Ritchie and I went to James' funeral yesterday. It was a very sad, but not sombre day.
The weather was fantastic, hardly a breath of wind and clear skies, if a bit chilly.
We started at the James Roberts Foundation Station where his coffin was placed in a horse drawn hearse with his hat and saddle draped over the coffin. His fiancee, Vicky, was there behind the hearse on James' horse Princess. A horse he loved to bits. Bravely he used to say, in front of Vicky, "I think more of this horse than my fiancée". She would just smile sweetly and get her own back later
. James' brother was also in the cortège riding Becks, his show jumping horse. I noticed that even for this occasion they stuck to James principles and did a prepare to ride with the horses before mounting.
They made two rounds of the yard and then set off on the forty minute walk to the church. We all followed. And I mean all. There must have been two hundred followers, and as per the request of the family we were all dressed in western gear. Boots, Stetsons, some in chaps and spurs. I am pleased to say we all walked with a forward walk, 110m / minute pace with heads held high, but a few tears. The people in the local village were amazing. Many had dressed up and stood on their porches. The local shops shut and the staff stood outside to pay their respects. He was not just loved by the horse community, but by the whole area.
We made our way, via his house, to the church where all but close family went inside to wait. The church could hold 280 people, but was packed. There were around 100 who had to stay outside and listen via the loud speakers set up.
James was brought in by his closest friends and family with saddle and hat still in place. We sang the hymn "Lord of the Dance" which seemed especially appropriate for me. It really spoke to me that James had started this "dance" and it was for me to continue to follow in his footsteps. Not the religious meaning of the hymn I know, but I can only report its' meaning to me.
We heard Vicky give a lovely speech about James, with hardly a falter. One of the bravest things I have ever witnessed. It was a beautiful speech as well, with only a little sadness in it, it was a celebration of his life. I particularly liked the fact that James used to leap out of bed every morning and do a silly little dance around the bedroom
We also heard from his brother, and so got details of his behaviour as a child, From what I heard it hadn't changed much. His brother is a huntsmen and played the horn at the end of his speech. A moving moment.
Vickys' brother also spoke. This was about more recent antics and mayhem, and how close he had become to James, thinking of him as a brother.
After the service the coffin was again placed in the horse drawn hearse to be taken to the crematorium. That was my last sight of James, or at least the coffin, and it finally came home to me that he was gone. That came as a real shock and hit me hard.
Ritchie and I decided not to go to the crematorium, feeling that it was a private time for his close family. We headed to the pub instead.
The pub was packed, just moving around was hard work. It had been made clear by Vicky that the day was not to be a sombre occasion, so whilst there were tears there was much laughter as well. In the corner there was a tv set up showing movie clips from his life. Very few about horses, but much about song, laughter, pranks and fun.
So the night went on. Lots of conversations about James, horses, horsemanship, the future.
I think James would have approved. As I have said before he lived by a set of rules and maintained those rules on his yard with his staff, students and friends. Break them and be fined a pound (though I never saw anyone pay
1) Don't talk about the past. Horses live in the present, so must we
2) Don't say anything negative. Phrases that include: "can't", "won't","don't", "yea but" were not allowed
3) Always know why you are doing something. If you don't, stop.
Not a bad set of rules to live life by really, especially if you want to maximise your potential and enjoyment as James did.