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Overcoming Obstacles: One Select Amateur’s Inspiring Journey to Get Back in the Saddle


“You’ve just got to want it,” says Janet Greci.

Without horses, an extensive support system, and the pure drive to succeed, Janet Greci would not be where she is today. Janet rides her horse, Live And Let Lope, a.k.a 007, under the guidance of Jenn and Justin Wheeler at Wheeler Performance Horses.

We hear from Greci herself, along with her trainers, Jenn and Justin, and friend, Amy Groefsema, about how she has overcome hardship in her life and is now back in the saddle.

Horse Life

Just like many of us horse people, from the time she was a small child, Janet wanted a horse. And at the age of seven, she received her first horse. This is where her passion began. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn,” says Janet.

Horses have always been a huge part of her life and still are today. After showing for many years with different equine companions, Janet now has an upcoming four-year-old who she has goals of making into a western all-arounder. This red bay gelding by Lazy Loper and out of a Zippo Pine Chex mare was bought sight-unseen from Chase Barnes at two-years-old.

“We couldn’t have picked a better minded horse for her to have,” says Jenn. “He is always willing, never holds grudges, doesn’t get angry and is super-talented in the trail,” explains Janet.

The team is preparing to show in a walk-trot class as soon as events can proceed. “Her love and compassion for her three-year-old is admirable and that little horse loves her too. The pride in her eyes watching him show is so touching and a commitment to her being a great rider herself,” states Groefsema.

The pair works well together, but Janet did not know he would help her conquer a significant health issue.

Facing a Problem

A typical day can take a turn for the worst in just seconds. For Janet, it was a day like any other when she was getting ready to take baseball hats that she made to a tack sale at the Wheeler’s. She was standing at the counter in her home when she began not feeling well.

The next thing she knew, she was in the hospital. Janet had a stroke. Jenn and her husband were shocked because she is extremely healthy, with no other underlying conditions.

“I cried for two days because we just love her so much, and she means so much to everyone here at the barn,” states Jenn. (pictured left)

Luckily, she was quickly flown to Stanford, where her life was saved. When Janet came to consciousness, her first thoughts were of 007. Her most significant fear was that she would not be able to ride again. Janet is not only doing the unexpected of walking, but she is also now back in the saddle.

Rehabilitation

Janet’s progress did not happen overnight. It took a lot of hard work, dedication, and rehab to get to the point of being able to ride again.

“You’ve got to push yourself,” says Janet. Physical therapy helped to build muscles that were needed for riding. There was a lot of walking involved to build strength, and she even practiced mounting a horse by using an ATV as a substitute.

Although, getting prepared physically was very much needed, the mental motivation was what got Janet to most of her goals.

“It is a mental thing, you’ve got to want it bad,” Janet encourages. “I’m doing it because I want to get on that horse.”

Her desire to get back on 007 was so strong, she would not let anything get in her way. Janet continues, “I have a friend who was in a car accident and was paralyzed from the waist down, and she rode horses. I contacted her right away and asked her what do I do. She said, ‘Once you get on the horse, it’s going to make it all better.’”

Support

Janet was not alone in her journey. Many people were supporting her along the way. One of her largest supporters was her husband, Tom. She says that he took care of the two horses at home, did all the chores inside, and overall “was a big part of me getting well.”

Tom accompanies her to every lesson, she helps him in the shop, but above all, they support each other. It was no surprise that Janet was back on her horse because of her positive nature, her persistence, and love and support from Tom.

“They are the epitome of a power couple,” states Groefsema. Additionally, there were the people she shows with that also had her back. “They are always there to help you with your struggles,” Greci says, talking about the horse community.

Her trainers kept 007 in shape until Greci could come back to ride. Jenn praises her by saying, “She is the kind of barn mate that will sit in the stands and clap for you all day long. She’s just as happy when other people do well. It is essential to her to be a good horseman, not just to learn to show. She is the first one there and the last one to leave.”

Everyone was excited to see her back at the barn.

Greci is an inspiration to many. Her success as an equestrian has been accomplished with much commitment. Horses are given a large amount of acknowledgment of her wellness along with friends and family.

“Give horses credit. They can lift people’s spirits and be therapeutic for people going through something like this,” says Jenn.

“When you are on horseback, everything else goes away,” states Greci.


About the Author – Georgia Smith has always been intrigued by anything equine related since she was a little girl. Throughout the years, Georgia has been The National High Individual in horse judging as well as placing Top Ten at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress. She has been riding/showing horses for 14 years with her trainer, Charlene Carter, who has led her to take up jumping at Harmony Hill Farms. As a journalist major, Georgia is adamant about continuing her passion for horses through her writing.

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