Senior Barrel Racer returns to the ring after life-threatening accident

·2 min read

After her near-death experience during last year’s Strathmore Senior Pro Rodeo, Julie Bland is back in the saddle to complete her unfinished barrel race.

During her run at the 2021 rodeo, Bland’s horse fell on top of her before she was able to complete her run. She suffered a concussion, four broken ribs, a broken sternum and a collapsed lung.

“I don’t actually remember any of the wreck, but I have pictures that show me what happened,” said Bland. “I have to thank everybody who jumped into action and took care of my horse and I in the arena. I had stopped breathing … I think if it wasn’t for them, I would not have survived the wreck.”

Bland spent five days recovering in hospital before she was released, to which she added it was roughly three months before the was truly moving around and six months before she was able to lift anything of substance.

Despite this, however, she said she was up and riding again two weeks following the wreck.

“They can’t really do physiotherapy for injuries like that. It was just ‘take it easy and take it slow’ … (but) I grew up riding horses and I’d be lost without the ability to ride.”

Bland’s father, John Bland, said it’s an emotional event seeing his daughter get back up on her horse to finish her race after the wreck last year.

Despite not being in town during the Strathmore Senior Pro Rodeo to be able to see his daughter race, the elder Bland added he will be supporting her through and through.

“She could have been killed, she could have been brain injured, she could have been made a quadriplegic. We’re just so thankful for her recovery,” said John. “The sight of her laying there, unconscious, will never leave. It’s huge that she is back in the saddle.”

For Bland, she said she feels a need to conquer the Strathmore arena for her own sake and to move past a fear of repeating the wreck.

Her run at the Strathmore Senior Pro Rodeo was not timed and was scheduled after all the official competitors had completed their runs.

“It’s just, to finish the run I couldn’t complete last year, I’m scared out of my mind, but to conquer the fear I have to conquer that same arena,” said Bland. “Everybody understands that I’ve got to conquer that fear to come back, so they are really cheering me on. I’ve been barrel racing since I was 16-years-old and I’m 52 now. I don’t do it for the money, I don’t do it for the glory. I do it just for the fun of doing it.”

The Strathmore Senior Pro Rodeo took place Aug. 13-14, with Bland’s run being on the former date.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times