Julie Winkel handles more in one day than most people could manage in a month of Sundays. When the successful breeder, trainer, judge, committee member, mentor, coach, magazine columnist and tack store owner lists all the things she does, she can’t help but chuckle a little while admitting that yes, she has a lot on her plate. But she likes it that way. Julie’s Maplewood Stables produces some of the West Coast’s best sporthorses, and her hands on approach towards everything from foaling out to schooling up and coming prospects keeps her close to the heartbeat of the farm that she’s lived on for over 25 years. As if running a large breeding program weren’t enough to keep one occupied, Julie is also the author of “Conformation Clinic”, her popular monthly column that appears in Practical Horseman, as well as a nationally rated judge, and member of over a dozen USEF and USHJA committees. How does she do it? With the help of her popular internship program, which accepts young trainers for up to two years, and is becoming a pipeline for an industry always in need of young professionals who can be counted on as riders and knowledgeable horsemen. Within a day’s notice, Julie graciously found the time to talk with ProEquest about all that she does, and how she does it all.
ProEquest: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and early influences?
Julie Winkel: My mom and dad are the best horsemen I have ever known. My dad was a saddle bronc rider, and my mom was raised around racehorses and polo ponies. Our family grew up with horses., and I’ve always known, since I was 5 years old that I’d work with horses, too. I started a barn out in the middle of nowhere, Nevada, when I was 15 years old. I gave lessons and took in training horses, and was pretty much self taught. I followed George Morris, and he is still my mentor. I’ve always been a student of his, and last year I judged the Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final with him, which was pretty cool.
ProEquest: How long have you been in Nevada, and why did you choose to base your farm there?
JW: Well, I’m from Nevada, and I never considered moving because I felt that being where I was in a kind of remote area, I could do my own thing as far as raising and training horses. I didn’t feel as if I had to do what was right for the people rather than for the horses. I could bring them along as slow as I wanted to, and could pick and choose what shows I went to. Of course, Reno’s been very good to me. I get asked to judge and be on many committees because of my location and zoning rules. It’s home here, and I have a farm that’s 150 acres that I’ve lived on forever.
ProEquest: Did your competitive career help shape your decision to become a judge?
JW: Oh yes, when I was showing, I always kept track of different judges, of what they liked and what they didn’t like, and I was always interested in being on the other side. For sure judging makes you a better competitor and a better horseman. You get to know what’s easy for the judge to see or not see. What I love most about judging is that I’m getting paid to do what I love most and that’s to watch horses.
ProEquest: You sit on many national committees for the USHJA and USEF. What do you enjoy most about being on them, and how do you find the time??
JW: Yes, I’m involved with a total of 13 committees. I think it’s very, very rewarding to have a say in shaping the industry. And especially the committees that I’m on that I’m most passionate about; the Trainer Certification Committee and Emerging Athletes Committee and the Young Horse Task Force. By being a part of those things, I think I can help in some small way make the industry a better place for our horses and our pros, and especially our young pros so that they can find their way.
As far as time – my biggest worry in my life is not having enough to do. I’m bored easily so if I just were to judge, or just were to teach or be on committees, I would get bored quick. I’m very organized and I’m also a planner, which helps me handle all the things I do.
ProEquest: Maplewood has a strong breeding and sales program. Who helps you run it?
JW: My internship program feeds my breeding and training and sales program. There are between 85 – 100 horses at Maplewood Farms, so there’s a lot of work to do, and a lot to learn, too. I have young aspiring pros that are at my facility to learn the ropes and have the opportunity to ride all kinds and levels of horses. They do everything from breeding, to foaling out, to backing and starting, and going to horse shows locally and on the west coast. They learn marketing and sales and communications. They learn how to teach and run the business. In the meantime they’re also helping get my young horses going and I’m always giving them lessons and checking on their progress.
ProEquest: It sounds like you’ve created a real system to teach young pros. Tell us more about what the interns do after they’ve left your program.
JW: I have 7 interns at once, and the deal is if they’re with me for two years, I will recommend them to other trainers as assistants. I already have a lineup of trainers waiting for the interns I have now when I’m ready to turn them loose. They become really valuable assistant trainers because I teach them to be horsemen, not just riders. They can do barn duty, they know how to braid, and they learn how to respect the clients – something not every young trainer knows inherently.
ProEquest: Your son is also involved in the industry. How old is he, and did he inherit his passion from you?
JW: Yes, Kevin is 25, and he’s in the process of setting up a satellite business in Southern California. The object to set him up there as a pipeline between the businesses He worked for Joe Fargis for a couple yrs when he was 18. He came back and helped me when I had some health issues. He was able to take over and showed our stallions in the grand prix. Now he wants to go off on his own a bit, which is great.
ProEquest: How would you describe the day-to-day pace of Maplewood Stables?
JW: Busy! I usually get up around 6am to return emails and phone calls from the East Coast, then I go for a run for an hour with my dogs. I do the board for the day and map out who’s going to ride who and all of that. I’m usually on my big stallion at 8:3o, and the interns each ride a couple of horses between 9 and 11. We have lessons if I’m home, and all the interns are in the lesson. We school another set right after that, maybe if we have time we take 20 min for lunch, and then the kids ride another couple each, and I have a lesson at 4 or 5 or both. If they’re not in the lesson they’re setting jumps or watching. We finish around 6 and once a week I have an intern dinner at my house, where we go over the week’s events, upcoming shows or clinics we’re going to have, who’s doing courses, who’s teaching and who’s responsible if I’m going to be away from the Farm. The interns are in charge of keeping horses they ride pulled and clipped and a lot of them don’t finish their day until dark. They work 6 days, a lot of times they’ll be at barn even when it’s their day off.