Blind World Magazine


Ways to gallop around blindness.





December 04, 2005.
News-Herald.com.




While Lake Erie College sophomore Jessica Snyder admits she was pretty nervous before her first dressage show Saturday, her mother, Sylvia, had no doubt that her daughter would do fine.


"She is probably the most tenacious person that I know," she said just prior to her daughter's performance at the Lake Erie College Equestrian Center in Concord Township.


Much of the desire in 22-year-old Jessica likely comes from the fact that she is legally blind. She cannot see at all out of her right eye and has very limited vision in her left eye.


"I've always found ways around it," said Jessica, who is from Parma, but currently lives on the Lake Erie College campus in Painesville.


"So it didn't become a major issue for me."


Dressage is a program where riders attempt to navigate their horse through a course without revealing any motions or commands to the judges. The term dressage is derived from the French language and means "training."


Saturday's show featured seven colleges and universities from across the Midwest.


In order for Snyder to make her debut, Lake Erie had to get special permission from the Intercollegiate Dressage Association.


The need for such a request stems from the help Snyder's teammates provided during her performance.


In dressage, riders must find markers on the floor that are each labeled with a different letter. Each letter means the rider is supposed to perform a different move with their horse.


Since Snyder cannot see the letters, her teammates stood by the markers as living letters, calling out each letter so she could proceed.


"I think it went really well," she said as her teammates gathered around after her performance.


Snyder's coach, Katrina Merkies, agreed.


"It's quite an accomplishment," Merkies said.


"It's also a great team builder because it gets everyone involved. The whole team is rooting for her success."


Another aspect to dressage is the matching of horses with riders at each show. Horses are provided by the host college, meaning that competitors from visiting schools must ride horses they have never used before.


Since Snyder has experience on each of Lake Erie's horses, she would have been able to compete no matter which horse she drew on Saturday. But she does not take part in shows away from the college.


Snyder gave plenty of kudos to her horse, Stretch, for helping her to get through her first performance.


"I felt like he was listening to me," she said.


Snyder is a behavioral science major and takes equestrian classes whenever she can fit them in. She says she has always loved animals and began riding horses about seven years ago.


Eventually, she would like to become an animal behaviorist.


"If someone's pet is tearing up their house, I can explain why," she said.


©The News-Herald 2005.



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