Intended at first simply to keep him out of trouble, horses have become Jay Buxton’s lifelong passion and career 

Both Confucius and Mark Twain have been credited with the saying: ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ and it’s certainly a truism for Jay Buxton, and his wife Paige, whose love of horses has resulted in a career in the upper echelons of the equestrian world. 

Great British Life: Paige and Jay Buxton, of Strides Equestrian in CroftPaige and Jay Buxton, of Strides Equestrian in Croft (Image: Events Through A Lens)

Strides Equestrian, which Jay founded in 2010, operates in four linked strands – they source showjumping horses for buyers both UK-based and internationally; they train riders who are aiming to work their way up through the ranks of the showjumping elite; they train and ride horses in showjumping events for third party owners; and they lease horses to riders who are seeking to build their success in the sport and compete at increasingly higher levels.  

“Leasing is a relatively new option in the UK,” Jay says, “though it’s quite popular in the States and elsewhere. One huge benefit is to make finding, riding and keeping top class horses more affordable. It’s also great for people who want a horse as a stepping stone to what they want to achieve. It eliminates the need to purchase a horse that you’re only looking to have for 12 or 18 months, making it a much easier, more practical approach.” 

The leasing package includes full livery and rider accommodation (when needed), in Jay and Paige’s purpose-build equestrian centre in Croft, one-to-one tuition from Jay, transport of horse and rider to and from competitions, and, in effect, a concierge service that ensures all their equine needs are met. 

“A lot of people lease cars and now the concept has moved over to horses and it’s proving very popular,” jay says. “We provide horses that can take people to the very top – the biggest, most luxurious shows all over the world – or just stay at the more low key county show and local level. 

“We’ve sourced horses that have gone to the Olympics and horses for amateurs. We take a very personal approach, and we like to see the progress, keep in touch and work as a team, be part of the journey.”

Great British Life: Jay schools horses to bring them on and up through the levels as a showjumperJay schools horses to bring them on and up through the levels as a showjumper (Image: Events Through A Lens) 

Showjumping, as a sport, can give off a vibe as being closed to those who haven’t grown up in a horsey family, with generations of experience helping each new generation make their way, but neither Jay nor Paige come from that background, which must give those coming into the sport from a place of inexperience great reassurance. 

“Absolutely,” Jay says. “We’ve both shown it’s possible to be really successful and, really, your dreams are what you make them.” 

Paige started riding at her local riding school, close to where she grew up in Essex, at the age of seven. 

“Like so many, it was just a hobby, really, competing in local shows. When I went to university I kept it up and that’s when I met Jay. He was riding horses for the guy that I was training with, showjumper Alan Fazakerley, in Manchester, and we used to go to the same shows. After I graduated, I went on to work in the City, at Deloitte. Jay kept my horse and I would go and watch him in competitions and do the occasional one myself. Then after a few years working I decided to leave the City and move up here, to help Jay set up and run the business when he moved to Croft. My plan was just to have a career break, for a couple of years, but I decided life’s too short, so I stayed.” 

Paige and Jay married in 2019, and now have a son, Carter, who has most definitely been born into a horsey family. 

Jay found his passion for horses in a slightly less conventional way, when he was sent, as a punishment, to help his aunt with a horse she kept. 

Great British Life: Jay takes Strides Josie round the course at Bolesworth Young Horse ShowJay takes Strides Josie round the course at Bolesworth Young Horse Show (Image: Events Through A Lens)

“Growing up I was a bit, mischievous, in school and never really found anything to hold my attention. My aunt had a horse, purely as a hobby, no involvement in anything more serious, and my parents suggested, when I was nine years old, that maybe of an evening and weekends I should go with her and that would keep me occupied – it was supposed to be more of a punishment, I think. Somebody at the same stables had an old pony they let me ride and I got addicted, and from there we leased a pony and then it really just took off and I got really hooked on the sport.  

“I went straight into showjumping. When I was 15 I was offered a job with William and Pippa Funnell [owners of The Billy Stud, in Surrey]. My parents at this point were getting a bit worried, as they had no idea it was possible to for anyone non-horsey to do it as a living, but I was pretty determined and left home the day after my last GCSE. 

“After 18 months with The Billy Stud I felt I was ready to move on, so joined international showjumper Peter Bulthaus, in The Netherlands,” Jay says.  

Jay is very modest about his own career in showjumping. While with Peter he rode numerous winners, including being placed 3rd in the Dutch National Z Final at Maastricht, he’s competed across Europe at Grand Prix level, and in 2022 competed for Great Britain in his first Nations Cup, in Portugal. He started his business after a nasty fall at a competition in Spain made him contemplate what else he might want to achieve in life.  

His work building Strides, now a full-service livery and training centre, with stabling for 19 horses, began with a small operation renting stables in Knutsford. 

“From the age of 20 I have slowly been building the business up, and my focus has always been on quality, not turnover. When in Knutsford, I would train people’s horses, to help pay the rent, and started by buying and selling horses. While I’ve been ambitious in the sport, I’ve also been interested in the business side of things and knew that I’d need my own property to make it work, to make a living. We’re seven years here now at Croft, and every penny earned has gone into upgrading the facilities. I think what we’ve achieved and the horses we’ve sold means people really respect us and follow us, and that kind of respect really means as lot to me.” 

Paige adds: “I remember one time meeting Jay in London, and he said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a client flying in from America [and he was only 19] and I don’t really know what to say to him, so will you come with me?’ So I went along, and the client was an Olympic showjumper. That guy is still with us and has since sent us a lot of clients from the USA. This was before Jay even started his business.” 

Great British Life: Jay says every penny they have earned has been put into the facilities at the Croft equestrain centreJay says every penny they have earned has been put into the facilities at the Croft equestrain centre (Image: Events Through A Lens)

“On that trip he looked at six horses,” Jay says. “Two of them went to the Olympics and four represented their countries in Nations Cups and Grand Prix.  

“I started like that, as an agent, and then when I opened in Knutsford people started sending me their horses to ride and eventually sell, and that side of the business slowly started to grow. At that age and just starting out it’s not the best horses you get, they’re very young and need a lot of work, but it grew from there. 

“I basically got into working with horses because I love horses, and I never wanted to be a dealer who had them for one day and sold them the next. I want to spend time with them and see what I can make of them, and people appreciated that and it wasn’t long before I had more and more people wanting to send me their horses for me to ride and train, with often the end goal of selling them, but also with the interest of seeing how far they could go up the ranks.  Of course, the better the horses did, the better horses I’d get sent.” 

Now, the couple are involved in all strands of the sport, from training horses to training people, managing their clients’, and/or their clients’ horses’ competition progress and taking them to the next level, as well as sourcing, buying, selling and breeding horses. 

“Showjumping isn’t just a leisure activity, it’s a sport,” Jay says, “just like horse racing is. We have owners who are in it just for the love of it, who just love attending the events and watching their horses compete [with Jay as the rider], and owners who in it for investment purposes. We train and ride a horse to take it up through the ranks and they’re then worth a great deal – you can take a horse worth a few thousands to being worth six figures. 

“It’s full on,” Paige laughs, “but it never feels like work, we just love what we do.”