Cowboy tribute at funeral of popular Devizes horse trainer

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: James Roberts James Roberts

Jeans, cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats were the order of the day at the funeral of renowned horse trainer James Roberts at St Mary’s Church in Market Lavington yesterday.

Some 150 mourners dressed in Mr Roberts’ preferred outfit followed the coffin from his training centre at Sands Farm in Easterton Sands on board a horse-drawn hearse to the church for the service of commemoration.

The church was full to capacity with many following the service over loudspeakers in the churchyard as Mr Roberts’ coffin was carried in in true Western tradition, with his saddle and hat perched on top.

Following the singing of the hymn Lord of the Dance, Mr Roberts’ fiancee, Vicky Craig, paid tribute to the love of her life. Her reminscences of the advice he would shout to his students is unrepeatable and had the church full of laughter.

She described him as “dedicated, passionate and patient” and not averse to taking risks, such as when he threw over a promising career as a farrier to train as a Parelli horse trainer after one of the horses he was shoeing became so nervous he was unable to complete the job.

Mr Roberts’ younger brother Paul, paying his tribute, remembered that, when they had to see the careers master at school, he had put down “huntsman” on his questionnaire while Mr Roberts put down “cowboy”.

Paul Roberts said: “We were told to be more realistic.” Both men were to fulfil their ambitions and Paul Roberts sounded “gone away” on his hunting horn in tribute to his brother.

Among the congregation were Mr Roberts’ parents Dave and Carrie, who live in Lincoln. Dave Roberts told the Gazette: “James started riding as a toddler, almost before he could walk properly.

“When he left school he decided to be a farrier and I remember the day he showed me a video about Parelli training. One of the family said to him, you’ll never make any money with that.”

James Roberts, who set up JR Foundation Station to train both horses and riders under the Parelli system at Easterton Sands, was internationally renowned and would travel all over the world to ply his trade.

He died following a crash on the A345 near Pewsey on Sunday November 18. He had been returning from carrying out a horse “clinic” in the area.
After the service at St Mary’s there was a cremation at West Wiltshire Crematorium for family only and mourners were invited to a reception at the Royal Oak in Easterton.

A retiring collection will benefit Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal and half the money will be used to create a permanent memorial to Mr Roberts.

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