Meet Victoria Bax; previously a full time police officer, and serious amateur event rider based in Essex. She is renowned for her pink colours and love of retraining Thoroughbreds from the track for new careers.
For her, in 2014 life changed considerably when she made the dream a reality. Having started with one horse which soon turned into four, form at two star level and a growing number of clients to teach, earlier this year Victoria took the plunge - ditching the day job and going pro, putting all her eggs in the equestrian basket. For having the courage, talent and determination to make her passion her career, (and for being another committed ex-racehorse ambassador!) she is my next #HeadstrongHero. Read about her switch from police officer to full time eventer and trainer below.
Victoria: "My grandma took me for a pony ride aged about 3 years old and it kind of just stuck from there. Eventing came from my Pony club days I guess. The thrill of galloping across country at local PC hunter trials was enough to give me the bug!"
Headstrong Equestrian - Tell me about your first eventer?
Victoria: "A 16'1 bay TB, named Timmy. I got him when I was 16. He was only 5 and was very tricky to say the least. He taught me some stickability that's for sure as he developed a naughty napping habit in between XC fences so I generally had a tough time going XC, but it didn't put me off! He took me to Pre Novice level."
Headstrong Equestrian - Your biggest competitive achievement to date?
Victoria: "Completing my first CIC2* at South of England and finishing 17th in good company."
Headstrong Equestrian - You worked full time as a police officer as well as an eventer – what was a normal ‘day in the life’ like for you juggling both horses and work?
Victoria: "I worked shifts so when I was on an early shift, I was in the stable yard by 5am for a quick muck out and turn out to be at work for 6am, this was obviously when I only had one horse. As things progressed and I ended up with four, luckily my shifts changed so I didn't start until 7am which gave me just enough time to muck out and turn out four before arriving at work on time.
"When I worked a late shift, I didn't start work until 2pm so had plenty of time to do the yard work and ride before work. I then relied on a friend or my husband when he returned from 9-5 job to finish the horses off in the evening. Lastly night shifts, I obviously had day time to do the yard and ride, even after a full night shift finishing at 6am I would be back down the yard to turn out before going to bed."
Headstrong Equestrian - Earlier this year you took the plunge and decided to ditch the day job and go pro; what made you take this decision?
Victoria: "I am in a very fortunate position that my husband supports me 100% in my now chosen career, in fact he is seriously involved in choosing the horses that join my team. He has researched Thoroughbred bloodlines which have gone on to Intermediate and beyond in BE, so has built a spreadsheet which he checks against the programmes before we go to horse sales. He sieves through 200 horses and whittles it down to about 10 which I am allowed to view when we get there, then it is my choice!
"He is a very competitive person anyway, so as I am seriously competitive also he is enjoying seeing his team of horses (and his wife) get to the highest level they can in BE, with the aim of completing Badminton and earning a GB flag on my hat silk! I have managed to build up a great client base for my teaching too, but would like to add to my owners on 2015 and beyond."
Headstrong Equestrian - What does your normal day look like now?
Victoria: "7.30am alarm then straight out onto the yard which is just outside my back door, to feed not only the horses, but the dogs, cats, chickens and rabbits too! Back indoors for breakfast. My groom arrives at 8.30am which is when I generally start working my six horses while she does the yard duties. If I'm lucky and don't get interrupted or have lessons to teach, I can get them all worked by early afternoon. Then I do afternoon stables myself and usually go out teaching again in the evening.
"There are are some days that I teach throughout the day and then ride my team into the evening, thank goodness for floodlights. I do all the riding myself. Sometimes have schooling liveries in also. 10pm is last stable checks then to bed knackered to start over again!"
Headstrong Equestrian - Any advice to other serious amateurs on when to ‘go pro’?
Victoria; "Only when you have enough great support behind you as there is no way I could have afforded to make the jump without my husband, who I am hugely grateful to."
Headstrong Equestrian - You have a penchant for Thoroughbreds – why this breed?
Victoria: "It all started when I was looking to buy a second horse to bring on and sell in order to finance a more experienced Eventer to take me up the levels. My husband was staying away one night for work and was bored sitting in a hotel room. He searched the internet and found a cheap ex-racehorse that he thought was nice. He then arranged to go and see it the following day and then talked me into pulling a sicky at work which I have never done before!
"We drove down to Sussex to be told that a lady had come and seen the horse late the previous afternoon, wanted him but hadn't left a deposit. As we were there the guy let us have a look at the horse. On first impressions I didn't like him. He was petite, skinny and waving his back legs around in the stable. However, on I hopped (in a racing saddle I hasten to add!) and off I went up the gallops at a rate of knots. When I returned I had the biggest grin on my face and I told my husband, 'This is a XC machine!'
"We asked the guy how much more we could give him to ease his conscience as he had already promised the horse to the other lady. The guy didn't know what to do, so we headed for the car leaving our phone number in case he changed his mind. Five minutes later my phone rang and we agreed a price. We then met him in a local service station, withdrew a deposit and returned the next day to collect Crystal Ka, my now Intermediate and 2* event horse!
"From that moment forward it was Thoroughbreds for me all the way. They know how to run in a straight line until told to do anything else, which is awesome on XC courses so lines and combinations and mainly hitting the time are a doddle! The showjumping is the toughest challenge for these guys but many are trainable given time and patience."
Headstrong Equestrian - Tell me about your current stable star?
Victoria: "Crystal Ka, 16'1", 12 yr old bay French TB, with Nijinsky bloodlines lines. He has won, been placed and qualified for Regional finals at BD levels up to Medium, whilst working Advanced Medium at home. He has a personal best Elementary score of 78%. He has jumped double clear round Newcomer BS courses. He has won and been placed at all BE levels up to Intermediate and FEI 2*. Most definitely my horse of a lifetime!"
Headstrong Equestrian - Any stars of the future?
Victoria: "3 yr old Frankie, 4 yr old Tilly, 5 yr old Milli, 6 yr old Forrest!"
Headstrong Equestrian - What are your main aims for the 2015 season and beyond?
Victoria: "Successfully upgrade to BE Advanced and CIC3* with Crysto. Long term to produce a horse to 4*."
Follow Victoria's progress with her team of ex-racehorses on her Facebook page or on Twitter.