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HEART SET ON A PINTO! by: Susan "Sam" Madden

(SHOC is pleased to introduce one of the world's most optimistic equestrians - and she rides Pintos!)

Blind since 1990 due to diabetes, using a coach directing her on a radio headset, Sam Madden rode her Pinto mare Sugarplum Vision (Zoe) to her ROMs in Hunter Under Saddle and English Pleasure in open competition last year. However, a newly diagnosed clotting disorder has made her rethink this risky business of showing horses.

Dressage was something Sam had to do as part of eventing in order to get to ride those fun cross-country courses when she was a kid in Pony Club. But after her doctor recently advised her to minimize her risk, dressage seemed like the safest form of showing, where Zoe and she could play in an arena by themselves and not have to dodge a dozen other horses and riders. But Sam isn't just rediscovering the beauty of dressage, she's setting her sights high - to compete internationally as part of the 2004 U.S. Paralympic team!

To qualify, Sam must be among riders of all disabilities submitting the highest scores from nine dressage tests including a musical freestyle. For Grade 3 totally blind riders, International Paralympic Equestrian Committee (IPEC) tests encompass First Level movements including serpentines, voltes, and lead changes.

Riding the precision pattern work of dressage is difficult enough when you can see; try riding a circle or straight line when you have no reference as to what "straight" is! Sam can feel if her horse's spine is straight, but she has no reference to know if she is parallel to the rail.

Sponsored in part by Pinto Horse Association of America (PtHA), Sam's boyfriend and coach, Ralph Carr, designed and built a remote-controlled electronic letter-announcing system called Alphabet-Eyes to orient Sam to where she is in the dressage arena and give her an audible reference as to her location. Units are placed at the eight perimeter letters and are cued by Ralph, a.k.a. Mr. X, the "living letter" in the center of the arena, to sound off when the rider is headed their way. This adaptive equipment is allowed under the USA Equestrian Living Letters Rule 1922.4.1.

Unfortunately, Zoe doesn't have the movement to be an upper level dressage horse, and that is what it is going to take to be competitive on an international level. If not Zoe, Sam still has her heart set on a Pinto!

National Disability Sports Alliance (NDSA), a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is inviting equine owners to make their competitive dressage horses available for use by the country's top equestrians who have a disability, with an eye toward competing in the next Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Sam would travel to where the horse is stabled to work with him with his trainer (frequency depending on cost and distance - out of state a possibility), continue to receive instruction on Zoe at home, and show the borrowed Pinto in his local area to aim toward qualifying to compete with him overseas in 2004. This unparalleled opportunity offers an outstanding Pinto the potential to receive publicity and be seen by the Europeans, adding competition abroad and "U.S. Paralympic Team" to his resume which could increase his value and/or stud fees and enhance his reputation as having the disposition to carry a disabled rider to world-class competition!

A second option is to buy the Pinto of her dreams with tax-deductible donations to NDSA provided by corporate or third-party sponsors (fund raising in progress) - perhaps even a promising, up-and-coming, lower level horse with refined movement lacking only the miles. Of course, a more seasoned horse is also a possibility, contingent only on the generosity of her sponsors!

And a third option is for a Pinto owner to acquire tax benefits to the extent allowed by the IRS by donating a talented horse to NDSA, a charitable, not-for-profit organization. The Pinto would receive top-quality training and care with Sam in Phoenix, Arizona, including daily love and carrots. This might interest someone with a retired sound schoolmaster or simply too many horses, someone who would like to take advantage of international publicity for their horse's bloodlines, someone who wants to see the gifted and gorgeous Pinto breed kick some butt overseas, or just someone with a generous heart willing to help a disabled rider follow her dream.

If you know of a spotted super-star with elegant movement and international potential whose owners would like to benefit from this unique opportunity, please contact Sam at 602.862.9069 or e-mail: You can also learn more about NDSA at and learn more about Sam, her Pintos, her accomplishments, and her vision for the future at

Wouldn't it send a powerful positive message about colored horses if enough owners came forward with their outstanding athletes that the U.S. could send a whole TEAM of Pintos to Greece in 2004?