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Legally Blind Barrel Racer Still Competes

Conny Winkers-Woodman, Wisconsin
Conny Winkers-Woodman, Wisconsin

Imagine, jumping up on one of the most athletic horses in the world, the American Quarter Horse and entering a barrel racing competition at rodeos across the United States, all while being classified as legally blind. There’s a lady from Wisconsin who does just that!

I recently spoke with Conny Winkers from Woodman, Wisconsin. Winkers is originally from New Jersey, where she got her start in rodeo. Rodeos in Jersey? Yep. Rodeo fans from out east would be familiar with The First Frontier Circuit. But let’s go back a bit further.

When Conny was 13 years old she noticed that she couldn’t see the chalkboard like she used to. She moved to the front of the class and still couldn’t see. They did some looking into the problem, no pun intended and determined that Kony had Stargardt disease.  According to Blindness.Org:

Stargardt disease is the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration. The progressive vision loss associated with Stargardt disease is caused by the death of photoreceptor cells in the central portion of the retina called the macula.

Here’s where it gets interesting. If Conny looks straight a head she can’t see. She does have some vision peripherally. If you’re standing beside her she can see you. In front, not so much.

Overhead lights at night or conditions just before sunset, would make her vision blend everything together making seeing the barrel difficult. Imagine, the bright lights of the arena, coming in from a dark alley  to start a barrel pattern at high speed. Things could get of hairy real fast.

Then, by chance, Conny found a product that actually helped her see better. Oakley Low Light- No light Sunglasses. These are the yellow lens glasses people use for shooting. They minimize glare especially in Conny’s case at nighttime.

My son Jacob is a truck driver. He has a pair and swears that they help with glare on the road at night. Turns out Kony’s, husband Scott Winkers is a truck driver and is looking into a pair as well.

Conny mentioned that her husband bought her a good barrel horse. (Oh Boy) She just heads him into the arena and he does the rest. She stated after I got a pair of Oakley’s the following week I started placing at events! She said, they help add contrast to the color of the barrel against the dirt of the arena, helping me see and making it possible for me to compete. 

I’m thinking the marketing department at Oakley might want to talk to Conny about a sponsorship!

I’m always looking for a story for KIKN.com. When I came across this one I wanted to share it with you. Who knows, maybe someone will read this and in turn return a favor making seeing easier for someone they know,

Please share this story with your rodeo, or barrel racing friends.

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