Training people is one thing, but training people and horses at the same time? That’s another.
But for Juilie Lorton, Denver Water’s director of accounting, it’s what she does.
“It’s pretty unpredictable when you’re managing 20 people and 20 horses in the same arena,” Lorton said. “The horses have a mind of their own and their own agenda, so it makes teaching very interesting and challenging.”
She speaks from experience, since Lorton has been riding and training horses most of her life. She’s also spent decades and countless hours teaching horse clinics over the past 20 years, where she teaches people how to build partnerships with their horses.
Lorton teaches horsemanship with a focus on Western Dressage. It is a style of riding that combines European Dressage techniques that encourage cadence, balance and precise skill work, with ranch work skills that have been practiced in the American West for hundreds of years, going back to the Spanish horsemen known as vaqueros.
One key element of Western Dressage combines eastern and western techniques in balancing and developing a partnership with the horse. As a trainer, Lorton’s focus has always been on the partnership between horse and rider.
When she’s not creating financial systems and training Denver Water employees, Juilie Lorton, shown here with her horse Cari, is happiest with her horses and her family. Photo credit: Juilie Lorton.
For the past nine years, Lorton has taught horsemanship clinics with the Western Dressage Association of Colorado and with her husband. Lorton has earned a reputation as a practical instructor who would help owners learn how to listen to and understand their horses.
For Lorton, learning about horses has always been part of her story. Growing up in northwestern Iowa, Lorton was in the saddle almost as soon as she could sit up and started working with and training horses while she was young.
In later years, when Lorton was ready for college, she moved to Colorado and studied accounting and equine science at Colorado State University. When it came to horses, she quickly learned she was ready to be a teacher instead of a student.
While meeting with her instructors, they directed her to get and saddle a horse that was in a pen.
“This horse was a nasty mare, meaner than anything, and she hadn’t been ridden in two months,” Lorton said.
The instructors expected Lorton to fail. They didn’t realize she was prepared.
“I had horse cookies with me,” Lorton said. “I caught that mare, worked her and saddled her.”
When the instructors walked back in together, they shared a look of astonishment before telling Lorton, “You can ride whatever horse you want.”
“I passed the beginner, intermediate and advanced college classes for both English and Western riding that same day in 15 minutes,” Lorton said.
Lorton became an equine science student assistant teacher at CSU and became known for being able to handle challenging horses.
“I trained various horses for the school and would get assigned to go fix a horse or get a horse ready for sale,” Lorton said. “I received the privilege of college credit for independent study time, training and riding the college’s horses.”
After school, Lorton began a career in finance and accounting.
“Being an accountant supported my horse habit,” Lorton said. “But I love accounting, especially when I get to implement financial systems to help employees.”
In many ways, Lorton approaches her financial work the same way she approaches training horses.
“Implementing systems is so much more than accounting, like riding is so much more than getting on a horse,” Lorton said. “I get to work with other teams, such as Information Technology, to learn patterns and behaviors to know how things interact.”
Currently, Lorton has nine horses, two that are in their 20s and have been with her for decades.
A gray Arabian horse, Okie, came into her life when she was just 8 years old and stayed with her for almost 30 years.
“Okie was a 4-year-old stud colt that was given up in a divorce, and my parents brought him home for me,” Lorton said. “That was a wild horse for an eight-year-old to have, but he was perfect for me.”
Lorton worked with Okie and built a partnership that lasted a lifetime.
Riding Okie in a parade once, Lorton walked, trotted, cantered down the street and did various dressage movements to music. Because the parade organizers would not allow horses to be without bridles, Okie only had a piece of rickrack, or braided trim, on his face. The next day, they were the featured photo in the newspaper.
One of Okie’s strongest personality traits was his loyalty, specifically to Lorton. Lorton said he would do just about anything she’d ask.
“I even rode through a Taco Bell drive-thru on that horse,” Lorton said.
One summer, Lorton got a job in Estes Park as a horse wrangler and trail guide, taking guests on rides through Rocky Mountain National Park. Naturally, Okie was her guide horse.
“When he was in the mountains with me, Okie wouldn’t let anyone else ride him or catch him,” Lorton said. “The more you’d chase him, the more fun it was for him to run away.”
On one subject that summer, Oakey apparently knew more than Lorton.
One of the trail guides Lorton worked with, a guy named Lonnie, asked her out on a date. She wasn’t really interested, but she thought it would be fun to make a deal with him, knowing full well she’d win.
“I told Lonnie if he could catch my horse, I’d go out with him,” Lorton said. He accepted the challenge, and as Lorton watched Lonnie walk over to Okie, she was in for a huge surprise.
“Wouldn’t you know it, after running away from everyone else, that horse let Lonnie walk right up to him.”
That was 27 years ago, and she and Lonnie have been together ever since. Parents to nine-year-old Clarissa, they ride and train horses together.
While she only teaches a handful of clinics a year now, Lorton says her education in horses is far from over.
“I approach every horse I meet as a new experience. Every person I get the opportunity to work with furthers my understanding about partnerships between humans and horses,” Lorton said. “Every time, I learn a new chapter about horses.”