"Now that he is blind, I have to have my legs on him at all times, and now, I have to be aware of my surroundings one hundred percent of the time," Delaney told us when we talked to her at her stalls in the Swine Barn.

Twenty-Two Year Old Now Completely Blind Old Timer Still Struttin at Congress

Equestrians face a wide variety of challenges, both in and out of the show pen. However, showing a blind horse is not a challenge that most of us have encountered. For Delaney Dickens of Omaha, Nebraska that’s become a task she performs regularly.

During the 2014 Congress, we featured Delaney and her horse, Ima Struttin Solo (Joey) in an article. The team had made the finals of the Novice 13 and Under Horsemanship despite Joey only having the use of one eye. Now two years later, after talking to Delaney and her trainer, Danielle Burnight of Nebraska at the Congress, we found out that he has lost sight in his other eye. Joey is now completely blind.

Delaney tells us that this year before the Youth World Show, Joey developed a cataract in his other eye, completely blocking his vision. “Now that he is blind, I have to have my legs on him at all times, and now,  I have to be aware of my surroundings one hundred percent of the time,” Delaney told us when we talked to her at her Congress stalls in the Swine Barn.

-3“The biggest challenge now is that we are his eyes. We’ve had to teach him cues to pick his feet up to step into the trailer or up over curbs or anything that is elevated,” says trainer, Danielle Burnight. “It’s really hard at shows like this in the warm-ups when people don’t give enough room or ride straight at him because he can’t react, so we really have to take care of him and pay attention to what is going on around him. People don’t realize he’s blind. Until he went completely blind, I never realized how much the horses that can see really react for us in crowded situations. We have had to become his complete navigation system.”

Although his vision changes the way she has to show him, Delaney and Joey have made huge achievements together. On Tuesday night at the Congress, they placed 14 out of 126 in the Novice Youth 14-18 Horsemanship. Her other career highlights include bronze champions in showmanship at the 2016 Level 1 Central Championship Show, 2015 Reserve Congress Champions in the 13&U Novice Horsemanship, 2016 Top 10 at the NSBA World in the horsemanship, along with many other Top 5 and Top 10 awards at both shows and countless circuit and all around awards.

-1“Joey has taught me absolutely everything and let me excel in all around events. We faced many disadvantages, largely due to him having been in a stall for 10 years before I bought him. We just clicked together so well,” Delaney said. “He has the will to win and he has made me like horsemanship more. All of my accomplishments on him are so special because of the disadvantages we’ve overcome.”

After many years of success in the all-around events, Delaney decided she would half-retire Joey from the all around events and just stick to doing horsemanship and possibly try the ranch horse classes.”

-4Delaney loves his personality in general. He can be cranky but he has the will to win, which she truly appreciates. “When we were at the Youth World sWow, we were practicing showmanship and trotting around when suddenly Joey starting bucking. Everyone riding was dying of laughter and both of my trainers could hardly breathe. It really was just a funny moment with him,” said Delaney.

She is very appreciative of both of her trainers, Danielle Burns and Julie Kunde, because of the incredible care they offer her and Joey. “They both push me to strive for the best and try my hardest, and I feel so safe with Joe in their care,” Delaney tells us.

This amazing team serves as an inspiration to many youth, amateurs, and trainers. They prove to everyone that no matter what challenge is presented, a lot of hard work, trust, and understanding can help them overcome anything.

Best of luck in the future to Joey and Delaney!