Mudgee born Sue-Ellen Lovett lives with husband Matthew on a property in Dubbo and is always accompanied by her guide dog. Born in Mudgee, she continues to overcome the limitations of progressive blindness after being afflicted by the hereditary disease Retinitis Pigmentosa. Sue-Ellen doesn’t let her condition stop her achieving her goals, on and off the saddle. Sue-Ellen “lives to ride”, competes at FEI Inter 1 level, and training Grand Prix.
She represented Australia in the Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, and the 1999 World Championships ranking 4th in the World. As well as riding, Sue-Ellen’s life is devoted to helping and motivating other disabled people and has been instrumental in raising over 3.1 million dollars for a number of charities by riding marathon distances on horseback. During these rides, she has spoken at functions in well over 600 towns, giving inspirational talks to many people.
Editor’s Note: In 2020, Sue-Ellen published a heart-warming story about love, achievement, overcoming adversity and daring to dream through the eyes of her horse, Johno. Johno and the Blind Chick gives readers a unique insight into the remarkable journey of this beautiful horse and his once-in-a-lifetime rider, from the moment they met.
Proudly sponsored by Prydes EasiFeed and Horseland Dubbo, Sue-Ellen would like to thank all her supporters: “my wonder farrier Christian, Chiropractor Gazz, Bowen Lady Sue, Horse clipper and beautician Judy, the beautiful Moira Kelly who keeps the dream alive and the wonderful TEAM KO-Olina that are my white coats and hold the lights while I ride, this is a mammoth effort on the part of a great team to keep me riding. THANK YOU EVERY ONE and a big thank you to Matt, Lee, Melisa and Simmi”.
What do you do? Up until about 2 months ago I was an EFA NCAS Level Dressage Coach, I had done my Level 2 Riding and Level 2 Horse Management, but because of my extra loss of sight it has left me not being able to instruct, read or write. I have 2 wonderful horses in work Ko-Olina my FEI horse and Houston my new warmblood, who is going quite nicely and in between I am a wife and domestic goddess.
When and why did you start riding? I have been very fortunate I have always ridden. My Dad managed a property near Mudgee and from the time I could sit up, I was on the saddle, mustering cattle and driving sheep.
Who was your first pony? ‘Penticoss’, she was a 12.2hh, flee bitten grey mare, with not such a nice disposition, but I was lucky and got on well. Each day we would go our rabbit trapping with my Pop on the horses.
Which horse that you have owned or ridden would you consider to be the best? I have been blessed with my wonderful horses that have come in to my lifee, they are all memorable and special, BUT one very special little stock horse Mare called Mudgee shared 30 years of her 35 years on this earth with me and together we rode 9 long distance rides , covering a distance of over 16,000km and raising over 3..1 million dollars for charity. WHAT A HORSE… I lost my beautiful ‘Mudgee’ 4 years ago at the age of 35 years.
What are you passionate about? I am passionate about my riding and just love training and seeing the rewards, just so exciting seeing the changes in the horses as you train through the levels.
What are you working on right now? With beautiful Ko-Olina we are competing Prix St George and Inter 1 and loving it, but we are training with the one-time changes and the best we have so far is 12 which is very exciting, Ko-Olina has taken to the piaffe and passage like a duck to water, not bad to be learning all these things as a 22 year old gentleman… As for Houston we are just getting the basics and having a play with some of the medium movements, but with my lack of sight it a slow process getting to know a new horse.
What’s on the cards for the year ahead? Well Ko-Olina and I have already been to the CDI and competed in the INTER 1….. I was so chuffed with my scores from the international judges, the Judge at C had me placed 13th, I was sooooooo proud of my beautiful Ko-Olina. We are entering for the NSW state Champs to be held in Tamworth in September. With Houston, just one step at a time and we will see, we may have our first outing at the ORANA dressage comp in Dubbo in October, I will just see how we are travelling..
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? God willing, still have enough sight to be still riding.. I live to ride..
What achievements are you most proud of? I have 3 very special times I competed in the Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Paralympics and Riding against my peers at the CDI for the past 3 years, such a privilege…
Outside or competition, what would you consider your most memorable moment? Being appointed to the Board of Directors for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games by the Honourable Michael Knight, what an amazing experience and what an honour..
What motivates you to go out and train each day? The love of that beautiful animal the horse and the sheer exhilaration of being able to ride and be free, just like every one else..
How do you prepare mentally for an event? I focus and enjoy the ride. Every time I ride or compete may be my last. When I ride it makes me smile, very deep inside.
Something you would like to change in the horse world? That the Australian thoroughbred was not such a disposable commodity and the racing industry cared a little more about the horse!! My Ko-Olina is an Australian TB and is a treasure, there are a lot of wonderful treasures out there, not even found or cared about !!
What would you do if you weren’t working with horses? I HAVE NO IDEA, I would be lost !!
Who do you admire in the horse world? I admire no one in particular, but I do admire a beautiful bond between a horse and rider and it is a rarity..
Who have been your best supporters? My Husband Matthew, Coach and Mentor Judy Cubitt. My Mother-In-Law Lee and an amazing Friend Melisa Cantrall and a wonderful Lady Moira Kelly, who believed in the dream.
If you could have 4 people, over for dinner who would they be? I would invite my Team KO-Olina, because they believe and they keep the dream alive. But there would be more than 4 people at dinner.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you? Being blind as you can imagine there are many opportunities for embarrassing situations, but lots of my embarrassment is usually clothing inside out or going into the Gents loo, not such a good look.
What advice would you or do you give to young riders wanting to follow in your footsteps? Believe in yourself and dare to dream, who knows what is possible, who would have thought a blind bird from Mudgee would end up representing Australia. DARE TO DREAM !!!!!
What has been your biggest lesson? Learning to cope with loosing my sight, how to find the positives and make them work for you.
What’s one thing we should know about you? I Love a challenge!
Editor’s Note: This article was published in the August 2011 edition of Horses and People Magazine but Sue-Ellen is still riding and has kept busy as a motivational speaker, two-time Paralympian, Grand Prix-level dressage rider.
In September 2019, Sue-Ellen started a Facebook page on behalf of her great friend, warm blood gelding Johno. Johno started sharing his experiences with his rider, ‘the blind chick’, recapping each day with stories and photos. Johno has a group of loyal followers who find his words uplifting and inspiring. Each story is a testament to the power of resilience and friendship.
In 2020, Sue-Ellen has published a heart-warming story about love, achievement, overcoming adversity and daring to dream through the eyes of her horse, Johno. Johno and the Blind Chick gives readers a unique insight into the remarkable journey of this beautiful horse and his once-in-a-lifetime rider, from the moment they met.