“Betsy” Juliano Living Her Dream of Going to Olympics by Helping Others Get There

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An emotional Elizabeth “Betsy” Juliano after watching Laura Graves on Verdades clinch team bronze for the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Next to her is Curt Maes, the personal and business partner of Laura. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Jan. 31, 2018


When Elizabeth “Betsy” Juliano was a teenager she worked after high school to pay for her passion to ride with the dream of one day competing for the United States at the Olympic Games.

The ethic to work hard and a ton of smarts led her a few years later to create an innovative business of which she is still the owner and that has made her wealthy.

“It’s a lifelong dream,” Betsy confided recently, “when you’re a little kid you want to ride in the Olympics. When you get to my age you know that’s never going to happen. You want to help somebody else ride in the Olympics.”

That dream to help somebody else became a reality for Betsy when she watched Laura Graves and Verdades whom she supports financially win team bronze for the United States at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Was it that much of a thrill?

“Oh, yeah, Oh, yeah. To go with Laura it was life-changing to be close to a rider and team with that kind of effort is what for me is one of the ultimate fulfillments of my dreams in this sport,” said Betsy, who was seen at the end of the ride by Laura and Verdades that clinched the bronze overcome with emotion and shedding tears of joy.

“When you see that kind of effort come to fruition, to me it’s really motivating and inspiring.”

Laura Graves on Verdades riding the final centerline at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 that clinched the Olympic bronze medal for the United States team. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

That same passion to help others pursue their goals led recently to Betsy, who has farms in Ohio and Wellington, to buy outright the 11-year-old stallion Salvino that a small syndicate of Americans had formed to acquire a team prospect for Adrienne Lyle.

She had already turned over to Adrienne, based in Wellington in winter and near her home in Ketchum, Idaho in summer, the Hanoverian mare Horizon that became the U.S. Intermediate 1 champion in 2017.

Other horses owned by Betsy have been farmed out to Adrienne, on the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics in London, and Jennifer Baumert who has been competing Handsome at small tour, racking up wins in both starts so far this year. All the riders are what Betsy calls “self-made.”

Salvino, arriving in the U.S. from Spain in May 2015 with the improbable name of Sandronnerhall for its bloodlines of Sandro Hit and Donnerhall and little competition history, was brought along slowly by Adrienne working with Debbie McDonald, her coach and mentor for more than a decade. Debbie also coaches Laura and Verdades.

“You don’t often get an opportunity in life to have a horse with such potential that is trained and ridden in a situation in which I have great familiarity and complete confidence,” Betsy explained of the reason for buying Salvino. “All of the ingredients are there to make the situation as good as it could be.

“I’ve also had the chance to watch not only Adrienne but also other excellent U.S. team riders compete and it’s one of the greatest joys of my life to be part of that effort; whether we win or lose, it is always a thrill to have riders competing under the U.S. flag.

“I can’t describe the thrill you get watching a horse you know so well, you believe in, at this level. I’m such a believer in the program the horse is in. I believe he has the best chance of achieving its best.”

She has the highest regard for Laura describing her as “extraordinarily focused” in developing Verdades from a foal to the top of the sport and of the commitment of Laura and her partner, Curt Maes at their Geneva, Florida farm and wherever they go to compete.

Adrienne Lyle on Salvino with Debbie McDonald and Elizabeth Juliano. File photo © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

As a high schooler, Betsy worked at a bagel shop at the age of 16 and an evening shift at a factory–all to support her passion for riding that her middle class family could not afford.

College had no interest for her at the time so on graduation she took a job in patient accounts at the world famous Cleveland Clinic. The location of her desk before the widespread use of technology designated her to run errands to the legal department. She became fascinated with law and medicine. She left the clinic to go to a Cleveland law firm that specialized in product liability

In 1984, she was finishing a part-time college degree and planned to go to law school when she saw an opportunity to create a business based on collecting vital information from around the country for lawyers engaged in class action suits.

At 27 years of age she pitched the idea to a lawyer she regarded at the time as old at the age of 63 who supported her idea. Betsy fulfilled another dream of so many Americans–she became an entrepreneur. Instead of going to law school, she grew the business she now runs from wherever she is in the world, thanks to modern technology, and that has grown beyond the United States to Canada and Australia.

Her first major horse purchase was the aptly named, “Wildest Dream,” that she bought in 2005 from Ulf Möller, then at the Performance Sales International dressage operation of Ullrich Kasselmann at Hagen, Germany. She bought other horses from there.

Though she did not disclose the price of Salvino from the original American syndicate after more than six months of negotiations as a confirmed Grand Prix horse it most likely was her biggest horse deal.

Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, owners of Legolas ridden by Steffen Peters for the United States, at the 2016 Olympic Games. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Like some other prominent owners such as Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang who have bought horses that have helped make Steffen Peters the top American rider for most of this century, or Madeleine Winter-Schultze, the owner of most horses ridden by Isabell Werth (and Ludger Beerbaum in jumping) as well as Antonio Ax:son Johnson’s support of Sweden’s seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén, Betsy appears to get enjoyment from watching in the background as the riders of her horses bask in the spotlight of success.

Laura Graves was the center of attention when she rode Verdades to victory not only over Isabell on Weihegold but also German Olympic and European Championship team gold medalist Sönke Rothenberger on Cosmo in the Grand Prix Special at Aachen, Germany last July.

Adrienne Lyle on Salvino was a team mate in only their third Big Tour competition that captured the Nations Cup silver medal at Aachen behind the seemingly invincible German juggernaut.

Elizabeth Juliano at the back of the large crowd of Americans supporting Laura Graves on Verdades at Aachen. Germany. Next to her is Curt Maes, Laura’s partner. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

When relatively new to horse ownership at the highest level, Betsy turned to Jane Clark–the doyenne of American owners who owned horses on U.S. dressage, jumping and driving teams at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and now supports the USA’s Katherine Bateson Chandler in dressage, Great Britain’s Ben Maher in jumping and provides horses for top American four-in-hand driver Chester Weber.

Jane. she said, provides sound advice from being years ahead of her in ownership and is someone for whom she has “admiration and friendship.”

“One of things Jane has done is corroborate or verify the same feelings I have for horses on teams representing the United States,” she said. “She is also committed to her horses for their lifetime, as am I.

“She understands the ups and downs of it. It’s good to have somebody I can go to if I have a question. Jane is very close with her riders, as I am with mine. She understands the level of commitment.”

Jane Forbes Clark with Betsy Juliano at a USA dressage fund raiser. File photo © SusanJStickle.com

Involvement with Laura Graves began when she watched her ride in 2014 though she “didn’t know her from anybody.”

The following year, Betsy drove five hours from Cleveland to Toronto to watch Laura ride on the U.S. gold medal team at the Pan American Games.

She spent lot of time with Laura and her partner, Curt Maes, whom she came to admire for their work ethic and goals, more so with their limited resources.

Although she regards herself as having “always been a plodder” who takes a while to make a decision, she offered support with the undertaking that “I’m pretty steadfast about it”–in other words, for the long haul.

“Financial stress is added stress that can be distracting,” Betsy recalled of her thoughts at the time. “When you have a horse like Diddy and a rider like Laura and you are in a position to help, it gives me a lot of joy.”

Betsy is still involved in other aspects of horse sports, including the human sports science and medicine program operated by the U.S. Dressage Federation.

Most of her attention is still focused on her business as she is “still working to afford my horses.”