The North American Riders Group has selected Julie Welles as the recipient of the 2015 NARG Riders’ Grant.

Now in its fourth year, the NARG Riders’ Grant is designed to give an emerging rider, dedicated to the sport of show jumping, an opportunity to receive a boost in order to achieve goals not otherwise available to them financially. The grant provides the winner with $15,000 USD for expenses within North America approved by the NARG Board.

Not a new face on the circuit, 26-year-old Welles made a name for herself as a junior rider in both the equitation and jumper disciplines. A shining example of the American system, she started her winning equitation path at the age of 15 with the top call in the New England Equitation Championships, and picking up reserve champion in the WIHS Equitation Finals as well as the coveted ASPCA Maclay Finals. The next year, she won the challenging and competitive USEF Talent Search Finals – East and came back to win the WIHS Equitation Finals. And in her final junior year she was reserve champion in both the USEF Medal Finals and the ASPCA Maclay Finals. Quite notably, she earned all those wins on catch rides.

“Catch riding is all I did when I was a junior. That was the only way for me to further my riding and become a competitor. Most of the time I would be showing a horse I had never shown before, but I loved it! I was given the opportunity to ride so many nice horses. They weren’t all easy, but I knew I had to make it work out. I didn’t have anything else, and I had to make the best of when I did have the opportunity to ride. There was one year at Harrisburg when I didn’t know what horse I was riding in the Medal Finals until the night before, but it didn’t bother me. You just go with it. Catch riding so many different horses helped tremendously, especially when it came to the final four at USET Finals and the third phase of the Washington Finals,” explained Welles.

“I’d never jumped a class that big before, and I really didn’t know the horse. I didn’t have any specific concerns when I was walking the course. I just trotted in the ring and realized, ‘Oh wow, I’m really doing this.”

When asked how she would use the grant money, Welles was thoughtful. “I want to make sure I apply it to something special when the right time comes around. I am not in any hurry to use it tomorrow, I want to be smart with my decision because money like this just doesn’t come around every day.” Her goal is to potentially invest it in a sale horse that once sold would give her a return on the investment.

Welles is not only a solid competitor, hard-worker and devoted horsewoman, she is appreciative. “My parents did everything they could to support me and without them I would have never accomplished what I did. I also owe a huge thank you to Kenny and Linda Langmeier and Missy Clark and John Brennan. Without their instruction and teamwork I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

NARG, and the grant recipients, are extremely grateful to the Southern-Heathcott family who make this grant possible.