Feature Graduate

Julie Ullom describes how she decided which of the many equestrian schools to attend.
Graduated: December 2005
Certificates: Riding Master III, Teaching I
Current Position: Head trainer at Columbia River Equestrian Center in Irrigon, OR

Julie Ullom

August 2006 - When Julie Ullom was 12 years old, her family left the suburban streets of Vancouver, Washington, for 5 acres in the countryside surrounding Ridgefield, Washington. Her Mom had always longed for a horse so it wasn’t long before the family was shopping.

The first critter they looked at was a $500 mule. They decided to keep looking. Meanwhile, Julie began taking riding lessons locally. Six months after arriving in Ridgefield, the Ullom’s purchased Nana Skip, a 15.1h buttermilk buckskin Quarter horse filly who had had about as much training as Julie to that point.

The family soon found that board and lessons didn’t fit into their budget. So Julie’s lessons stopped. “I was on my own to train her,” Julie says. “Usually a very green horse and a very green rider don’t mix. But I was confident and she was a champ so it worked out.”

Julie spent the next year watching as many training videos and reading as many books as she could. She joined the local 4-H horse club and absorbed whatever advice she could at the club’s riding meetings. Boarders at her barn also offered tips.

“In October of 1999, I joined the Horse Masters 4-H Group which taught me a ton,” says Julie. “That’s when I decided I wanted to get involved with the showing aspect of the horse industry.” Since her barn was rodeo-oriented rather than show-oriented, Julie and Nana Skip moved to a facility owned by Lila Hunt in Ridgefield. Julie knew she needed more lessons if she was to be successful showing. “I would feed, clean stalls, and exercise horses in exchange for a weekly riding lesson and part of my board,” Julie says. “Once I started winning, people asked me to train their horses. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a horse trainer.”

Julie Ullom performing a sliding stop

It’s a long way from Washington State to West Virginia. But when Julie searched the internet looking for equestrian schools during her senior year in high school, “Meredith Manor just kept popping up. Originally I wanted to go to a university, but Meredith Manor had the most one-on-one time with instructors not to mention that you got to spend your whole day in the barn. It sounded like my kind of school!”

When Julie, her mom, brother, and an aunt flew east to check Meredith Manor out, Julie loved every aspect of the school. Coming from a place where city amenities were readily accessible (Ridgefield is just 15 minutes from Portland), Julie’s was a little concerned that the school’s rural location would be an issue for her. Then she saw how many arenas the school had, how many horses were available to students, and watched the interaction between instructors and students. She was particularly impressed at how an instructor handled the situation when a student was bucked off during a lesson.

Julie started winter quarter, continuing to soak up all the horse knowledge she could. She still remembers the thrilling feel of a fully trained reining horse running and sliding underneath her. Better yet, she recalls how proud she was when a 3-year old she was training left the marks of his first 10-foot slide in the dirt. “It was the first time he really slid,” she says. “He did it the right way, on a loose rein. It was awesome!”

Julie Ullom, a Riding Master III graduate of Meredith Manor Equestrian School

After graduation in August, Julie returned to Lila Hunt’s facility and picked up where she left off while she looked for a permanent job. By December she was a performance horse trainer under an independent contractor arrangement with Columbia River Equestrian Center. Besides training horses, she also manages the barn and teaches a few weekly riding lessons.

To find new training clients, Julie developed a flyer which she puts up at horse venues around the area. The Equestrian Center also puts out her fliers whenever the facility’s mobile tack shop sets up at area shows. “The flyers and word of mouth bring in new business,” she says.

Looking back on her education at Meredith Manor, Julie appreciates both the number and the variety of the horses she had to work with. “Riding “not-so-broke” or “unrideable” horses helped me tons,” she says. “I trained a little Appendix mare in my senior year that was really bad. She prepared me for horses from all sorts of different backgrounds—abused, never handled, all different problems, all different issues. Working things through with the help of an experienced instructor was really valuable.”

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I took a job down in Georgia where I train and exercise fox hunters. It's a blast! Finding a job that fit me as much as the skills I've learned fit this job is incredible. Thank you so much for preparing me for such an amazing career.
Michelle Dengel: 2006 Riding Master VI Graduate