Julie Baker started up at Peter Charles’ as a pony groom for his kids, but before she knew it she had hit the road as his show groom and has stayed there since. Currently she spends the days on the road with Murka’s Vindicat W, Murka’s Nevada and Murka’s Odie de Frevent. “I started working for Peter about six years ago. I got there to help the kids out with the ponies, and to take some of the pressure of Peter’s wife. I came there from Andrew Davies, with whom I had worked for ten years,” Julie tells us. “So, I was supposed to stay at home, but Peter’s show groom got sick and had to have some time off. I had to step in, and was a bit nervous about it actually as I hadn’t done it for quite a time. But I really liked it, and when Peter’s groom had to quit I stayed in the job and kept doing it ever since!”
Julie is all smiles, and we meet up in Rome at what used to be one of her favorite shows. “I had planned to tell you how amazing this show is, and how much I love it – but they have changed the schedule here so the classes are much later than they used to which makes it impossible to do different things. I think it’s a little sad. So, I’m not so sure what to talk about,” she laughs. Julie smiles and laughs a lot – and it’s hard not to be smitten around her. Well, it turns out we have plenty to talk about when Rome is not the hot topic anymore.
“Peter’s yard is in Basingstoke, which is quite near Windsor. We have about seven competition horses for Peter at home, nine competition ponies for Peter’s kids and some dealing horses as Peter sells a lot of horses to America,” Julie explains. “I don’t do so many back to back shows as many of the other British grooms as we don’t do the Global Champions Tour. We mostly target the team shows,” she says. “And Peter is busy with the kids’ pony shows as well, so he needs to split up his shows a bit,” Julie continues. “So, the most I would be away from home are during the tours.”
So, how is Peter as a boss we ask Julie. “He is a really nice guy. But he loses things quite a lot,” she laughs. “So, I have to watch where everything goes down, it’s like a trail. I have to keep an eye on him to see where things go; the glasses, the spurs, the riding gloves. Otherwise it would disappear. It’s like a guessing game every day; one glow here, one glove there,” Julie says while she also corrects us on the fact that unlike what we have written Peter’s glasses are not sunglasses, but glasses especially made for him to avoid certain eye problems that can occur riding in all kinds of weather.
Of course we want to know more about Peter’s top horses, and we ask Julie to tell us about Murka’s Vindicat W. “He is a nice little horse,” Julie starts. “But he can be a little bit suspicious. Vindicat is a bit special in the way that he can imagine that things are going to happen to him and they won’t. Vindicat is ten years old, but with a three year olds’ set of eyes,” Julie smiles. “But he doesn’t spook when you ride him, then he is laid back,” Julie says of the Guidam-gelding that came to Peter as a four year old and did his first really big show at Spruce Meadows last year.
“Then there is Murka’s Nevada. He is a stallion, but you wouldn’t think it. He doesn’t look like a stallion, and he doesn’t act like one! Nevada has been rested a little, but now he is back in action at shows. He is a lovely and kind horse, and a little quiet,” Julie explains. Together with Murka’s Vindicat W, Murka’s Nevada is Peter’s Olympic prospect Julie tells us.
“We also have Murka’s Odie de Frevent, that we got in December. She’s a little odd I have to say. Yesterday she ran out in the bushes here at the show! But she has been doing very well; with wins in both La Baule and in Valencia. Odie is a special horse, and a proper French mare,” Julie tells us.
At home future stars are also waiting to shine. Peter’s former top horse Murka’s Pall Mall has been retired to stud, and babies from him are at the yard. “We have two foals by Pall Mall and out of Peter’s former derby winner Corrada at home, so that’s exciting,” Julie says. “And Scott Brash has a few foals by him as well – both Scott and Pall Mall are Scottish,” she smiles. “Pall Mall’s offspring have all got his big head and are kind of Roman horses!”
Hard work and long hours is for sure a part of a groom’s life, but what is the best part of the job we ask her. “I get to go to so many nice places with some lovely horses! I used to love going around with Murka’s Rupert R – that’s now with Daniel Neilson – and Murka’s Pom d’Ami that is now resting. They are my favorites,” Julie smiles. “As I said my number one show used to be Rome, but now I would have to say Palm Beach and the Winter Equestrian Festival. I just love America,” Julie says with a big smile on her face. “I was a bit distraught this year actually as I thought we were going to go there, and I kept dropping hints to Peter about it. And then we didn’t… But we ended up in Valencia instead, and the tour there was lovely as well. But its America all the way for me – I love it!” Julie isn’t too excited about Hickstead though as “it always rains and is a washout – the food there is probably the best part of the show,” she smiles.
Julie’s favorite Rupert R might not be at the shows in person with her, but she keeps him tight anyway. “A Finnish lady called Nanna Salmi makes some beautiful bracelets out of hairs from the horses’ tails, and the one I’m wearing now is Rupert’s,” she says – showing a lovely bracelet with a small bit on it. “I gave one of Pom d’Ami to his owner Olga White as well. Ben’s groom Daley has one from Robin Hood’s tale, and Nick’s groom has Big Star and Carlo,” she says. “I always wear mine, although I don’t think you are supposed to with all the dirt and water involved,” Julie laughs.
Julie has two things she always brings with her to shows. “My American chair and my Hawaiian Tropic Oil always come with me in the truck,” she smiles. “The American chair was given to me from the US team in Dublin when they were going home – and I just love it!” It’s certainly all about America for Julie. We think Peter might have to take a trip over to Wellington again next year, or else he might find his glasses, spurs or gloves gone missing!