Gary Wiley reckons a horse can tell that he is blind.
The vision-impaired Para-equestrian dressage rider believes a horse can sense it, and that creates a special bond between man and beast.
"Of course they can. Well, I think they can anyway," he said.
Inside a 60m x 20m dressage arena is where he feels at home. He has to put his full trust in his horse, and that trust in reciprocated. Together, they form a team capable of winning titles at major horse shows around New Zealand.
Wiley, who is completely blind in his right eye and had less than 40 per cent vision in his left eye, said it was important to share his story and raise the profile of all Para-sports so that others would get involved.
"People might look at para-equestrian sport as a label. But its not. It's there for people like me," he said.
"It makes a huge difference. It means I can do things I love doing."
Wiley, a fine horseman, often takes on retired racehorses. With patience and time he is able to train them to be more placid, like his current five-year-old mare Maree.
"She finished fourth last weekend, but its only her fifth competition since coming off the racetrack, and she's coming up quickly and performing well," he said.
He is aiming to take Maree to the Horse of the Year competition in Hastings next year.
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Wiley, 59, was born with microphthalmia coloboma in both eyes, a rare condition where a gap in the eye fails to close properly in the early stages of gestation.
An estimated one in every 10,000 births had the condition, and levels of impairment varied.
He said being born with the condition meant he hadn't known any different, and he was able to finish school and follow his passion of farming.
But his life changed 30 years ago when a work accident on a diary farm in the Bay of Plenty left him totally blind in his right eye.
He loved farming and had a good team around him. But that all changed the day he took a nasty blow to the head from the bucket of a tractor.
The impact popped a pinhole in the back of his eye dislodging fluid behind the retina. A week later, he had lost all sight in the eye.
He underwent major surgery three times in six weeks and doctors battled to restore his sight, but to no avail. He also suffered a minor stroke.
"The biggest thing that affected me was my riding, the showjumping. I had lost my balance," he said.
"I was having to readjust everything, my whole body, my judgement, my actions when I was picking something up."
"You imagine closing one eye for a day."
"There were no glasses out there that would improve my sight, enough to warrant the cost anyway," he said.
As a youngster he loved playing cricket, rugby and even netball, but realistically he couldn't play, so he took a shine to athletics and riding horses.
In the early days he started with pony club and grew to love showjumping. Since he lost his right eye, he was forced to concentrate on dressage.
"I don't jump anymore. I would love to, but for my safety and the horse's safety and the safety of other people...I love and value my horses too much to do that," he said.
While life with limited sight could be challenging, Wiley said he was grateful to his wife Lizzy and children James, 13, and Claire, 12, who he said were understanding and supportive.
"They're fantastic. As a para-rider you need support on competition days."
He liked familiar surroundings and routine, like leaving his boots in same place at the back door, and where the coffee is in the cupboard.
Wiley said he was also grateful to the support he received from the Blind and Low Vision New Zealand and Blind Sport New Zealand.