Young National Champion Horseback Rider Who Is Legally Blind Brings It In Competition

AFB CareerConnect loves to share the accomplishments of people who are blind or visually impaired and this story is a wonderfully uncommon and individual success. Rachel Sanchez is a 16-year-old girl who became legally blind after being struck in the head by a bullet at age 5. In November, she won the United Professional Horsemen’s Association Exceptional Challenge Cup at the American Royal National Championship in Kansas City.

The horse Rachel Sanchez was riding at the time of her win is designated a CH, or champion horse. According to Cindy Howerton, an AFB staff member and expert rider herself, “American Saddlebreds win this designation by repeated wins at large, recognized, well-attended competitions. A win is generally worth one point, never more than three. It takes 15 points to be a champion, which means someone had to win a designated class on this horse as many as 15 times. And, not every class, even at these larger shows, is eligible for CH points. It generally takes several years to become a CH, and like the Detroit Lions in professional football, any participant can be better or worse on a given day. Also, for a Saddlebred to win this many times means they probably aren’t an easy horse to ride.”

Cindy continued, “Winning classes isn’t as much about what they are doing; it’s more about how fanciful and elegant they look while performing against other horses. To be like this, horses have to be right on the cusp of being out of control. Not many horses become a CH. I’ve ridden only one that I know of in all my years of riding. This gal is quite the rider.”

In an interview with Fox8 News in Winston-Salem, NC, Rachel says she is “still on Cloud 9” and her advice to anyone with a disability is, “Never give up. Keep on trying.”

Learn more about this young rider and her path to success through hard work and perseverance. To read more accounts about the many successes of blind or visually impaired people, please visit the Our Stories section on the CareerConnect website.