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Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Julia Fanello
Today’s featured rider is Julia Fanello, a junior rider and high school athlete who is working towards competing at NAJYRC next year.
If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me.
Get to know Julia
I am 16-years-old and I have lived in Anderson, South Carolina my whole life. I started riding when I was about six because my grandfather breeds reining horses, so I was exposed to my love of horses early on. I got my first pony when I was eight and he was a little bit of a demon hahaha. He dumped me more times I can count but he taught me to ride that’s for sure. I did my first horse trial on him about three years ago. I’ve been Eventing at the Novice level for a while now, a lot longer than expected due to my only horse (at the time) going through rehab for a year and a half. I’m actually signed up to do Training at my next event which is very exciting! My goals are to definitely try to make it to NAJYRC next year, it’s always been a goal of mine and I feel like we have enough preparation time to really finesse everything.
Julia’s horse power
I currently have two competition horses and one pony. Parker is one of my two competition horses. He’s a 12-year-old Oldenburg draft cross. He is my heart horse. I’ve had him for about two and a half years now, however, half of that time was spent doing rehab in hopes to heal his torn suspensory. Not only did he tear his suspensory, he did it twice, somehow in the midst of rehab for the first injury. Those long months were extremely taxing, I was constantly worried about him hurting himself in the stall, or spooking while being hand grazed. The stall rest made him very restless so he tended to have random outbursts while being hand walked/grazed. I was in between horses for a long time.
I ended up leasing a horse in hopes of competing. He was a very difficult horse who had some back issues which resulted in him being very tense in dressage as well as jumping. We tried chiro and gave him the recommended muscle relaxers, but nothing seemed to help too much. The few months I leased him were a mixture of things, but nonetheless extremely educational. I learned that the score doesn’t always tell your horses worth, it only shows what you had that day. I definitely learned to take what I can get and work with what I had. Long story short, after Parker’s second injury my mom and I decided to find a facility specifically for horses in rehab. So we sent Parker to an incredible place called Still Creek in North Carolina where he did aqua therapy six days a week. He stayed there for two months, it was hard not being able to see him every day, but we usually managed the 1.5-hour drive once or twice a week. He was living the high life up there that’s for sure. I was very lucky to be able to board Parker at Still Creek, he was truly treated like a king. Without the staff care and the aqua therapy, I don’t think Parker would have come out of rehab so well. By the time he was brought home, there was no sign he’d been injured in the first place! Since our first competition back, Parker has been doing incredibly. Parker is honestly one in a million. I truly hope everyone can find a horse like Parker in their riding career.
My second horse’s name is Sovi (sovereign citizen) he is an 8-year-old Thoroughbred. I’ve only had him since September but I fall more in love with him every day. It has been an incredible opportunity being able to ride him. Before I started leasing him he was competing at Intermediate. Being able to lease a horse with some upper levels under their belt has been amazing. He just turned eight and is very keen to do his job (most of the time very enthusiastically). Dressage is still a little unpredictable, but most of the time once he enters the dressage arena he knows his job.You just have to work with what you have, but I have never doubted him in the jumping phases. He is an incredible event horse who always has his head in the game. The warm up can sometimes be a little exciting with him, but the moment he enters the dressage arena or the start box, he knows exactly what his job is. His jump is different from any horse I’ve ever jumped. He has so much scope and he just flies over everything. I’m never worried about him not being able to jump something. He has such a big personality, he reminds me of a puppy. He’s very in your space, but not in a pushy way he just wants attention. And although he is off the track, he doesn’t really have a “crazy hot side” but he definitely enjoys cross-country, which can make him very excited. It’s definitely weird switching from Parker to him because Parker is very quiet on the flat and jumping (after an entire year of straight flat work you would hope so) and Sovi, though obedient, is very reactive so you really have to use your aids properly to get the answer you want.
I have had my pony, Jeter, for more than half my life. He’s my best friend and also one of the naughtiest ponies I know. We have grown up together, when I just got him, I was only eight, so of course, he seemed like a giant to me at the time (he’s only 13.2hh). So now, being 6ft tall, I look a little silly riding him, so you probably won’t see Jeter and I running any Preliminary events anytime soon, but nonetheless, I enjoy riding him and teaching him how not to be a speed demon. When I was younger, I fell off that pony more times than I remember, resulting in a broken wrist and many bumps and bruises. He’s very speedy and stubborn and doesn’t want to listen but over the years we finally reached a common ground, I listen to him and he listens to me. He’s still very headstrong so we’re still working on that. Jeter lives at my house and Parker and Sovi live at my trainer’s barn, so Keter has been out of work for quite some time, but I’m hoping to get him out a bunch this summer and just mess around with him, one of his favourite things is to go swimming in the lake.
I currently train with Amy Nichols. I’ve been training with Amy for four years now I think. Her barn is only about six minutes from my house so I’m able to go every day. I get out of school at 3:45 PM and I head straight to the barn after. I usually have two lessons during the week and ride on my own the other days. I usually am at the barn until 7:30-8:00 PM and do homework after. It can be stressful, but I’m in the final stretch of the school year so I can really focus on my horses without worrying too much about school. I also play volleyball, so with my goals of making the young rider team next year, it’s going to be interesting to see how school, horses and volleyball all tie in together.
At the moment my horses don’t really get time off. We train all year round. Of course, they get days off after competitions though.
Influence and inspiration
I am very lucky to have a very supportive team to back me up. My parents are a huge influence and provide amazing support. My trainer is so knowledgeable, she builds on the basics and teaches you from there, and with the growing difficulty of this sport, there’s no bypassing the basics. Someone who has supported me basically since I began riding is my best friend, Emma Daughtry. she also doubles as a super groom. Competing two horses is a lot harder than just competing one, without having Emma to get up at 5:00 in the morning to help bathe my grey-horse-turned-brown, or to hold a horse when I only have ten minutes between rides, I don’t think I could make it. Eventing is a team sport, and not just between the rider and the horse, but also the people who support the horse and the rider. I have an incredible farrier, vet, and chiropractor that make sure my horses feel their best. And of course, my mom and Emma are irreplaceable and keep me sane even during stressful horse show moments.
Most embarrassing Eventing moment
One time when I was competing as a kid, I was at an unrated show and I was about to brush Jeter. I was very young and small at the time, so when I went to open the door, Jeter shoved past me and took off towards the arena. I was running after him as fast as my little legs would go, but Jeter was much faster. I saw him galloping down towards the ring, then all of the sudden he skidded to a halt and started grazing. Everyone had to stop what they were doing and wait for me to come and get my rogue pony. It was pretty embarrassing.
Most triumphant Eventing moment
This is Parker’s first season back after his injury, so having him come back in full force has been really amazing, especially since this time last year we didn’t even know if he was ever going to be sound again. Having him return so strong makes me so proud and so grateful that I had the support to get him back to this point.
Preparing for my first training has been really exciting. My horses are feeling better than ever, I’m so excited to get out there and have fun. It’s been a long wait since Parker and I was planning on moving up before he got injured. So a year and a half later, I now have to incredible horses who I can’t say enough about. My horses really are my whole world and I am so lucky to have them.
Best of luck this season Julia!
If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me