Saturday, May. 25, 2024

James Fairclough Returns To The WEG With A Young Team

KATIE GROVE: How do you feel this team of horses compares to others you have competed with?

JAMES FAIRCLOUGH: These guys are very good. Because there are some young ones, they have to work a little harder to do well, but they all have the ability. I'm trying to get them some more exposure in Europe this summer before going to the World Equestrian Games. [He placed 26th at the CAIO Breda, the Netherlands, July 7-9 and contested the Riesenbeck CAI Aug. 3-6].
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KATIE GROVE: How do you feel this team of horses compares to others you have competed with?

JAMES FAIRCLOUGH: These guys are very good. Because there are some young ones, they have to work a little harder to do well, but they all have the ability. I’m trying to get them some more exposure in Europe this summer before going to the World Equestrian Games. [He placed 26th at the CAIO Breda, the Netherlands, July 7-9 and contested the Riesenbeck CAI Aug. 3-6].

What has this team done that you are most proud of since they’ve been together?
They’ve done really well considering how recently the new ones have been added. They’re new, but they’re stepping up to the plate. [Team horses include: Othello M, 10, a Swiss Warmblood and member of Fairclough’s team since May of 2005; Charmeur, 12, a Swiss Warmblood and returning veteran from the 2002 WEG in Jerez, Spain; Kavango v. Falkenstein CH, 6, a Swiss Warmblood making his first international trip; Baccarat, 11, a Dutch Warmblood returning from the 2002 WEG; Levin, 8, an Austrian Warmblood making his first international trip and the newest member of Fairclough’s team, January of 2006].

How have you been preparing since the last World Championships?
I’ve been training with Belgian four-in-hand driver, Felix Brasseur. [Brasseur was the 1996 team and individual World Champion Four-in-Hand driver and is currently ranked second in the FEI Top Driver Rankings].

What do you feel each member of the U.S. team brings to this event?
Chester Weber has been really strong in dressage and putting in good marathons. [He won the dressage phase at the CAIO Breda over 46 other competitors and was the only driver to score in the 30s.] Tucker Johnson has also been very strong in dressage [he placed fourth in dressage at Breda]. All of us have done well in cones, so the possibility is there for us to [place well].

How do you think the Aachen WEG will compare to other WEGs and World Championships you have competed in?
The organization at Aachen is always impeccable, so I can only expect that will continue over to the WEG. It’s such a well-run organization; it’s a lesson for everybody.

How do you get all of the driving equipment to Europe?
Usually, the U.S. Equestrian Team sends over a truck and trailer with all our gear by boat. Sending one of us is comparable to sending an entire dressage or show jumping team.

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Who are your grooms/cheering section? How do they help?
You’re only as good as your crew in this sport. My team has been with me for a while, and they’re great. There’s so much involved–you have to have a great crew. My wife, Robin, and children are coming to the WEG for support. Currently, they’re showing in the jumpers back home at their own horse shows, so they understand the horse industry and appreciate what I’m doing here. Jane Clark also stays involved with the team.

How has making the team and competing in Europe affected your business and home life?
It’s tough–a lot of work. A lot less sleep and a lot more work to keep up with both. I have to be very careful with my time and how I divide it. When I’m at home, I’m usually in my office [where he works as president of his family’s heating oil company] by about 4:30 a.m. so I can get back to work with the team by about 1 to 2 in the afternoon. Even a normal day is pretty long, and that schedule doesn’t leave much time for much else.


I know you were hurt earlier this year. What happened and how did it affect your training and competing? Did you ever worry it might keep you from going to the WEG?
I had to have hernia surgery earlier this year. I finished the Live Oak CAI-A [Fla.] on Sunday and, by 10 a.m. Monday, I was in surgery so I could fit it in. It was something I had to do then so I wouldn’t have to worry about it now. I competed in dressage and cones in the Sunshine State CAI [Fla.] WEG qualifier only a few weeks later, although I still felt a little too sore to try marathon. Since I was able to plan it out a bit, I wasn’t ever worried about it. If you think something like that will hold you back, it will happen that way. I don’t think that way. I am 100 percent now.

Personal Profile
Age: 48
Hometown: Newton, N.J.

Sponsor: All horses owned by Jane Forbes Clark except Baccaarat (owned by driver).

History: James Fairclough has been a staple of the combined driving world for more than 25 years. He competed in his first four-in-hand World Championship in 1980, and this World Equestrian Games in Aachen will be his eighth. Previously, he competed in two pairs World Championships. His teammates value Fairclough’s years of competition. Chester Weber described Fairclough as “steady, with lots of experience.”

Competitive Record: This year, Fairclough has driven his new team to respectable finishes, including third at the Live Oak CAI-A in March, and second at the Cedar Lane Farm CAI (N.J.) in April.

Hobbies: Although he doesn’t have much free time with his busy schedule, when he does, Fairclough enjoys “skiing, hunting, fishing, and playing on my bulldozers.”

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