The first year Julia Rose Rossow turned professional, she received an incredible opportunity. Not only did the 26-year-old from Santa Barbara, California, make the trip to Maryland for the Capital Challenge, but she contested the World Champion Hunter Rider Developing Pro Challenge aboard Liz Reilly’s famous horse Illusion. Rossow had shown in the amateur divisions prior to Chad Mahaffey offering her a position as an assistant trainer and pony wrangler at his Chad Mahaffey Stables in Calabasas, California.
“This was always something that I wanted to do, and Chad gave me a chance, and it’s very special. It’s been a really fun ride ever since,” said Rossow. “He hired me on right out of my amateur years, mainly to ride ponies because I never grew out of them! It’s just been a growing process for all of us. We took it from square one and kept going with it. And then Liz Reilly has been very generous in helping with all of these goals as well.”
Though Illusion guided her through her first Capital Challenge experience, she realized she still had much to learn.
“He was amazing, but I was very much developing still,” said Rossow. “He carried me through the arena in Maryland, and it was an amazing experience. I had big stars in my eyes.
“Ever since the first year I did the WCHR program, back in 2017, it was something that I lucked out getting to be a part of,” she continued. “Chad and Liz gave me this opportunity to ride one of Liz’s horses, and that sparked something within me. I’ve been pestering Chad ever since to keep doing it.”
She competed one of Nick Haness’ horses in 2019, but for her third appearance in the class, she rode into battle with a true partner. Since 2018, Rossow has worked with Chantilly, producing her through the professional divisions while also helping owner Marina Boudreau realize her goals in the junior hunters.
“We’ve all kind of been able to develop along with each other,” said Rossow. “This year she’s gone up to the 3’6” with her rider and with us in the performance hunters. We kind of broke out into a more national level, so it’s kind of those baby steps up. We’ve been there along the way with each other and with the mare. It’s been really special to be a part of it and see the development of her as a horse and a competitor, and all of us who are blessed to ride her.”
And that relationship came in handy as Rossow tied for first place with Geoffrey Hesslink and Small Occasion, both receiving a score of 88.16 in the first round. And when Hesslink returned with a score of 87.25, Rossow leaned on the 12-year-old warmblood chestnut mare by Casini I.
“That was definitely a lot of pressure, but good, competitive pressure,” said Rossow. “I was really nervous going into the first round. Then it just all melted away going into the arena. I was in my own world. I just wanted to be able to mimic that in the second round.
“I knew I could trust her, and she was going to be there for me,” Rossow continued. “She has a lot of heart. She always gives her all, but she really knows when it’s a special class. As soon as I stepped into the ring, I knew that we were going to be there for each other.”
With a score of 88.66, Rossow and Chantilly captured the $5,000 WCHR Developing Pro Challenge, held this year in Wilmington, Ohio, at the World Equestrian Center on Sept. 30.
“To have achieved it is really special, especially with this mare,” said Rossow. “Last year I won the region for Southwest, and that was very exciting. That was a goal. Winning this class was the next piece of the puzzle, and I would love to one day do the Pro Challenge and then the [Pro Finals] where they switch horses. But first I had to develop!”