A SELF-confessed thrill seeker who has been blind since birth is galloping towards a promising equine career.
Hari Roberts, 19, has been riding horses for 10 years and is currently studying Equine Care and Management at Coleg Cambria.
As well as eventing, cross country and dressage he has taken part in many other adrenaline-fuelled activities – including triathlons – and has just signed up for a high-ropes course near his Anglesey home.
The former pupil at Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones in Amlwch has spent about five hours a day travelling back and forth to the college’s Northop site before Covid-19 forced learning online last Spring.
As he prepares to leave Cambria, Hari, who was born with the degenerative condition Leber Ongenital Amaurosis, a disorder that primarily affects the retina, specialised tissue at the back of the eye that detects light and colour, is encouraging others to follow their dreams – his being to work with horses and riders as a nutritionist.
“I’ve loved my time at the college and learnt a lot, about myself and the industry,” said Hari.
“A few people are surprised when they find out what I am doing because it is unusual to them, but I’ve shown from a young age that being blind is no barrier if you’re motivated and truly believe in yourself.
“At Cambria I have grown and before I joined the college managed to get some work experience so I could get to know the yard, the people, and the set-up, which really helped me.
“It’s reaffirmed that working with horses is what I want to do with my life, especially the science and nutrition side, so I thank them for that.”
At 12, Hari was forced to undergo a corneal transplant due to a tear and scarring, a problem which resurfaced due to the amount of pressure being placed on his left eye.
The teenager underwent a corneal replacement procedure in 2020 and is still recovering, but there was a slight breakthrough with his vision.
“I remember being able to see the outline of curtains in the window for the very first time,” Hari said.
“That was an uplifting and emotional moment, but largely I can’t see anything and that’s always been the way.
“Hopefully in the future with technological advances and gene therapy I will be able to see, but I do not let my blindness stop me doing anything, whether it’s college, pursuing my ambitions or enjoying sports and activities I love with family and friends.”
Hari used to have horse Thor.
“I will get a bigger horse in the future when I settle down as I’ve always had a bond with them, I trust them and there is a special connection,” he said.
“They are large animals and can be intimidating for some, but I have no problem standing in a field with a half-ton horse because I can use my other senses to anticipate the space and their behaviour – it’s second nature to me.
“I plan to work with horses and riders as a nutritionist when I leave university, that’s my ultimate goal, and I thank Coleg Cambria for helping me on the way.”
Natalie Cliffe, Curriculum Lead for Technical Studies and an Equine lecturer at Northop, said Hari is one of the most inspiring students to ever join the course.
“His attitude and ability are unparalleled, as is his strength of character.
“We will really miss him here at the college but know Hari will go on to have a long and successful career in the industry.”