By DeeDee Conrad on Jun 01, 2018 at 09:34 AM in Rider Stories

Julian's Story

Julian, 9 years old, began riding at Hearts in July 2015. When he was 4 months old, his mother and father noticed that his left eye had begun to move erratically. A brain CT and MRI subsequently showed Julian had a congenital blood vessel defect that compromised his vision significantly. He was soon fitted with tiny glasses. Unfortunately, the prognosis for vision in that eye is poor.


At an early age, Julian was also showing signs of motor delays, i.e. he was not grabbing at objects and not sitting up fully without support as he should for his age. Neurologists confirmed delays in all areas of Julian’s development. Genetic testing showed that Julian had a rare chromosome deletion disorder at chromosome 12, called 12p minus.

The only time Julian ever saw horses before coming to Hearts was when he saw them at the fairgrounds. He even goes to the library and looks up books about horses. When he finally got to Hearts to be around horses, he was a natural. He was so happy to be able to ride! Since he started working with the horses, his mother saw a difference after only 3 months. He started to move his arms in a back and forth motion instead of holding one arm out for balance. She gives credit to the fact that when he is horseback riding, he needs to focus on his movements and coordination. Julian is able to process the commands much faster. He’s working on focusing much more and is able to follow those instructions.


Julian has always loved outdoor activities but gets nervous when he goes to the neighborhood park. He’s worried he’ll get bumped around by the other kids playing. When he comes to Hearts, he has full confidence and becomes much more independent. At the park, he prefers to watch the other kids play rather than joining them. When he is at Hearts, he doesn’t have that worry and he feels like he can go safely with the volunteers and go about his activities. His mother feels he has matured much more being at Hearts. The fact that he’s able to work with a one-ton animal is a great confidence booster for him!

He’s made friends in his classes at Hearts, too. He loves his Saturday crew of riders and volunteers. Everyone is gentle and patient with him and he feels comfortable and safe with the volunteers. He often invites classmates to his lessons, so they can watch him ride. His mom jokes around that she’s going to need to buy a school bus to accommodate all his friends. Julian recently had forty of his classmates visit on a field trip at Hearts.

We are so thrilled to have Julian as part of our program and are excited to see him grow his horsemanship skills. Keep up the great work!

Photography by Emily Hart-Roberts

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