Juli Bishop is an American Quarter Horse girl through and through. She was raised with them on her family's working ranch and believes this sturdy and trustworthy breed can do just about anything, including "proper" dressage. With a lifetime of classical dressage training under her belt, Juli will be campaigning several American Quarter Horses on the open dressage circuit this year and she's confident their performance will contribute to a turning tide of acceptance for this breed in a relatively new arena.
A U.S. Pony Club Instructor and "A" Horsemanship card holder, Juli runs Under The Hill Farm in San Diego County's Campo. Despite her prejudice for Quarter Horses, she welcomes all breeds and riders pursuing any discipline. "It's a mixed bag barn," Juli reports. "We have everything from truly classical dressage to western pleasure, reining and cutting. On Thursdays, we host the local chapter of the National Barrel Horse Assn., and you can bet I'm going to run the barrels
Regardless of their breed or show ring aspirations, all clients are trained and coached according to the principles of classical dressage. Juli considers that the foundation for any harmonious relationship between horse and rider and the best way of building a healthy horse in body and mind. "For me, the classical method is the method. All my horses learn to carry themselves and to move forward from their hindquarters. They learn to be light in the bridle and very responsive to seat and leg aids. This kind of dressage, as opposed to the tug of war we see sometimes, is beneficial to all types of horses."
Juli is not the only cheerleader for the American Quarter Horse on the dressage circuit. A few years ago, the American Quarter Horse Assn. instituted a program in which members can accrue points for success in open dressage competition and it has become increasingly popular.
The trainer acknowledges that Quarter Horses will face prejudices from some judges. Having gone through the USEF's learner judges program, she knows that performances should be evaluated in the context of the horse's conformational capabilities. A Quarter Horse is not bred for suspension, she notes, but "they'll make up for that in the carrying ability of their powerful haunches." Correctly harnessed, that power can translate to beautiful extended gaits. Correct movement is correct movement and should be rewarded accordingly, Juli stresses. "I think we can give every breed out there a real run for their money."
Juli is no stranger to those who question the Quarter Horse's dressage potential. Although she was raised "with horses that earn their oats," she did switch to another breed when she first got serious about dressage competition in her early teens. "They were not very competitive at the time and people looked at me like I'd stepped in something nasty." Juli trained and competed up through the Grand Prix level and earned all three USDF medals on a Thoroughbred. She is determined to attain those same accolades on one or more Quarter Horses. The AQHA's dressage pointing program and the accomplishments of Lynn Palm and her stallion Rugged Lark have helped set the stage for a Quarter Horse coup in dressage circles, asserts Juli.
A Family Friendly Horse
The breed is particularly appealing to families. "A lot of my clients need a horse that is safe and sane for children and one that can do more than one job. The Quarter Horse fills that bill."
She has three horses ready to rock the dressage world this season. Her own Docs Red Gunsmoke is a 14.1 hh traditional "foundation" type Quarter Horse who is ready for Third Level. Juli's Quarter Horse mare, VF Jo Nita, and a client's Appendix Quarter Horse, Hes Too Tuff For You, are her main mounts. In between dressage shows, they will return to their "other jobs" as rail and trail class horses and cutting horses.
Under The Hill Farm welcomes new clients. It doesn't matter what kind of riding they want to do, but they must be ready to get involved with their horse. "There are no secrets going on in my barn and everybody is invited to come work with their horse or to watch when I am working with their horse. Our whole program is about getting involved and understanding what's going on with your horse."
Juli prides herself on keeping the horse world accessible to all. "I don't need to charge $75 an hour to prove that I'm the best dressage instructor in the world." And the full-service board bills are all-inclusive. "You won't get an extra charge for me turning your horse out or holding him for
Above all, Juli invites people to come "ride a piece of living American history." That's how she sees the American Quarter Horse and her enthusiasm on that point has already created many like-minded horse people. She's set on making converts of the rest.
For more information on Juli Bishop and Under The Hill Farm, call 619-478-9094.