Stephanie DeWitt chats with Ian Bareham
By Stephanie DeWitt #IanBareham
How did SEEL come into being?
SEEL was the brainchild of myself and Roland Clarke and was the first regional eventing league in the country. We brought it into being in the office at Crockstead twenty-three years ago. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and now has great sponsors, a fantastic annual awards ball and an excellent committee who do what they say they will. Since its inception SEEL has donated more than £30,000 to charity and the prize money awarded in 2018 will total over £7,000 across all the rankings as well as a Voltaire saddle for the highest-placed grassroots competitor.
How did you originally get involved with eventing and show jumping?
I first started hanging around ponies at the age of about thirteen. Then I served in the Household Cavalry, in the Blues & Royals, and got into eventing by grooming for the army's top eventer at the time, Al Varley who rode Zing. I was very competitive but realised I would never be good enough to become a top rider.
After leaving the army I was hooked on eventing and worked as a groom, firstly with the Jacksons at Frensham who owned horses competing in various disciplines, then with Colin Wares, an international show jumper and eventer who had 7 or 8 Grade A's and more than 10 event horses. We were on the road all year round and it was great fun. I went to two World Championships and four Europeans with eventer Lorna Clark who flew the flag for grooms. But the best boss I ever had was HRH Princess Anne when she was married to Captain Mark Phillips.
Then I set up my own yard at Crockstead, Sussex, and started to run a few competitions, after which I bought Golden Cross EC and owned a string of event horses. My stable jockeys were Fiona Cardrick, Tom Crisp and Sam Penn.
Two and a half years ago I sold up and set up on my own as a consultant, my first client being Petley Wood EC which has gone from strength to strength.
So I have lots of experience from every side of the fence, so to speak - as a groom, competitor, owner and show organiser.
What would you have done if you hadn't gone into the army?
I would have liked to have gone into hunt service. But, when I suggested it, my parents went up the wall! So, rebelling against them, I went to the recruiting office and joined the army, presenting them with a fait accompli! I just wanted to work with horses. And, in the army, I earned a lot more than if I had just been a groom.
Did you take part in any Royal occasions?
Yes, I did two Trooping the Colour events in the mid-seventies and was often part of the escort for state visits by foreign dignitaries. There were so many practices, usually in the middle of the night starting at 2am, that, by the time you got to the actual occasion, you'd already done it five times!
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to get away from the pressures of work occasionally! Sometimes I go to Arlington to watch speedway racing although I've never participated in it. Living in the East Sussex and Romney Marsh country I am a foot-follower of that hunt along with the Southdown & Eridge or the Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent. I half-own Sam Penn's 11 year-old Pusiden who has won a couple of 1.30m showjumping competitions and syndicate the 5 year-old Just A Griffin who showjumps at Discovery level and is starting the eventing season this year. So it gives me great pleasure to see them compete and follow their progress.
Where would be your dream holiday destination?
I've been to lots of places worldwide through eventing - Australia three times, at the World Championships in Adelaide and Melbourne, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Italy... In this way you get to see a country in its natural state, not from a tourist's point of view. I'm not one for sunbathing on a beach. I would love to go to the Seychelles.
Do you have any regrets about the way your life has gone?
No, I think everything happens for a reason and life is what you make it. Sometimes what you think of as a regret can turn out to be a blessing and the best thing that ever happened.
How would you describe yourself?
I like to be a very organised person. I hate disorganisation. For example, the arrangements for the next SEEL Ball in November are all sorted already. I sleep better knowing I've done that.
What sort of things please you?
I appreciate competitors sending their thanks after any kind of event. It makes all the difference!
Is there anything you would still like to achieve in life?
No, I'm happy for things to go forward as they are.