Young Equestrians

Being Blind In One Eye Is No Obstacle For Devon Junior Hunter Champ

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DEVON, Pa. — Despite being blind in one eye, a horse named Tztargazer is a champion in the show ring.

Most recently, the coveted Devon Grand Junior Hunter Champion title was presented to the 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding owned by Steve Schaefer and ridden by Chloe White of Berwyn, Pa. on May 26.

After accumulating 28 points across the board and winning the championship tricolor in the Large Junior 16-17 Hunter division, White earned a spot on the trophy to make an already emotional year that much more memorable.

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White has been training with the team at Madison Hills Farm, based in Gates Mills, Ohio and Wellington, Fla., for the past three years. The team has a tight-knit relationship and she considers them her second family. Head trainer Michael Rheinheimer passed away in 2017, leaving trainer Amanda Lyerly to take over the reins.

The talented 17-year-old said that in addition to re-watching her rounds, she still tries to remember the lessons Rheinheimer taught her and tries to channel his advice as well as that of Lyerly. Her experiences training under the expertise of Rheinheimer and Lyerly led her to a bittersweet victory to round out the junior hunter divisions at the Devon Horse Show.

“I knew what I had to do to be [Devon Grand Junior Hunter Champion] and I was terrified. This was my first time showing horses at Devon, so I just wanted to have nice rounds. I never thought this would happen. It feels surreal,” White said.

A former grand prix jumper, “Utah,” as he is called in the barn, has made the transition to the equitation ring a smooth one. The gelding started doing the hunters in February with Caelinn Leahy in the irons, but excels in the equitation as well.

“He’s just really stepped up to the plate this year. I never expected this out of him. I am so proud of him. He is blind in his right eye. We keep his whiskers long and everyone says, ‘Does he have allergies?’ and we respond, ‘No, he’s blind.’ He is perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better horse this weekend,” White said.

Upon returning to Devon for the first time since she showed ponies at the famed event, White rode to her first-ever high score of 90 over-fences and the pair took second place in the undersaddle.

“Really nothing changes,” White said of making adjustments for his sight issue, “I have never ridden him differently. He likes his left lead, because it is his right eye that is blind, which I completely understand. I have watched videos of him in the jumpers and he would make crazy right turns and I don’t know how he does it. He came in from the field one day with a completely deflated eye and the vet was able to save it. He’s pretty cool. He’s not your average junior hunter. He is a little sensitive, so he likes a very light feel and a nice pace going up to the jump. He’s awesome.”

When she is not laying down consistent rides in the junior hunters, White shows her equitation horse, Cooley Nothing Better B, owned by Kyle Carter. And while going from a course walk to the classroom might be strange for some riders, for White it’s just another normal day. On Friday afternoon, White walked the course for the Washington Equitation Classic, changed clothes, drove to class at The Shipley School, and returned to the show grounds to compete later on in the day.

In addition to securing the Devon Grand Junior Hunter Championship, White and her special partner were honored further with the Ovation Perpetual Trophy, the Overall Large Junior Hunter title and the Lestat Memorial Perpetual Trophy. The pair achieved the Overall Large Junior Hunter title after putting forth seamless rounds in their competitive division.

White was presented with the 1902 Edward T. Stotesbury Perpetual Trophy for Best Child Rider after her performances in the Large Junior 16-17 Hunter division with Tztargazer.

After a surreal experience at the historic Devon Horse Show, White will venture to Lexington, Ky. for the Country Heir Horse Show before going on a service trip for two weeks with her school to Botswana, South Africa.

Looking ahead to the rest of the summer, White is hoping to qualify with Tztargazer for the 2018 Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in August at the Kentucky Horse Park.

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