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Positively LEX 18: Blind showjumper pursuing her dream to be sport's best

Posted at 11:06 PM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 23:08:45-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — This is the story of a girl and her horse -- a touching sight that's pretty common in bluegrass country.

But Wren Zimmerman and her horse Valentine are actually a very rare team.

When she was just a teenager, Wren was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease, similar to macular degeneration. Wren's eyesight started getting worse and worse, and by the time she was halfway through college, she became legally blind.

Just the fact she learned to ride a horse is impressive, but that she chose the sport of show jumping after her diagnosis is almost unthinkable.

"You realize you take everything for granted, and so you're at a point you realize you don't know how much longer you might have your vision," Wren said. "So that's when I realized I need to follow this lifelong dream of riding and jumping horses."

Her goal is to rise to the highest level -- grand Prix -- and become ranked among the best in the world.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself," Wren said. "I'm a very competitive person, and I don't want to do this at a mediocre level. I want to be at the top. If I can do it, that can show other people that they can do it too."

She's also determined to help make jumping a para-Olympic event. But it's not just a sport to Wren, it's a mission.

"I'll have people reach out to me on social media or parents of kids who have just gotten diagnosed with retina disease, and they're so devastated," she said. "And then they hear my story and they have hope."

One woman in particular stands out. After losing her sight, the woman wondered if life was worth living.

"She reached out to me, and I basically talked her through that," Wren said. "But for someone like that who is struggling to have people they know they can reach out to, that they're not alone going through something like that, I think that makes all the difference."

Making a difference in a sport that's risky for anyone, yet liberating for Wren.

"I feel amazing when I'm on that horse," she said. "It's definitely freedom from a disability, and nothing compares to it."