“Cheese started life as a rodeo bronc. She was sold at an auction where my first trainer bought her. The first time she was saddled, she went off as soon as the girth was tightened. I wanted nothing to do with her.
A few years later she was a different horse. She would walk, trot, and pick up a canter without trying to eject you. I tried her out, and this time, I fell in love.
I ended up buying her and naming her The Cheese Stands Alone. Cheese and I did gaming for a bit, but her true love was cross country so we decided to start training for eventing. Around this time I went for an eye exam and was referred to a retina specialist where I was diagnosed with Stargadt’s disease. Stargadt’s is a genetic juvenile form of macular degeneration that causes vision loss. There is no cure and I was declared legally blind at the age of 27.
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My dream of eventing was crushed. I couldn’t safely do a cross-country course without putting my horse and myself at risk of injury or worse. But just because I couldn’t jump didn’t mean I couldn’t ride, and Cheese and I started doing dressage. As my eyes progressively got worse, Cheese had to step up and do more. And I had to learn to trust that she would be there when I couldn’t see something. We occasionally did some jumping (in the ring where the jumps could fall) and Cheese saved my butt many times.
There is a therapeutic riders division at the Devon Horse Show. During Cheese’s last year of showing, we qualified and took third in the Dixon Oval. After that year, Cheese retired though she still gives the occasional pony ride.
Cheese may not be an actual therapy horse, but she helped me overcome depression and keep my confidence in the saddle when I started losing my sight. Always a little on the hot side, most wouldn’t consider her a good therapy horse, but for a blind woman who needed a confidence-boosting partner who was always there, she was the perfect horse.” —Trish B.
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