Life in our Foothills July 2023 – A Couple Living Their Best Life in the Foothills – James and Nancy Cullen

Published 2:04 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2023

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Meet James and Dr. Nancy Cullen, an accomplished couple in their professional and personal lives who decided to move to our neck of the woods four years ago. Their love of horses and community led them to the Foothills area.

Longtime members of their local fox hunting club in Minnesota, the couple enjoys competing in Steeplechase racing. They met in 1993 while training for the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, before marrying and spending much of the last three decades in Minnesota. They finally found their way to Columbus, where they discovered the perfect home to fit them.

“We wanted to be in a horse community, but also a strong community to live in along with thinking in terms of future retirement,” says Nancy. “We grew up in small towns and wanted to return to a place with a village feel.” 

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James and Nancy are enjoying life in the Foothills. They put in an arena on their property and spend as much time as they can spare riding and training their horses. James grew up with horses and began riding at a young age, beginning fox hunting at the age of six with the Bray Harriers in the Wicklow Mountains. Eventually, he became a Master of Fox Hounds. 

Nancy, the daughter of a horse veterinarian,  has worked in Sports and Organizational Psychology. She has a doctorate and master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and is also a certified AASP Sport Psychologist. 

A consultant for the University of Minnesota’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, her alma mater, she has a private consulting practice. Semi-retired, Nancy has worked with several NBA teams, primarily the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

A graduate of Trinity University in Ireland, James is the Founder and CEO of Steeplechase Advisors LLC, headquartered in Tryon with offices in Boston, Cleveland, Buffalo and Minneapolis and clients all over the country. He is a nationally recognized leader in the US middle-market restructuring industry with over 30 years of experience leading companies and financial institutions in restructuring and business reorganizations. He has served in many roles and has led over 250 restructuring, refinancing and reorganization processes across the globe for various companies. 

The Cullens are strong advocates for the Foothills and active members of the local horse community. Members of the Tryon Fox Hunting Club, the couple’s love for horses and their expertise in business and psychology have made them a dynamic duo. James has also made use of his Irish gift of public speaking to emcee the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club’s last two Steeplechase Dinners. 

James enjoys the village life, which reminds him of Ireland, going to work daily in Tryon and being able to go down the street to grab coffee or lunch with friends. He appreciates having his gym, dentist and doctor all within a short walking distance from his office on North Trade St.


“This part of the country is quite similar to the part of Ireland I grew up,” he says. “Horses in Ireland are very much a spiritual part of the culture. And fox hunting in Ireland is an ingrained part of the local fabric and brings everyone together of all ages and incomes. It’s also very favorable to run a business in North Carolina. You can live in this wonderful community and still easily travel all over the country. “

Pictures to remind James of his hometown in Dublin City, Ireland, hang on the wall inside his Irish Pub in a converted room beside their garage.

The couple enjoys the local culture and its many great restaurants and events, spending time at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, the Tryon Theater and Tryon Fine Arts Center.

The primary correlation between horses and business is resilience, James says

“If something is not going well one day, you must persevere and work through it. You have to have a lot of patience and resilience,” he says. “Justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude are components of what we believe it takes to be successful whether you’re training horses or trying to restructure a troubled company.” 

James explains how he found success in a competitive and high-stakes business. 

“First, you need to be financially astute and understand the financial analytics and have a command of the factual issues,” James says. “ You have to build consensus around a strategy with stakeholders that may have varying and conflicting issues.” 

Nancy adds,” It’s also vital to recognize the importance of managing different personalities.” 

James says one of the big lessons he’s learned working internationally is that people want to do the right thing. 


“Being a financial person is one thing, but being able to build consensus is the biggest factor,” he explains. “A lot of my background has come from just studying the approaches of historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan.” 

He adds, “I have a tremendous advantage being married to a doctor of psychology.” 

Nancy says the Foothills felt like home right away. 

Views from around the Cullens home

“It was so easy to make a home here,” she says. “The people are all so gracious and welcoming. We just felt a part of the community right away.” 

James and Nancy Cullen are true examples of what it means to be successful in both business and personal endeavors. Their passion for horses and dedication to helping others has made them a beloved couple in the Polk County community in a short time. With their unique combination of expertise and experience, it’s no wonder they make such a great team.