Equestrian champ launching real estate career in Caledon

Julie McDonell has recently finished her real estate education and is launching a real estate career in Caledon.

But some may know this young businesswoman as Julie Watt, because she’s an amateur equestrian champion with a resumé that makes one wonder why she’s launching a real estate professional career and not ruling the riding rings on tour.

“I have no desire to ride professionally,” she laughed. “I just love doing it as a hobby. I have no desire to compete as a professional. I have my family here, and I judge. So when I’m done riding, I will judge in my retirement.”

McDonell is a six-time champion at the Royal Winter Fair, the equestrian world’s end-of-year gathering that is the culmination of a season of events, competitions and tours.

Whether the overall champion, or reserve champion, McDonell’s six titles are simply dressing to a woman who is in the sport for the simple love of it. And it’s the same love of country, horses and rural life that has brought her to Caledon, and made her want to actively market it.

McDonell began riding when she was six years old, at Sunnybrook Stables in Toronto.

“I don’t really know why; I think my mom just thought it would be a nice activity to do,” she said.

After one experience, it was all she could think about. She played other sports in school, but riding was all she wanted to do.

When her parents wanted to get out of the city and move their manufacturing business west, riding took off for McDonell — because she got a sweet deal.

“Part of the caveat of moving an 11-year-old was, ‘Hey, if you move to the country, you can have a pony.’ So I got my own pony when I was 11, and it kind of just flourished from there. I did nothing but go to the barn every day.”

She eventually reached a level in riding where she wanted to compete, and her parents moved her to a competition barn in King.

Four times a week — two weekday evening and Saturdays and Sundays — her parents drove her to the barn, and she began to master hunter-style jumping.

“The horses are braided, and you’re judged on elegance, as well as skill. It’s based on replicating old-style hunts; so, to some, it’s not quite as exciting as the high jumps and going for speed. We go for elegance,” she explained.

Once she worked herself to the point of having some nice horses to compete on, she began to excel.

She is a six-time champion at the Royal Winter Fair, some of those are what is known as reserve champion. In 2017, on her horse Heavenly, she won every class on one of her horses, after placing first and second in Ontario in the amateur 36-and-over provincial circuit with the two horses she was riding.

This year, she finished as reserve champion (second place) with the same horse she took all the classes with in 2017.

She competes on the provincial circuits, against the top competition in Ontario, including some well-known Olympians — but, again, she isn’t going pro.

Professionally, she’s found what she loves, in selling Caledon and area properties, and she’s not going to give up her hobby, anyway. She’ll keep riding in competitions.

“Until I can’t,” she said. “I love to compete. I’ll do it as long as I can. But now, I definitely would like to become known as someone in the area who works with people on country properties, but can help with horse farms to urban properties — anything a client needs. I just love living in Caledon; it has so many great things, and I love to share that.”

Nov 22, 2018 by Matthew Strader Caledon Enterprise


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