By Doris Degner-Foster
Portraits by Isabel J. Kurek
Rosie Julian-Simoes liked the first horse she tried on a buying trip to Holland so much that it was hard to consider other horses. Never mind that Rosie is just aging out of Young Riders at age 22, and that horse was a 13-year-old stallion — he was the one for her.
“Of course, it’s a risk buying a stallion but my mother has had experience with stallions in the past, and was part of a breeding program,” Rosie said. “She felt confident bringing him in and I felt confident knowing that we had the team around us to take care of him.”
A 2004 Grand Prix Licensed German Sport Horse Stallion, Rankrado’s good manners and talent made him the obvious choice for Rosie, plus the fact that the two really clicked when she rode him. “He can act like a stallion at times,” Rosie said. “But I never feel he puts me in danger in any way.”
Rosie has a good connection with Rankrado (nicknamed Blocky) and takes him out to graze and rides him on the buckle hacking around the barn. She is glad to have the opportunity to work with a stallion at her young age, feeling that she can benefit from that experience in her riding career.
Rosie is a USDF bronze, silver and gold medalist based in Barrington Hills, Illinois, at Flying Dutchman Farm with her mother, Julie A. Julian, also a USDF bronze, silver and gold medalist, who has trained many riders and horses to the FEI levels.
Although Rosie’s mom is her trainer, they don’t have many of the typical mother-daughter issues. “When I’m at the barn I don’t see her as my mom … I see her as my trainer,” Rosie said. “We definitely have a professional relationship, and we leave personal stuff out of the barn; we focus on the horses when we’re with them.”
That way of thinking developed over time as Rosie took on the role of working student in her mother’s business as a teen. Her job was to make sure everything ran smoothly behind the scenes while Julie was teaching or riding. They work well together as a team, which has developed into a mutual respect for each other.
“Our business at Flying Dutchman Farm is pretty small. It’s an 18-stall barn, and we typically have just 15 horses in the stable so that we have a few stalls for trailer-in lessons,” Rosie said. “We have two large fields for retirement or young horses so in total we usually have about 20 to 25 horses. It’s not too large of an operation but just enough for us to be able to handle. Because it’s a small barn, everybody in the barn is in some kind of training program.”
Rosie began riding ponies as a kid in a relaxed, fun way. Not a daringly bold child, the jumpers weren’t for her. “One of my earliest memories of riding was when I was probably 4 years old, and we used to go out on trail rides,” Rosie remembered. “The whole barn would go, and we would pack a picnic. I remember sitting out in the woods after we’d tied up our horses and eating a sandwich with my pony.”
That low-pressure, fun beginning worked well for Rosie and at age 10, she won the Region 2 Championships in the First Level freestyle with a score of over a 70 percent on a small Welsh Cob pony named Major. “I got be on the cover of USDF magazine with George Williams, since he won the Grand Prix freestyle,” Rosie remembered. “Then at my first North American Championships, I went to the USDF building for a meeting and there was a poster of that cover there. That was
pretty special … I should have gotten a selfie with it!”
That success and others like it in local shows and regional competitions led to her competing her mother’s horse Proteus, an 18-hand Danish Warmblood they’d owned since he was just turning 3 years old. Rosie began riding him when he was 5 and she was 13. In spite of his size, he was extremely gentle and she frequently rode him bareback around the farm and galloped him between competitions.
She competed Proteus at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships as a junior and twice as a young rider with steady improvement, earning top 10 placings as she solidified her relationship with the Danish Warmblood. “Everything slowly built with our career together. There were a lot of steps that just made sense,” Rosie said of riding him to the Intermediaire 1 level. “It was nice to just develop as a rider with him.”
However, it was disappointing that they had to retire Proteus because of soundness issues. “The plan was to go into the U25 Grand Prix division, but we made the decision to let him just step back and rest, even though he was young,” Rosie said. “He had too many physical problems to be able to compete in the grand prix even though he understood the movements.”
Although the decision was made to retire Proteus, Rosie was at a good point in her career since she’d taken every opportunity to develop her skill set. In addition to competing with Proteus in the North American Junior Young Rider Championships, she was also a member of the USDF Youth Programs Advisory Subcommittee, Lendon Gray’sEmerging Dressage Athlete program and Dressage4Kids.
In 2015, Rosie was chosen to travel to and observe the European Dressage Championships with the Dressage Foundation’s International Dream Program, where she and three other young riders traveled to the European Championships in Aachen, Germany. “We were not only able to watch the competition, but we also spoke with top professionals,” Rosie remembered.
In fall 2016, Rosie participated in a rider exchange program with three other young professional riders to travel to the Hannoveraner Verband in Verden, Germany, from mid-September to mid-November, during the “Golden Autumn,” for several auctions. The young riders became part of the team of rider-grooms who worked with the Hannoveraner Verband. Part of the program included excursions to surrounding landmarks like the State Stud in Celle and the Horse Museum in Verden and visits to local breeders.
“When I was there, my mother came over for the last auction. Then we went from Germany to Holland with my mother’s friend Charlotte Bayley to meet up with Jan Brower, who helped us find Rankrado. It was a such a great experience,” Rosie said. “We started in Germany and we looked at a few horses with Jan. Although they were lovely, they didn’t seem like the right fit, so we continued to Holland. Rankrado was the first horse we tried there and it made it tough to look at other horses.”
Once they were home in Illinois, Rosie worked hard developing her relationship with the stallion. During the winter season in Wellington, she does all the grooming, mucking out of his stall and hand walking him, which strengthens their bond out of the saddle. She feeds him his favorite treat of a banana and he has a little stuffed horse that he likes to groom when Rosie is grooming him. “I think there are so many small moments throughout the day, whether it’s scratching him or feeding him a banana,” Rosie said. “It’s the culmination of all those moments beyond the riding that make our relationship meaningful.”
In addition to her mother’s coaching, Rosie is in training with David Marcus of Marcus Fyffe Dressage while wintering in Wellington and is helping with Lendon Gray’s Winter Intensive Program and its offshoot, Dressage4Kids. “I’ve been in Dressage4Kids since 2011 when I did my first clinic with Lendon. Since she has opened so many doors, not just for me but for so many young riders, I try to find as many opportunities as I can to give back,” Rosie said.
Being successful in competition is not Rosie’s only long-term goal. “I’d like to have some kind of training operation that’s well running, with a great group of clients and horses that I can continue to bring up the levels,” Rosie said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s about the time spent with the horses. Of course you’re going to remember winning and the great feeling that comes with it, but horses have so much more to offer us. Horses can be such wonderful friends, and when you have that bond and a great show, it’s like you’re winning with your best friend.”
Photos by Isabel J. Kurek, unless otherwise noted