SA girl and blind horse inspire Hollywood

2009-09-22 00:00

BLOEMFONTEIN — The inspirational story of a South African girl and her blind horse’s steadfast trust in each other is the stuff that Hollywood hits are made of.

The American production house Warner Bros and its local agent, Film Africa, are in negotiations for the rights to film the story of Chelsey Cooper (14) and her horse, Lady Domain.

Lady Domain and Chelsey, a pupil at Oranje Girls’ High School in Bloemfontein, won three South African saddle horse championship titles after the mare became blind.

The blonde girl refused to have her horse put down after an accident. Before the accident, they won national eventing titles in the U12 and U18 classes for 15.1 hand horses.

She taught the mare to trust her 100%, and so she became Lady Domain’s eyes. Chelsey gave Lady the self-confidence to carry on winning.

“We beat them easily, Lady,” she told her horse when they won the South African eventing championship for her age group in 2008.

Only a small group of people were aware of the fact that Lady was completely blind. The judges were not aware of this. A blind horse is not allowed to compete. The fact that veterinarians thought Lady still had slight vision in her left eye was the loophole they needed.

Chelsey’s mother, Anneli Coo­per, said Lady Domain is the only disabled horse in the world who could win a national title while competing against “normal” horses. “Before the championship, one participant told Chelsey he knew that her horse was blind — they would give Lady a chance. Chelsey was determined that the two of them would ‘give 100% and win’,” said her mother.

After an article about “the Natalie du Toit of saddle horses” appeared, people started phoning from all over to say how Chelsey and Lady had inspired them.

One mother apparently phoned to say how her son had lost his eyes in a chemical explosion, and did nothing but sit in his chair for six months. She gave him Lady’s story to read.

“He jumped up and told his mother: ‘Mom, if a blind horse can do it, so can I’. I was crying so much that I put the phone down. I even forgot to ask the woman’s name,” said Anneli.

Lady Domain is not allowed to compete anymore, but she and Chelsey still perform to inspire.

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