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Legally-Blind Rider Tory Watters To Compete At The 120th National Horse Show

Wellington, Florida – November 21, 2003 -- Tory Watters was a happy, athletic, horse-crazy teenager, living in Cincinnati with her parents, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and damaged optic nerves. Tory had been riding horses since the age of two and had been winning blue ribbons in the children’s hunter division for many years. At the age of 14, major headaches and blurred vision resulted in a life-changing operation and the removal of a malignant tumor. No follow-up radiation was required, and, luckily, the cancer was stopped in its tracks. However, Tory was left with no vision in her right eye and with 20/200 vision in her left eye.

So where did Tory go from there? Right back to what she always loved and knew best: horses, jumping and competition. While Tory sees life as a big, impressionist painting, she has learned to adjust. There is nothing -- short of driving a car --- that Tory cannot and will not do. Her positive attitude and supportive family life have made Tory a winner in more ways than one.

Now, at age 38, living in Wellington with her two beautiful sons, Tory competes at the highest amateur hunter levels. Tory’s riding success has been so great that she was selected to compete, yet again, at the upcoming 120th National Horse Show in Wellington – only the top 20 or so horse and rider teams in the United States, in each division, are invited to compete at The National. And Tory has qualified with two of her best mounts, “See For Yourself” and “Eye Remember Rio”.

The 120th National will take place from Wednesday, November 26 through Sunday, November 30, 2003 at The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington.

How does Tory approach a very large jump on a very large horse when everything is, literally, a big blur? Talent, guts, practice and reliable mounts. And Tory, since her operation, given her indefatigable sense of humor and irony, has always named her horses with an eye/vision theme.

Since last year’s National in Wellington and the press associated therewith, Tory’s life has taken an unbelievable turn. Her story has been featured in many national newspapers; CBS’ Early Show did a special feature on Tory on August 1, 2003; and – best of all – The Scheppens Eye Institute of Boston has taken an interest in Tory’s case, working with her on a cure to her condition. Short of a cure, Scheppens will soon be fitting Tory with special low vision eyeglasses, with a binocular-type attachment, that will enable Tory to see life clearly for the first time in many years. Tory is also scheduled to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Tory’s next effort is to create a symbol/button for people with her low vision situation to wear, so that people will understand her and others with her optical situation. For example, as Tory tells it, when she goes to, say, a McDonald’s with her two boys, she cannot read the menu posted on the board above the servers. How does she order? Often, she just orders what the person in front of her just ordered. But, other times, she asks the servers what’s on the menu --- and is treated as an illiterate. Tory’s brilliant idea is to develop a symbol – understood by one and all – that would indicate to those around her that she has serious vision problems. No doubt, with Tory’s determination, this symbol will become part of the American vernacular.


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