Victoria Bax in an International Event Rider and experienced trainer in all disciplines, specialising also in retraining of ex-racehorses. Taking a complete change from her career in the police force, Victoria now runs a small eventing yard training her team of thoroughbreds from being back and broken to serious competition at International CIC2* Level. She also rides and competes owner horses too together with training clients in a number of equestrian disciplines.
Samantha Hobden caught up with Victoria recently in Haynet’s Chatting A Bit series to find out more about Victoria Bax and her equestrian story:
Tell us about your childhood riding ponies. When did you realise that you wanted to work and compete with horses as a career?
To be honest the first and only pony I had was my 14.1” New Forest X Tb, Buzby as I was never small enough for anything else!
My dad bought him for me when I was about 11. Buzby took me through Pony Club and Riding Club teams and installed my passion of Eventing in me having tried all disciplines.
I was completely dedicated to my riding from a very early age which saw me going up to the stables morning and evening every day before and after school, a lot of the time having cycled the 3 1/2 miles on getting there on my bike! I knew even then that I would love to ride and work with horses professionally but didn’t ever think I would get the opportunity to do this. Due to this reason and the fact that there really is not a lot of money to be made in this sport, I stayed on at school took my A levels and then embarked on a career in the Police Force.
I figured with shift work I would get to ride during the day more than if I did a 9-5 job. I kept and paid for just one horse, Jack, during this time before meeting my husband and this is when things started to change for the better. One horse turned into two and then into three and then a 4 acre smallholding became ours too and my Equestrian career started to unravel.
Was it an easy path to become an international event rider? What challenges has it given you?
Although I am officially an International event rider I actually have only competed in International classes in England…so far!
Cost is a huge part of this as it is expensive enough to train, stable and compete over 3/4 days, let alone travel abroad to do it. I have always said until I am super competitive at the International level I am doing I won’t travel abroad to do it. However, I finally have two really competitive young horses who I hope will fulfil those dreams and we will make it abroad one day.
You specialise in retraining ex-racehorses. What do you look for in these horses and how do you match them to the different aspects of equestrian sport?
Temperament is key so a major factor to look for in my opinion.
If the horse has hurdled it is likely to have learnt an interesting jumping style whereas if it hasn’t you can start from scratch which is easier. I’m not put off by horses which have raced as 2 year olds as research says that if the horse has raced at a very young age and came out sound then it is likely to stay that way. I prefer to start with an ex racehorse between 4-6 years old and between 16-16.3” and have preferred bloodlines and horses which have raced over a mile and a half. I believe this increases my chances of finding a horse with stamina and athleticism.
I don’t tend to go for sprinters as their fast twitching muscles make them like coiled springs which doesn’t work very well in the dressage arena! Certain mixes of bloodlines don’t tend to produce horses that event well either because of the physical types they tend to produce or because of temperament issues which are common.
I also view their races on Racing Post if they are available to give me an idea of what the horse looks like and how it moves. I like them to move fairly straight although it doesn’t have to be perfect. I like a horse with a good shoulder and good hocks, but nothing too long; long and lollopy might be good for racing but certainly isn’t good for collection and jumping bounces.
Coaching is a love of yours. Tell us the highs and lows teaching can bring.
It certainly is!
The highs are the buzz I get out of helping horses and riders achieve their dreams, watching them progress through the hard times and then seeing the “lightbulb” moments and knowing that I have played just a small part in them getting there.
The lows are the long and many many hours spent standing outside either in an arena or in the middle of a cross country course in the freezing cold, hurricane winds and torrential rain!
Who have been your support network with your equestrian career?
Top of the list has to be my long suffering husband Jason. Without him, I would still have been in my previous job hating waking up and having to go to work every day.
My friend and mentor Lucy Thompson has been a huge part of where I am now too. She has supported me through thick and thin and given me the confidence and belief in myself that I can do it.
Which of your horses has been the “special one”?
Crystal Ka aka Crysto. He has been my ex-racehorse of a lifetime so far. He has not been easy by any means, BUT he has given me the opportunity to do so many things successfully for the first time from giving us our first BE win to jumping us clear round our first CIC 2* to giving me my first ever surgery and hospital stay!
Which equestrian rider do you take inspiration from and why?
The legend who is Lucinda Green! I love her positive and determined style.
She has helped me with my hot head horse Crystal Ka, even making positive comments to me after a “seat of your pants” style dressage test in one of our AI classes! She is very down to earth and says it how it is. She is not one to give up on dreams and neither am I!
If you hadn’t had travelled down the equestrian career path, what would have been your Plan B?
In reality, my equestrian career is my Plan B!
I never thought in a million years I would actually be able to make it as a career so started out as a Police Officer in Essex Police! I served for 13 years. When I started I loved it and the “family” it gave me but my life changed and I met my husband so my priorities changed and eventually he fully supported me in following my dreams of embarking on a full-time equestrian career, which I love every minute of. He has also enabled me to take my Coaching exams to make that side of it officially too.
On a day off, where would we find you?
What’s a day off! Being in the equestrian career is a lifestyle that has to be done every day.
Where do you hope to be in ten years time?
I’d like to think realistically I will have made it round a 3* but would love that to be a 4*! I would also like to have progressed with my coaching exams too.
Against the Clock
Bays, Greys or Chestnuts: Bays
Champagne or Gin: Both!
Schoolmaster or Youngster: Youngster
Sunshine or Snow: Sunshine
Home Cooked or Eating Out: Home cooked
Spend or Save: Spend
Music or Film: Music
Horse Racing or Racing Cars: Horse Racing
Please visit: https://vbeventing.weebly.com/
Image credit: Equuis Images by Jason Bax