When Debi Paulin runs her first barrel race on her new t-bred she’ll be in the remarkable position of already having won her most important race.
Diagnosed two years ago with Multiple Sclerosis after a sudden onset of paralysis, Paulin, 40, has fought much bigger battles outside the competition arena than she could ever encounter within. And she feels blessed to take her perfect-for-her ex-racehorse Sweet Duper to the Run for the Angels Benefit 5D Barrel Race in the town of Santo.
“To be able to start running and competing again, especially on my own horse, means so much to me on so many levels,” she says. “I have overcome so much adversity in my life. Finally, somehow, I’ve found the strength and courage to follow my dreams.”
Barn name: Ty
Sire: Special Fly By
Dam: Super Duper Sweet
Foal date: 2010And she found her dream horse last January.
About a year after her diagnosis, Paulin spotted Sweet Duper at a friend’s barn and felt an instant thrill of excitement. “I don’t know what it was, exactly, but I called his owner the next day and offered to buy him. I knew he was going to be for sale, and I told her I’d take him,” she says.
After undergoing intensive physical therapy and medical treatments to combat a battery of ailments, from mild paralysis to visual disturbances, it was a joy to walk with her new gelding into the round pen and connect with the strong, sturdy animal.
She spent 45 days with him before finally coaxing her impaired legs over Sweet Duper’s back. And the moment she settled into the saddle, he looked after her like a mare would her foal. “He was bred for the track, but made for me!” Paulin says. “He takes such good care of me. On my bad days when my legs are hurting, he’ll stand next to the fence and just wait for me to climb on.”
There were days early on in her illness when Paulin wondered if she’d ever be able to continue her lifelong passion for riding. But stoicism and good old-fashioned grit prevailed. “I have things to do,” she says. “I’m not in a wheelchair … instead of giving into it, I’m working my muscles and will keep on doing what I do.”
As she readies for their first competition together, Paulin notes, “He does more than just barrels. He has given me hope.” ♥