Julie Higgins

Julie Elizabeth Higgins, OAM[1][2] (née Fowler, born 28 February 1958)[3] is an Australian equestrian rider who won two gold medals at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney.

Julie Higgins
261000 - Equestrian Julie Higgins gold medal 3 - 2000 Sydney medal photo.jpg
Higgins shown with her gold medal won at the 2000 Summer Paralympics for Individual Dressage Grade III
Personal information
Full nameJulie Elizabeth Higgins
Nationality Australia
Born28 February 1958 (1958-02-28) (age 65)
Medal record
Para equestrian
Representing  Australia
Paralympic Games
Gold medal – first place 2000 Sydney Mixed Dressage
Championship grade III
Gold medal – first place 2000 Sydney Mixed Dressage
Freestyle grade III


Higgins was born in Sydney on 28 February 1958.[4] She was born with Fanconi syndrome, which robs the bones of calcium and causes malabsorption of phosphate, vitamins, and sugar.[5] Doctors did not expect her to live beyond the age of ten.[5] She never crawled, and when she began to walk at the age of nearly three, she experienced severe bowing in both legs.[5]

She took up horseriding at the age of eight, because it was the only sport at which she could compete; as a result, her soft bones re-moulded themselves around the shape of a horse. she later said that "The horse became my legs and I could ride better than I could ever walk."[5] At the age of 22, she found that she could no longer ride because she had worn out her hip joints, and underwent her first hip replacement when she was 25.[6][7][8] During her sixteen-year hiatus from the sport, she taught her husband, Phillip, how to ride, and was his coach and groom when he competed in eventing and show jumping.[7] As of 2012, she works as an associate to Justice Peter Hidden of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.[9]


Action shot of Higgins during the 2000 Summer Paralympics Individual Dressage Grade III event in which she won gold

Inspired by television footage of the inaugural equestrian event at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, Higgins took horseriding up again, with the aim of competing at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.[10] Her family and friends were concerned about the impact that the sport would have on her deteriorating hip joints, and she made a pact with her husband that she would give up the sport if she did not do well at the next British national Championships for Riders with Disabilities, which were to be held six months later.[7][11] She won the British championships at both the national and international level in the Grade 3 classification from 1997 to 1999.[11] After her first British championships win, her husband put aside his riding career to be her coach and motivator.[7] In August 1999, she won two bronze medals at the 4th World Dressage Championships for Riders with Disabilities in Denmark, one in the individual grade 3 championship and the other as part of the Australian dressage team.[8][11]

Three months before the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, Higgins' hip began to fail and she could no longer ride with stirrups; she had a saddle especially made for her for the competition.[8] She had postponed a hip replacement to compete in the games.[10] Although she was in serious pain, she could not take painkillers during the games in case they led to her being tested positive for drugs.[6][12] She was randomly selected to work with a 14-year-old pinto gelding named Kaleidoscope for the games, formerly known as Magpie, who she admired "more than any other horse".[8] she had previously seen him at showjumping events and had competed against the horse at state and national championships, as he had been working with riders with disabilities since 1998.[8] He had hoof trouble two days after Higgins first met him; however, his hoof was fixed in time for the competition.[10] Higgins won two gold medals in the Mixed Dressage – Championship grade III and Mixed Dressage – Freestyle grade III events,[13] for which she received a Medal of the Order of Australia,[1] and was part of the team that came fifth in the Mixed Dressage Team open event.[14] She was Australia's first equestrian Paralympic gold medallist.[10] She had her sixth hip replacement in February 2001 and returned to riding, once again winning the New South Wales State Championship Dressage title for Riders With Disabilities and the perpetual trophy for the highest point score.[11]


Higgins was named the Australian Paralympic Committee's female paralympic athlete of the year for 2000.[15] That year, she received an Australian Sports Medal,[16] and in 2001, she received a Centenary Medal.[17] She also received an Award of Excellence for International Competition from the Equestrian Federation of Australia, a Sir Roden Cutler Award, and the 2002 Australia Day Sportsperson of the Year award from the City of Hawkesbury.[2][8] She was also named Horse Magazine's Rider of the Year.[8] She has served as an Australia Day Ambassador for various local government areas of New South Wales.[5][18]


  1. ^ a b "Higgins, Julie Elizabeth, OAM". It's an Honour. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b Searle, Tara (30 January 2002). "Julie takes top honour". The Hawkesbury Gazette. Retrieved 3 February 2012.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Media guide : 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games. Sydney, Australia: Australian Paralympic Committee. 2000.
  4. ^ "Mosman Sporting Wall of Fame – Julie Elizabeth Higgins OAM". Mosman Municipal Council. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Warringah's Australia Day Ambassadors" (PDF). Warringah Council. 15 January 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  6. ^ a b Wilson, Pamela (20 May 2002). "Clearing the pain hurdle and going for gold – In my medicine chest". The Daily Telegraph. p. 61.
  7. ^ a b c d Higgins, Julie (7 November 2000). "[Para_Rap] Allow me to introduce myself". Para_Rap email list. New South Wales Department of Education and Training. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Higgins, Julie (30 June 2010). "Magpie's Story" (PDF). The Pony Club of New South Wales. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Judicial Officer Contact Details – Supreme Court". Lawlink. 1 February 2012. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d Allen, Jodi (26 October 2000). "Kaleidoscope of Fortunes Finally Turns Gold For Higgins". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 3. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d "Julie Higgins" (PDF). Australia Day Council of New South Wales. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 September 2004. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  12. ^ Korporaal, Glenda (27 October 2000). "Tears open our eyes to a different world". The Daily Telegraph. p. 27.
  13. ^ "Athlete Search Results". International Paralympic Committee. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  14. ^ "Mixed Dressage Team open Results". International Paralympic Committee. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  15. ^ "More Gold for Julie". The Weekly Times. 15 November 2000. p. 66.
  16. ^ "Higgins, Julie Elizabeth: Australian Sports Medal". It's an Honour. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Higgins, Julie: Centenary Medal". It's an Honour. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  18. ^ "2003 Events – Regions Beginning with H". Australia Day Council of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 11 February 2003. Retrieved 27 January 2012.

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