October 2019 - James Alliston & Helen Bouscaren
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 03:09
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Galway Downs International sees equestrian couple compete, call friends together and commit to wedded bliss.

by Kim F. Miller

However James Alliston and Helen Bouscaren do at the Galway Downs International Horse Trials, there’s going to be a big party. James will be competing at the top level, the CCI4*-L, and Helen will tackle the CCI3*-L. Whatever their results, after both finish their final show jumping phase on Sunday, Nov. 3, they’ll transform into bride and groom and tie the knot at a special spot on the cross-country course with the sunset as their backdrop.

Partners in Alliston Eventing and the East Bay Riding Academy, James and Helen “are not the type that dreamed about our wedding day all our lives,” explains Helen. “We wanted to keep showing and not to stop our lives for it.”

Plus, all their friends will be right there as Galway Downs is a season-ending fixture on the West Coast eventing circuit where both have been stars for some time. “We want the wedding to be like a nice party for everybody at the end of the competition,” Helen notes.

Photo: www.nateandjennyweddings.com

Along with their competitive successes, James and Helen are a very well-liked couple. James’ top horse at the moment is Laura Boyer’s Pandora, the palomino mare whose many top placings were added to in July with a third-place finish in the Rebecca Farms CCI4*-L. The up and coming stallion Cassio’s Picasso and returning-to-form Elijah are more members of James’ top string. Helen, meanwhile, won Rebecca Farms’ Intermediate division aboard Ebay.

Their own riding careers are going strong, even though their main priority is their large stable of students. Based at Shiloh West Equestrian in the East Bay Area’s Castro Valley, the program has close to 50 horses currently and a roster of accomplished students at all levels. Their East Bay Riding Academy lesson program is also thriving. “Our plan is clients first, then we do our thing,” explains James. The two aspects of the business go hand in hand, he emphasizes. “It’s important to be current and doing well, because it’s good for our students to see that.”

James Alliston & Pandora. Photo: Kim F. Miller

The Alliston eventing crew competes throughout the West Coast and turns out in force for events at the Woodside Horse Park, including the Oct. 4-6 Woodside International Horse Trials. Students regularly make the 45-minute haul to Woodside to school cross-country between shows and Helen is a regular instructor for the Woodside Pony Club.

James has contested the Kentucky Three Day event nine times already, with various horses from 2011 through 2016. “It’s not like me to make big plans,” James shares with characteristic modesty. However, if fates align, Pandora could accompany him on a sixth trip.

The appeal of those East Coast competitions is strong, but James and Helen are firm supporters of the West Coast event world. “It’s really important that these shows survive and keep running high level classes,” explains James. He’s grateful to have been able to qualify for his past Kentucky trips by competing in California and Montana. “If we had to go back East to compete and qualify, we couldn’t afford it and we’d come home to no business.”

An English Rider & An Equine Golden Girl

James rides for Great Britain, where he graduated from Oxford University with a geography degree in 2006. Training under such eventing luminaries as Andrew Hoy and John Mastin, he was a rising star in his home country before moving to the States to ride and work for Bruce Davidson, Sr. on the East Coast. Over seven years with the U.S. Olympian, he rode horses up to the Advanced and Three Star level before moving West.

He came to California at the invitation of the Chuck and Peggy Moore, owners of Graceland Equestrian Center, a private facility just down Crow Canyon Road from he and Helen’s current base. James and the Moores owned James’ 2013 Rolex partner, Tivoli, together. He moved to Shiloh West in 2013.

Helen Bouscaren & Ebay. Photo: Sherry Stewart

Thanks to loyal owners, James has had many special horses and fan favorite partnerships over the years. Pandora, however, is in a class by herself. To start with, she’s owned by Laura Boyer, James’ first client after moving to California. Laura Boyer rode the Swedish Warmblood’s sire, Proster, a chestnut colored Russian Trakehner. Laura’s daughter, Kendra, rode Pandora’s mom, Camellia E., a talented jumper with a light golden coat. Pandora is her only baby. All the horses and humans connected to Pandora are “all like family to me,” says James.

The mare stands just 15.2hh and James is quite tall, but heights haven’t been an issue in any way, including 4* fence dimensions. A fan favorite wherever she goes, Pandora has the heart and scope of the big horses she so often finishes in front of. Entered in the Galway Downs International Horse Trial’s CCI4*-L division, a good finish could set them up for success well beyond the West Coast.

Helen grew up eventing, competing and as a young professional in the Seattle area. She moved to California in 2012 to tackle the FEI levels under James’ direction. Helen debuted at the Advanced level in 2013 and earned a spot on the USEA’s Eventing 25 Developing Rider list with the chance to work with Olympian David O’Connor. She’s been a consistent winner throughout California and rode Ebay to USEA Area VI Top Horse of 2018.

Together, James and Helen are a much-admired couple with many accomplishments between them. As they transform from riders to bride and groom at the close of Galway competition on Sunday, Nov. 2, they’ll be surrounded by many close friends. Plus plenty of horses should they choose to ride off into the sunset as husband and wife.