British Para Dressage Selector Juliet Seal Passed Away

Sun, 04/07/2024 - 09:01
Great Britain
Juliet Seal

Juliet Seal has passed away on 30 January 2024 at the age of 86. She was one of the most influential figures in the development of Para Dressage in Great Britain.

As a BD List 2 Judge, FEI Para Judge, Para Selector and Chair of Selectors, Juliet’s unwavering commitment played a huge role in shaping and cultivating the sport of Para Dressage, leading to successive Championship successes for the British team during her time at the forefront of the sport. Her outstanding contribution was recognised by her receiving the BEF Medal of Honour in 2015, and the BD Medal of Honour in 2017, following her retirement as Chief Para Selector.

Juliet Rose Seal was born to John and Betty Perrot on midsummer’s day in 1937 and she grew up in Cheshire. After her father was killed at Dunkirk, her mother married James Martin, and two brothers came along to complete the family.

Juliet emigrated to Canada at the age of 19. Not a 21st century gap year, but a formal migration. Returning home immediately after her stepfather died, she later married David Seal, and as a young mother in Cheshire, she brought up her three children in a happy rural environment.

The family later moved to Jersey where they lived for over 20 years, and it was here that Juliet’s interest in para dressage was born. While there, she enjoyed horses of her own, hunting and doing dressage, with lessons from visiting trainers including Carl Hester. Alongside raising her family, she became District Commissioner of the island’s Pony Club, Chief Road Safety Officer for all the Channel Islands, and was Chairman of the Jersey Riding for the Disabled Association for ten years. It was this involvement with the RDA that ignited her passion for Para Dressage.

On returning home to Hampshire in 2000, Juliet began training as a British Dressage judge, eventually working her way up to List 2 and international para judge status. Alongside this, her involvement in the para community developed and she was invited to become a selector in 2004, the year of the Athens Paralympics. She proved to be a key member of the panel, which was rewarded by taking over the role of Chief Para Selector in 2009 when Jane Goldsmith retired, a position she then held until Rio 2016.

During that time, Juliet demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the British Para Dressage team, and her dedication, both nationally and internationally, played a huge part in the unprecedented success of the British team during that time. Juliet selected for two Paralympic Games, three World Championships and four European Championships, all of which resulted in Team Gold. Her calm nature, quiet diplomacy and openness made her an exemplary selector.

Juliet also enjoyed a deep interest in horse racing. Owning a part share in about 20 horses, she followed them avidly. She also taught herself to be a talented and adventurous cook, and she was a keen gardener. Juliet and David celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary last November.

“I first met Juliet when going to judge and stay in Jersey,” commented List 2A Judge and former Chair of Para Selectors, Carolyn Gardiner. “When I became a Para Selector, Juliet was Chairman, and for seven wonderful years we worked alongside each other – from 2009 to Rio in 2016.

“My first Championships as a selector, alongside Michel Assouline and Juliet, was the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky,” continued Carolyn. “We went out there together and she really got me into the role. Then Waveney Luke came in just before London 2012 and the three of us worked as a team very well. London was the most amazing experience.

“Juliet was a wonderful, kind and lovely person. She was full of common sense, and she had so much empathy. It was a privilege to have worked with her for many years. We were tremendous friends, and I will miss her greatly," said Carolyn Gardiner.

Current Chair of Para Selectors, Joyce Head, reflects on her time working alongside Juliet: “I came on board nine years ago when the selection panel consisted of Juliet, Carolyn and Waveney, until Juliet’s retirement a year later. The three of them were just brilliant, with Juliet the strong leader of the group and she was always there with the right encouragement.

“She was so approachable, a good listener and she had everything, including her vast knowledge, at her fingertips,” continued Joyce. “You were never afraid to ask her anything and the main thing for me was what a caring person she was. She was a real lady.

“I just felt that I was very lucky with that team and very privileged to come on board at that time. Juliet was always quietly there, she had a good sense of humour, and the riders were always comfortable around her. After she retired from the panel her interest continued and we all remained good friends,” added Joyce. “She will be sadly missed by all who knew her.”

British Dressage Chief Executive Jason Brautigam commented: “The immense contribution that Juliet made to the development of Para Dressage during her two terms as Para Selector cannot be under-estimated. This was a period of unprecedented international success for our Para athletes, culminating in a phenomenal twenty-medal haul at the Paralympics in London 2012 and Rio 2016, where Team GB won a combined twelve gold, nine silver and one bronze. Juliet leaves behind a wonderful legacy that will endure for many generations to come.”

-- text by British Dressage

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BEF Medal of Honour for Juliet Seal