After being based in California for 32 years, the last three in the Paso Robles area, top hunter professional John French is relocating to show jumper Lauren Crooks’ farm in Snohomish, Washington, on May 1.
After breaking his collarbone in May and suffering a serious fall where a horse tripped and rolled over him in July, French, who’s a popular catch rider, began thinking about the future and developing his own base.
“I thought there would be a lot more horse shows [in Paso Robles],” he said. “Plus with last year having a couple of accidents, I decided I still want to do a little bit of catch riding, but I really want to develop more of my own home base. So then five years from now if I don’t want to ride anymore or something, then I’ve developed clientele and a business at home, whereas if you’re just catch riding or you get hurt or when the time is over and you’re not riding anymore, you need to have more of a business.”
French, 56, taught Crooks while she was in college and said he enjoyed the area when he taught a clinic there last fall.
French said he appreciates big grassy fields and lots of hacking, especially for young horses, so he’s excited to bring some clients, his own up-and-coming horses, and Hiller Farms LLC’s derby horse Center Court up north.
Having shown the same circuit for more than 30 years, French is also excited to try some new shows like Thunderbird, in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, which is two hours away, but he still plans to attend the winter shows in California.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I don’t mind change. I think change is fun. If I’m going to make such big change, I need to do it now [while I’m still riding] and get more established in the area. People keep coming up to me, and they’re like, ‘What? All the way to Seattle? It’s cold, and it rains there.’ I’ve been in California for 32 years. I’m taking it one day at a time, and we’ll see what happens. I hear a lot of good things about the Northwest and the Northwest shows. I can tell you where I’m going to be every week in California for the last 32 years. To be able to go somewhere else will be exciting.”