Betsy Juliano, an entrepreneur and major benefactor to the US dressage team, with an eye for equine and human talent, is on a roll with her horses and riders, fielding and sponsoring an incredible array of talented pairs, all rising to the top. They’re high scorers, front and center in the victory gallop after most major shows this year, and on track to be top contenders for the WEG at Tryon, NC. At the Grand Prix level, Juliano owns Horizon and Salvino, both ridden by Adrienne Lyle, and she sponsors world ranked Laura Graves and Verdades. At the small tour, her 2005 Hanoverian, Handsome, ridden by Jennifer Baumert have been unstoppable.
Juliano feels particularly fortunate at this moment, to have a full complement of sound horses and rising riders.
She says ”Needless to say, I’m beyond thrilled with what has transpired this year, but I’m cautious, because I acknowledge things can change in an instant! However, we put everything in place to keep everything in place.” She feels extremely fortunate to have all these combinations doing well and in good health at the same time, something you can never take for granted in horse sports. Each day and competition is a pleasure she looks forward to.
Betsy obviously has a fantastic eye, and when asked what she looks for in a horse or rider that makes her say “This is it!” Juliano says it’s easier with the riders because they’re either someone she knows or she gets recommendations from people she respects. She makes time to observe them. In Jen’s case she was recommended by Debbie McDonald and Kathy Connelly, Vice-Chairman of the Current USEF High Performance Dressage Committee.
It’s apparent what respect Juliano has for all her own riders, and she extends that admiration to many of the other upcoming potential US Team members. Juliano is quite optimistic about the direction dressage is taking, grateful for the invaluable help of Olympian and World Cup champion Debbie McDonald in bringing along this new generation of outstanding horse and rider teams. She also credits Carl Hester with many of the positive changes she sees in riding and training today.
Finding the Perfect Partner
Betsy says with selecting horses, years of training have taught her what to look for as far as conformation and gaits go. She relies on her many years of riding and experience to choose a prospect. She started to seriously follow horses and breeding lines when she began to attend the PSI auctions. Conformation is important of course, as are blood lines and temperament. When Betsy, a talented amateur rider, buys a horse for herself, she looks above all, for a can-do attitude and rideability. In a top-level sport horse such as Horizon or Salvino, she also looks for a degree of hotness that can give rise to brilliance.
Sometimes the two worlds of amateur and professional prospects cross. Handsome, the appropriately named 2005 Bay Gelding (Hochadel/Weltmeyer) was purchased as a horse for herself, and Jen Baumert was originally hired at Havensafe to train and teach. Betsy recognized something exceptional developing between Handsome and Jen and decided to give them the opportunity to show. That insight is proving prescient. Baumert and Handsome are schooling all the Grand Prix movements, but Jen wants to give him another year or so to develop the strength and confidence to make an easy transition to the big tour.
Jennifer and the 13-year-old Handsome have racked up eight first place wins out of eleven starts in the small tour at AGF this winter, with rides over 70%, finishing up at the Havensafe sponsored AGF 10 with a trifecta in their three classes to end a super successful Florida season.
Jen, 47, is no newcomer to the show ring, but her career started to accelerate since she began riding for Juliano at Havensafe Farms in 2015. She chuckled at her Centerline Scores profile with horse shows on file beginning 25 years ago riding over 67 horses in competition!
Jen has always been a hard working, kind, correct, and careful rider with a great position, bringing out the best in her mounts, invariably fair to each horse she rides, continually working to refine her riding and training, so it’s no surprise to find her making her way to the top of the CDI ladder.
Out of the Comfort Zone
But Jen’s work with Juliano has led to a more fruitful competitive collaboration. Baumert and Handsome, along with Debbie McDonald as coach have marched right along winning most of their starts so far in 2018, culminating in her second perfect trifecta at Prix St. Georges, I1 and Freestyle during the final Global Dressage Festival. Debbie has been an especially effective coach for Jen, pushing her out of her comfort zone towards more brilliance and risk, leading to ever more captivating performances with the talented big moving Handsome. Jen also says it’s been great to have as coach Debbie, a rider of similar size, who has had to rely on finesse not brawn, to partner with horses.
In their last AGF class Jen says Debbie: “psyched me up to get him really in front of me, taking every opportunity I could between movements to push him up in front and come into every movement with a lot of power. She was amping me up because I’m one of those people who wants everything to be really pretty and harmonious and nice, and she pushes me to shake it up and come out of my comfort zone.” That push resulted in a first place and a 75.200 in the large international class.
When asked if Jen felt nervous about this international level of competition, she said on the contrary, she’s never felt so well supported and prepared on all fronts. “I’ve never been so set up to succeed, and there’s something about that that puts me at ease. From coaching to veterinary, farrier, equipment, and any aspect of horsekeeping, I feel completely supported by a whole team.”
What is Handsome like to train and ride? What’s her relationship with him? She answers, Handsome is a horse without any real weakness. He has three wonderful gaits and his attitude has matured immensely “It's interesting because our relationship has grown in substantial ways. Jen says they’ve developed a tight connection: “He's an introvert. He’s gone from a horse who never says ‘no’, to ‘what can I do for you today?’ and that has been a very rewarding path. He's come to just love his work. His personality has blossomed. I know all the places he likes to be scratched, to be turned out, to hack out. He doesn’t like coming back to the barn. He wants to check out every corner of everything. He likes to stand in the far corner of the warmup and watch everything from the ponies to the traffic. He's gotten braver. The difference between his confidence level in the CDI has skyrocketed this year.”.
He has consistently scored in the 70s in his tests, but Jen knows there are more points waiting as they evolve as a team. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with his scores but I know he's got more in him and I can get a better connection, so there’s room for improvement in his scores.” And in fact their scores have climbed steadily this year.
What are Handsome’s greatest strengths? Baumert answers “That's such a good question; he's got three fabulous gaits. I think he has a presence that's very commanding. I think the biggest thing is that the horse really doesn't have big weaknesses.” Watching their rides it’s obvious how much trust and joy makes up their partnership, and that trust and joy extends to the partnership with Betsy, Debbie, and the watching world.
As for the rest of Juliano's crew, the planned road continues with Handsome in the CDi’s for the rest of the season in Florida, then on to Tryon in April and hopefully Lamplight. Horizon and Salvino will be travelling to Europe to contest some Grand Prixs in Europe, striving for the short list of qualified horses on the USA WEG team.
As for Laura and Verdades, Betsy says: “Laura is representing the US in the World Cup in Paris in April. I will be there to cheer for her!”
2018 is shaping up to be a remarkable year!