EQUILINE America’s Julie Welles wins the QHP 6/7yo Prix with Old Willow Farms’ Balade de Normandie at the Peelbergen Equestrian Center in Kronenberg, The Netherlands
When EQUILINE rider Laura Kraut receives an exciting new prospect, she knows she has the perfect rider to develop it. Julie Welles is Kraut’s main rider, developing the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s horses in both America and in Europe. She divides her time between Laura and Nick Skelton’s bases in Wellington, FL, and Warwickshire, England, and for the first time this winter, she will also spend a concentrated amount of time showing in Spain on the world-renowned Sunshine Tour.
Welles, a top junior rider before working for fellow EQUILINE rider Lauren Hough and then moving her tack to Kraut’s operation, had one of her best seasons to date in 2017. She was twice a winner with the Stars and Stripes’ 8-year-old Zangersheide mare Caelle and triumphed in the 7-year-olds with Pat Hales’ SFS Vincomte at the Costa del Sol Equestrian Tour in Mijas (ESP) in October; she also earned top ribbons in Europe throughout the summer on the Stars and Stripes’ Andretti S and rode Old Willow Farms’ Viper Vrombautshoeve Z in Grand Prix competition at Megeve (FRA) and Crans-Montana (SUI), both CSI 3* events.
It’s hard to find a rider more enthusiastic about or devoted to her job than Welles, whose true love for both the horse and her time in the saddle is apparent in every conversation and by simple observation in the barn and at the ring. Proudly representing the EQUILINE brand herself, she reveals just how she got every rider’s dream job and her most exciting prospects in EQUILINE’s latest blog installment:
EQUILINE America: What is life typically like for you?
Julie Welles: Working with Nick and Laura has been amazing. I worked for them one time before for a few years and then I went away for a little bit, and now I’m back. I don’t know where else I would want to be, to be honest, and they’ve done so much for me. Where I am today is because of them—and Missy [Clark] and John [Brennan], for sure, whom I spent several years working for and whom I rode with during my junior years, at North Run. This winter is going to be a bit different for me. Laura is going to split up the horses, and we’re going to do the Sunshine Tour and Wellington. I’m quite excited to see what else is out there!
EA: How did you get connected with Laura?
JW: I owe it all to Lauren Hough. I was working for her one winter, and she didn’t have enough for me to do one summer, and so, between her and Laura, they made a job for me so I could stay with Lauren. When we got back to Florida the next winter, Lauren didn’t need me as much as she did before, but told me I was going to work for Laura, and that’s how it happened!
EA: What horses do you typically ride?
JW: We all work with the young horses to keep them going along and producing them. I ride whatever horses need to be kept going and taken to a show. In Europe, you can only take so many horses to a show, so you have to make sure they all get the same amount of time in the ring and the same opportunities. Whatever Laura can’t get to a particular show, she’ll have me take to a different show. I just kind of go with the flow. I can’t complain; I get some very nice horses to show! I’ve gotten to show some of Laura’s older horses as well. The Stars and Stripes syndicate let me show Andretti S this summer, and he was awesome, and we got good results.
All the horses were great. Laura and Nick own a bunch that show, and the Heise family was really generous. I got to show a lot of their young horses as well as [young rider] Emma Heise’s older ones. It’s nice, because it’s a real team effort between Laura and Nick and all the owners. I’m very grateful for that.
EA: You had an incredibly successful summer in Europe. Tell us more!
JW: We went over to England in the middle of April, and we hit the ground running! We went from show to show to show for a while, and you can’t complain, because it’s so different, and it’s such a good experience. You just keep going and keep ticking and enjoy every second of it. The horses couldn’t have been better.
Mary Elizabeth, Laura’s sister and manager, holds us all together and gets us from point to point! Most of the customers came over this summer, and it was a good time! A lot of them hadn’t done it before, so having them get to be first-timers and having a great experience made the whole summer.
EA: What do you like most about what you do?
JW: First of all, I love the horses. If you didn’t, why would you do it? Just getting to learn from people like Nick and Laura every day, you learn something new—every time you’re at home, every time you’re riding a horse, every time you’re schooling a horse, you just learn something different about riding or about that horse or about trying something different to make it go better. It’s incredible.
A lot of times I don’t go to shows with Nick and Laura, so it’s like boot camp at home, and I feel like when I go out to the shows and I’m just by myself, I put more thought into what I’m doing. I just have in the back of my head their voices: Don’t do this, do that. It’s been quite the experience. It’s nice I’ve gotten to that point where they trust me. It’s like a whole family unit now.
EA: What horses are you particularly excited about at the moment?
JW: There are so many nice ones to pick from! One of my favorites from the summer was Con Touch, but she’s gone back to her breeder now to hopefully have babies!
For Spain, they are all so nice and different that I don’t know who my favorite one is!
EA: How many horses do you typically ride in a day?
JW: It goes anywhere from four to 10. It all depends on how many people we have riding that day or what we’re doing. It’s different every day! We have lots of grooms that can ride, which helps to get everyone out, and when Nick and Laura are home, they always ride. I’d ride from 7:00 in the morning to 7:00 at night. I love it.
EA: What is your favorite EQUILINE product?
JW: The Boston breeches have always been a longtime favorite of mine. That was the first product I ever got from EQUILINE, I love them. At Laura’s we’re also big fans of the soundproof bonnets. The spicier horses will wear them at home, and most of the horses that we have show in them. It just looks so nice.
The whole horse uniform looks amazing—the scrims, the coolers, the saddle pads, and the bonnets. You notice it when you’re walking to the ring. My other favorite is the Hayley jacket. I love it. It fits me really well, and it’s so comfortable: Once you put it on, you wear it all day; it doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold.
EA: What does it mean to be a part of the EQUILINE America team?
JW: It’s a real honor to be sponsored by EQUILINE. So many top riders are sponsored by them, and to be part of “The Dress Code” is pretty cool! It just looks so nice. You go to the ring, and you know the horses look good, you have everything on that you need, and it’s your job to perform!
It’s nice that Nick and Laura are also sponsored, and all the clients wear it, so it’s very uniform in the barn. If it wasn’t for EQUILINE America, I don’t know what I’d be wearing!
EA: What goals do you have for yourself?
JW: I don’t set too many goals. You always want to better yourself. At each show, every course, every round, and with every horse, there’s always something you can do better. I always want to go to the horse show and win, obviously, but if you have a rail down or you weren’t the fastest, there’s always something you can improve on. I just go show by show and take whatever chances and time I get in the ring. I take what I have, and I try to run with it!
Rapid Fire: Julie Welles
Favorite Food: Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. I love “The Tonight Dough” flavor. I discovered it when I was living with my friend Maggie in Vermont. It’s got Jimmy Fallon on the label, and it’s one of my guilty pleasures!
Favorite Movie: The Shawshank Redemption
Favorite thing to do on your day off: I like to get my nails done. It’s the one thing I can do for myself that’s easy to get done and you can get done anywhere!
What would you be doing if you didn’t ride? I couldn’t even tell you. I have no idea!
Favorite sports team: My family is a bit divided. My mom’s family loves the New York Giants, and my dad’s family loves the New England Patriots, so whatever team is doing better is who I root for!