A Tribute To James Roberts

by Parelli Central on December 12, 2012

Stephanie Fry wrote this touching tribute to James Roberts, 3-Star Parelli Professional, who was tragically killed in an auto accident in November. James was an amazing horseman and an amazing person. Take it away, Stephanie:

I did not know James well, but only met him briefly when accompanying my friend to the James Roberts Foundation Station to watch him start her young horse. On each of those visits, without fail, I took away a precious little nugget of savvy which helped me with my own horses, particularly with Hero, my Hanoverian who is so similar to James’ Becks.

I felt I wanted to pay my respects to this highly regarded local go-to guy, a great horseman who had touched my life, and, more importantly, that of my horses, so fleetingly and yet so deeply. It was cold, clear and sunny. Along with many others, my friend and I joined the funeral procession which had set out about 30 minutes earlier from JRFS at the pub where the wake was to be held. Some of the funny quips James is famous for were posted on the doors, walls and beams of the bar, becoming ever more rude the closer you got to the toilets. As for the Ladies’ itself… the less said, the better.

The hearse was drawn by two stunning black horses, and inside it was James’ coffin along with his saddle and Stetson. It was followed by Becks and Princess, the mare fittingly being ridden by Vicky, James’ fiance. It looked and sounded more like a migrating herd than a funeral procession, with over 200 pairs of boots resounding on the tarmac. The dress code was “cowboy,” and the throng of cowboy hats stretched for 1/2 mile or so.

The turnout was something to behold. When we reached the high street of the village, shopkeepers all along ceased work and stood to attention outside their premises. I felt proud to be Parelli. It was also good to see PNH represented by Neil Pye and his wife.

The old stone church sat atop a small, grassy hill. There wasn’t room inside for everybody, but loudspeakers had been installed so that the crowd assembled outside the church door could follow the service. We listened to some moving – as well as hilarious – tributes, with Vicky in particular sharing her heart out and yet holding it together like a real trooper, and felt we had got to know James better for hearing them.

After the service, the coffin was brought back out (saddle, Stetson and all) and replaced in the hearse for James’ last journey to the crematorium. The final addition was a JRFS logo made of blossoms. Becks and Princess were waiting nearby to return to the farm. When the hearse prepared to pull away, Becks let out a single whinny. Then it travelled into the distance to a round of applause.

I hurried back to my own yard to feed my herd in what remained of the last vestiges of daylight. Then I visited my great old horse’s grave in the next field and, as every Thursday, placed down an offering for him to taste energetically from the other side (this time, a mince pie. He just LOVED this Christmas treat). I kept him company until the moon had cleared the tree tops on the hills and then came home with much to lick and chew on.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil March 2, 2013 at 10:57 am

I never met James but I have one of his saddles , #806 . It’s a beauty . RIP James .


Harriet West December 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Sitting here with tears rolling down my face…thank you for a beautiful tribute to James. The service must have been a sight to behold. I had the pleasure of seeing James at the Wild Horse Taming event in Reno, NV several years ago.


Freddy Verleyen December 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

Thanks, the way you write it i really can visualize the all ceremonial. Wish i could be there . James visit me twice in Spain and left me always with more arrows in my quiver.Rest in peace my friend and help us from horse heaven where you surely are now.


Cynthia Edmonson December 13, 2012 at 7:48 am

Hi Stephanie,

Thank you so much for sharing this with those of us unable to attend. I had the pleasure of meeting James at the Colt Start in Ft. Worth, TX. I sat down and spoke with him one afternoon during the lunch break. He was dining on the main lawn were all the attendees would for sure bombard him with questions and stories, rather than being tucked away out of sight. As we all sat and listened to him share nuggets of savvy he was kind, generous, and passionate. He provided me with a tip for my 3 month old Enzo, and now that Enzo is almost 2, he is still being touched by James words of savvy. James touched so many horses and humans, I was blessed to spend that time with a great horseman.



Ginger December 13, 2012 at 7:20 am

Beautifully said, Stephanie. Thank you.


debs searle December 13, 2012 at 3:49 am

Thank you for your post on the ceremony as I wasn’t able to attend. I am in debt to James as he started my horse in 2009 and have been lucky enough to take part in an ‘experience week’ each year since then to keep progressive. Thank you James for the ‘James’ you put into my horse and words are not enough for the loss throughout the whole horse fraternity.


Leslie Wetzel December 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Thanks for writing that, Stephanie. I only spoke to James at the Colt Start, in Fort Worth, where my gelding, Ameen, was a demo horse. I loved watching him, and followed him on his web site. What a tragic loss, I was deeply touched when I got the news. God bless him, and Vicky, and pray that his legacy will be carried on. RIP James.


Mary Wilson December 12, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Beautifully written Stephanie. Must have been an unbelievably emotional ceremony, and what a wonderful tribute to James! Thank you so much for sharing.


Leonore December 12, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Beautifully put, tears rolling down my face. So very very sad. Thank goodness he left us all with something to continue his work.


Colleen Nye December 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm

What a beautiful tribute to Jame’s and his service. My eyes are blurry as I write this so I have to keep going back to correct my mistakes. Thanks Stephanie for taking the time to share……


DeeDee McMillan December 12, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Lovely tribute Stephanie, through you words I could easily envision this honoring of James.


Carol Coppinger December 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Rest in peace James. This is a very respectful recounting of his closing moments.


Kelly Sigler December 12, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I wish I could have been there- what a great tribute to an amazing horseman.


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