By Laura Scaletti
Portraits by Shawna Simmons Whitty
The Propp sisters share more than just a last name, they share a common passion — horses. Through their equestrian endeavors, Stella, 18, Juliette, 16, and Clara, 14, have found numerous ways to bond. The sisters are barn mates, business partners, philanthropists, Instagram influencers, best friends and each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
It’s a rarity to have three siblings who are equally invested in the same sport or activity, but the Propp sisters wouldn’t have it any other way. “If we didn’t all ride, we wouldn’t be able to spend as much quality time together. We’d all be running around doing our own activities and not have as strong a connection,” Juliette said.
Born into an animal-loving family, where their mom, Eleanor, took weekly riding lessons, it was only natural the girls would sit in a saddle at an early age. “Our mom really enjoyed her time at the barn being around horses and wanted me to have that same experience. At age 4, I had my first lesson,” Stella said.
“Stella loved her pony lessons so much that Mom figured, ‘Let’s give it a shot for Juliette and Clara.’ As soon as we started taking lessons, each at age 4, we quickly fell in love with riding too,” Clara said.
With thousands of lessons behind them, the trio now focuses their attention on the hunter, jumper and equitation rings under the guidance of trainer Brianne Goutal and assistant trainer Krista Goossens. “We have a big barn full of horses,” Stella said.
In fact, between them, there are currently 15 horses in the Propp herd. One of the benefits of having three sisters who ride is the ability to trade mounts amongst the girls. “We all have our own designated horses, but there comes a time where we have a conversation to decide when a certain horse will go on to the next sister. For example, has this horse taught Juliette enough, can it move to Clara or should it be sold?” Stella said. “It’s really nice; with the three of us, we can hold onto the special horses and pass them around.”
Sharing horses is further bonding for the sisters. “We had a medium pony, Heart To Forget, that all three of us rode. Even though we are all very different riders, we each had success on this one pony. It’s nice when we can talk and relate to each other about how to ride a horse or pony we’ve each had the ride on,” Clara said.
“It’s amazing to see the way the girls work together and learn from each other,” Brianne said. “The special thing about competing with your sisters is that they’re there for you when you have bad days and to share in the great ones as well.”
Stella, Juliette and Clara have each had their moments in the spotlight. Stella was champion at both the Washington International Horse Show and National Horse Show in 2019 on Inquisitive; Juliette won the Children’s Jumper classic her first time out at Old Salem with Baral Preciosa, and Clara was Champion Welsh Pony and 3rd overall in the Large Pony Hunters in 2018 with News Day and won the pony derby with him at the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival.
What makes their victories sweet isn’t just their individual efforts, it’s the pride with which the sisters talk about each other’s accomplishments. As the big sister, Stella gets to watch her younger siblings have success with her previous mounts. “It was so much fun to see News Day, who had been my large green pony, be that successful with my little nugget of a sister at Pony Finals,” Stella boasted.
Not only does Stella’s pride show when she talks about her sisters, but her support and approval means a lot to them. “When I won at Old Salem with Stella’s old jumper, Baral Preciosa, it was so neat to see her be so proud of me for following in her footsteps,” Juliette said. “It was a really big deal for me.”
In 2017, the sisters started their organic homemade horse treat company, AJCS Treats. What started out as a fun summer project has turned into a full-fledged business venture, with all proceeds going to a charity of the sisters’ choice.
“When we started AJCS Treats, it was really trendy to make and sell your own horse treats. We thought it looked like a super-fun activity, so we decided to give it a shot,” Clara said.
At first Stella, Juliette and Clara didn’t think they would make a lot of money, but regardless of what they made, they wanted to give their proceeds back to charity. “We had no idea our treats would be so popular when we started. It’s such an amazing feeling to know our proceeds are helping others,” Juliette said. “Giving back our proceeds really gives us a sense of purpose.”
Initially, proceeds from AJCS Treats went to animal welfare charities. As the sisters saw more and more charities pop up, they decided they would pick a new charity to donate their proceeds to each year.
“We’ve worked with the EQUUS Foundation, The Peeps Foundation and currently are supporting the Hunter Circuit Foundation,” Clara said. “The Hunter Circuit Foundation gives talented, underfunded Junior riders the opportunity to travel to competitions they might otherwise not get to experience, for example showing at the Winter Equestrian Festival.”
Although it’s hard to juggle school, competing and managing online sales of AJCS Treats, the sisters say it’s worth it. “We’ve met such great people along the way. We want to continue AJCS Treats as long as possible,” Stella said.
“We might have started the business because it looked fun, but we’re sticking with it
This fall marks the next chapter in the Propp sister story as Stella is the first sister to leave the nest and head off to college. “I’m a homebody, so going away to college is going to be different, but I’m going to make the most of my college experience,” Stella said. “While I still want to ride, I want to live in the moment and have a more normal experience in college than I’ve had in high school.”
With Juliette two years away from college, she’s still formulating a collegiate riding plan. “I’m not sure if I want to be on a team or just want to keep showing my own horses. After college I want to go into journalism or be a writer,” Juliette said. “Regardless of my career choice, I definitely want to keep riding, as it’s a huge part of my life and I want to keep it that way.”
As the youngest, Clara is gearing up for high school. Unlike her sisters, she hopes to become a professional after graduating from college. “I want to open my own barn and train just like Brianne did. She’s a great role model for what I want to do. Brianne grew up like us and now is so successful as a rider and trainer,” Clara said.
Regardless of the path each sister chooses, they will have a strong support system behind them. “Our parents, especially our mother, have done everything they could do to make us successful in all our endeavors,” Stella said. “No matter if we win or lose, we are always there for each other.”
Photos by Shawna Simmons Whitty, www.sasequinephotography.com, @sasequinephotography