Julia Pesek is an accomplished equestrian who is living with type 1 diabetes, and she uses both of these life experiences to contribute to her community. Julia has been riding since she was just 12 years old, and has won numerous national competitions, including a gold medal at the 2010 B.C. Summer Games.
In 2013, however, Julia took a break from competing when her mare, Kalima, retired at 20 years old. “I continued to ride, but not competitively,” she says.
In 2014, Alexia Zizzy (owner of Abby Saddle Shop) offered Julia the opportunity to ride her horse as Alexia recovered from a slipped disc. “I agreed, hesitantly, because although the horse had been ridden steadily, he was only five years old, therefore didn’t have much experience,” she recalls. “After just a few rides, though, Ferdinand and I clicked!”
Shortly after that, Julia and Ferdinand were offered the opportunity to compete in dressage competitions. “I jumped at the chance immediately, and once again began riding full-time.”
Since they started competing together in 2015, Julia and Ferdinand have won multiple championships. In 2016 alone, they have won both reserve champion and champion titles. “I like being back in competition, as I really thrive on setting goals,” says Julia. “Competing inspires me to push for more, and it gives me dedication.”
Julia is deeply committed to volunteer work. She contributes to I Challenge Diabetes, founded by Olympic rowing medallist Chris Jarvis. The organization’s mission is to support, empower and connect people living with diabetes by providing challenging programs to test the limits of living with the disease and offering high-quality services to help people grow and take accountability for their own health.
Julia has done a lot of social media work with I Challenge Diabetes, with Instagram being her major focus. She has also participated in a number of live events in British Columbia. “The idea is to confront the challenges of diabetes through exercise and sports,” she says. “It’s a great organization for getting the support that you need and also creating networks.”
Julia is also actively involved with the non-profit organization Sundance Solace Society in Abbotsford, British Columbia. The Society is committed to offering free access to mental health services that utilize horses and nature for individuals and groups who have limited financial resources. “The Society helps adults and children with conditions such as anxiety, depression or attention deficit disorder,” says Julia. “I work as a general volunteer, and it’s incredibly rewarding.”
As for her academic accomplishments, Julia graduated from the University of the Fraser Valley in June 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice. “Ultimately, I’d like to have a career in law enforcement,” she says. “My top choices would be either the Canadian Border Services Agency or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
That said, Julia looks forward to continuing to compete in dressage competitions with Ferdinand. “I’d like to get up to the Grand Prix level,” she says, which is the highest level of modern dressage competition. “It might take a while, because dressage is known as a very patient endeavour, but it’s something that I’d really like to do.”
For inspiration, Julia looks to Chris Jarvis. “As a person with type 1 diabetes, he has been a huge role model to me, especially within the I Challenge Diabetes organization,” says Julia. “He’s also given me lots of advice on diabetes management over the years.”
Julia also counts the owners of Ferdinand, Alexia Zizzy and David Tulsie as tremendous inspirations. “They have shown me limitless support and kindness over the last few years with Ferdinand,” she says. “When people give you that support, it encourages you to do the same to other people.” On top of that, notes Julia, “Ferdinand definitely inspires me! He’s such a quick learner and his work ethic is amazing.”
With respect to her diabetes management, Julia used the Animas Vibe insulin pump and the Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring system. As for her insulin pump therapy, “It’s going well, and has definitely has been a blessing,” she says. “There is no way I could return to injections. Pump therapy gives me the responsibility that I need, and removes the worries.”
For anyone considering pump therapy, Julia offers this ringing endorsement: “Do it! You can adjust your pump to your lifestyle,” she says. “And as an athlete it gives me so much flexibility.”
Animas Canada first spoke with Julia in 2012. You can read her original story here.
The inspiration section and articles have been made possible by and sponsored by Animas Canada.