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Out of Office: Alice McCullagh

In a new feature, Steven Hugill speaks to businesspeople about their lives beyond the workplace. Here, Alice McCullagh, managing director of Rosedene Nurseries, talks about her love of horse riding, which will this summer see her take on fellow amateur jockeys in a major charity

Away from overseeing Rosedene Nurseries’ locations in Teesside and North Yorkshire, you have a keen interest in horse riding. Can you tell us how this hobby began and what you enjoy about it?

My love for horses was sparked as a toddler, growing up in Saltburn and riding before school on the beach. It quickly became apparent I had a competitive nature, which led to success in the equestrian world. Now, my passion lies in developing young horses, building relationships with them and enabling them to reach their potential. Being in the saddle provides a unique sense of freedom. Horses are remarkable animals, and there’s so much to learn from connecting with them closely.

You’re taking your pastime to a new level, having entered the Macmillan Ride of their Lives race, which pits amateur jockeys against each other across nine furlongs at York Racecourse in mid- June. What inspired you to take on the challenge?

Every year, I set a new challenge for myself to learn something new and step out of my comfort zone. After climbing Kilimanjaro and running a marathon in recent years, I chose this race for 2024. Macmillan Cancer Support is an incredible charity that helps thousands of people battling cancer, including friends and family close to me. I’ve been a spectator at York Racecourse since childhood, and participating in this race is most probably my only chance to experience galloping down its historic track.



You’ve been preparing for six months with trainer Ben Haslam in Middleham, North Yorkshire. What have you learned from your time among the professional ranks?

Being around the professional racing yard has taught me how tough the industry is. The team’s dedication is immense; they work tirelessly every day to develop and prepare the horses for races. In addition to riding, my training involves boxing, Pilates and running, and I’ve also been privileged to have guidance from jockey coach Phil Kinsella, who has been instrumental in training me on an Equicizer machine, to improve my balance and riding skills. It’s a demanding sport that requires physical and mental strength.

The race will take place during a premier fixture at York Racecourse, which annually draws thousands of spectators. Are you nervous about riding in front of such packed grandstands?

I imagine there will be a lot of nerves on the day, though I know that when the moment comes, my competitive side will likely take over. My main focus will be on making the horse, the yard and all my supporters proud, rather than the size of the crowd. However, I need to remember to breathe and enjoy the experience.

Has your race training brought any benefits to your professional life? Have you been able to integrate any learnings into your role at Rosedene Nurseries?

Engaging in activities that drive adrenaline, like galloping a horse, positively influences my overall mindset, energising me for other responsibilities. The constant learning and interactions with various professionals in the racing world have also enhanced my approach to managing and learning within my business role. Continuous improvement and open dialogue are vital, and I’ve brought these principles more prominently into my professional life; stay humble, and you can never ask too many questions.


May 9, 2024

  • Feature
  • Ideas & Observations

Created by North East Times