“It’s a miracle that I’m even alive, much less riding a reining horse,” Julie said about the recent events of life that ultimately lead her to the Classic Equine Green Reiner Program. “I rode a lot more in my early 30s, mostly in English and dressage classes.”
After losing her partner, Debbie Warren, to cancer in 2009, Julie wanted to find a different discipline. She got hooked on an equestrian drill team and rode with them regularly on both of her palomino Quarter Horses for the next five years.
“I met my partner, now wife, eight years ago. She started noticing things about me: I wouldn’t smile or talk as much as I used to. And my left leg started shaking when I was riding.”
Julie’s storm all hit the fan at the same time. The blood clots in both lungs should’ve killed her. Shortly after that, both of Julie’s parents died within four months of each other. Every off tick or bad day was chalked up to her circumstances.
Working in technical IT for more than 35 years made her day job second nature. Julie finally realized something was wrong when work tasks became nearly impossible.
“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 3.5 years ago. There was a point when I couldn’t even eat because my hands shook so much that I couldn’t get the fork up to my mouth. Basically, my entire body slowed down. Everything that I did before got slower because it takes longer for the signal to get to the next part of the body.”
Everything that was once came easy for Julie, she now had to think about. Hard. That included driving and riding horses.
“I was to the point where I didn’t want to go near the horses. I was ready to be done with them.”
Of Julie’s two Quarter Horses at the time, one was retired and the other wasn’t quiet enough for her bad days. Before completely washing her hands of horses, her partner, Jill Wagner, convinced Julie to take her horse to NRHA Professional Martin Padilla.
Eventually it was clear that Julie needed a different horse if she intended to continue riding. Martin found her the perfect mount: Spook N Cody (Smart Spook x Great Black Cody), Buster for short.
“Martin had trained Buster for a client before they sold him. When we were looking at Buster, Martin said he was a 69 or 70 horse. I had no idea what that meant, but Martin thought he would be safe for me.”
Reining hadn’t even crossed Julie’s mind at that point. Her focus was set squarely on riding again, it didn’t matter in what discipline.
“We bought Buster and I immediately started training with Martin. He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. With Parkinson’s I have some cognitive issues that make it hard for me to think about a lot of things all at once.”
Martin’s style of teaching speaks to Julie’s abilities with and without Parkinson’s. He’s even been known to remind Julie that it’s time to take her medications.
“Martin is an incredible person; I feel like he has gotten my life back together. He treats me the exact same way as his other clients. He is really trying to help make my dreams come true even though they aren’t as big as others’ in the barn.”
In October of 2017, Julie and Buster ran their first green reiner pattern. They’ve been hooked ever since.
“It’s so neat that I can go in there as an adult with other people that are just starting out reining too.”
Julie showed green reiner in 2018 and was in the top five in the Green as Grass class in the WCRHA at their affiliate show.
“Green reiner has given me so much and opened up this world that I thought was gone to me forever. At 57 years old, I’m not competing in this new-to-me sport with people who have done it their whole life.”
Reining is good for more than just Julie’s soul, it’s therapeutic for her Parkinson’s as well.
“The more I ride the better my cognitive abilities are and the better I feel physically. I can tell when I have not been riding for a while; my gait isn’t as strong, and I can feel my body just start shutting down.”
Blessed with an incredible barn family, Julie has found her niche with horses once again.
“NRHA has been really great for me. I have met other people with Parkinson’s that ride also. They too thought that part of their life was over and now we know, it’s not.”