Julie and Rachael Helliwell
Horse & Hound|July 29, 2021
Like mother like daughter as the saying goes. Alex Robinson meets the northern show producers who are winning with their meticulous methods, eye for a champion and secret weapons that money can’t buy
Alex Robinson

WHEN it comes to discovering rough diamonds, you either have that natural eye for a jewel or you don’t. One such woman, whose record for scouting out champions of the future precedes her, is Julie Helliwell. Alongside her daughter, the equally talented horsewoman Rachael Helliwell, the pair have cemented a reputation for discovering and producing young horses and ponies for the show ring. And many Team Helliwell-sourced animals, of all types and classes, are still enjoying success on the circuit today.

“We love finding youngsters,” confirms Rachael. “Breaking them, getting them going and putting them on the map before ultimately selling them and watching them go on and do well in their new homes.”

While one may question working so closely with a relative day in and day out, it’s clear that Rachael and Julie complement each other in every aspect of the business.

“I have an eye for a bigger picture, but Rachael picks up on all the small details,” says Julie. “She never leaves a single hair unturned; we can’t afford to. Rachael does everything to the letter and if something isn’t exactly right, she’ll change it. Then when everything is in place, we put Harriet on top and have a discussion – we all have our input.”

Harriet, 21, is the daughter of Julie’s best friend Shirley Dennison and has been based with the Helliwell's since she first sat in a saddle. She’s one of the circuit’s most consistent young riders and could ride the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) centre line with her eyes closed. Although Julie and Rachael’s prodigy, she’s also part of the family.

“Shirley is my friend from my hometown in Greater Manchester and when I moved up to Lancaster in 1989, she would come and stay with me at least once a month,” says Julie, who only started showing when she moved north and Rachael and her two other children, Rebecca and Richard, were old enough to ride.

“On one visit, we set Shirley up on a blind date; that’s how she met Harriet’s dad. She eventually moved up here and Harriet has been with us since day one. She was always here on the weekends when she was growing up and she’s never left.”

THE Helliwells have been situated at their current base – a 23-acre farm just outside the market town of Kendal in the Lake District – for 13 years. There are 15 stables, an outdoor arena and plenty of land for riding on, Rachael crediting the hilly terrain for the horses’ stamina and fitness.

“The big hill at the back of the house is our secret weapon,” she says. “It’s about a mile and a half long and when you ride up it, you can really feel the horses working across their backs. We also swear by hacking.”

As well as the equestrian business, the family-run two-holiday homes and a caravan site. Rachael also has three children – Charlie, Archie and Florence – with her partner Marc Rendell. Her brother Richard’s wife, Faye Helliwell, is also involved with the horses.

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