides “everything”.
“He’s an exceptional horseman, especially as he didn’t sit on a horse until he did,” David added. “He’s got such an affinity with them.
“We’re looking at him being head travelling lad; he loves going racing, saddling up and all the racing duties.”
David nominated Adrian for the award, for which his “exemplary” work ethic and “outstanding” commitment were cited.
“It was a very emotional night,” David added. “If you work hard enough, you can achieve anything and he’s testament to that, and that everyone deserves a second chance.
“We were hugely proud of him and proud to say he’s part of our family; but the way complete strangers on the night were in tears, and AP McCoy was among those congratulating him – it was very emotional!
“He was interviewed and he said he didn’t want to win on a sympathy vote but the interviewer said he didn’t want to talk about his past, it was about his passion for horses.
This week, H&H's Acting Print Editorial Director reflects on the opportunity that equestrian sport gives to those of all ages
Thousands have paid their respects to the inspirational teenager who died yesterday (1 August)
Watch as riders and family explain just why Nick deserved the win — and hear from our other worthy winners
“He can be very proud of what he’s achieved.”
And Adrian added: “From day one, my life had been a failure, a screw-up.
“But if I hadn’t done all that, I wouldn’t have got to where I am now and I believe everything happens for a reason.
“The support I got from everyone at the awards was unbelievable; I couldn’t thank everyone enough.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.