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.