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Marble Falls teen natural horseman despite being legally blind

David Clements directs Rico, his rescued horse, around a pole during the Marble Falls Youth Rodeo on July 16. Staff photos by Jennifer Fierro


MARBLE FALLS — Marble Falls High School sophomore David Clements has traded in his running shoes for a pair of boots.

Clements, who is legally blind though he has some degree of vision, competed at the Marble Falls Youth Rodeo on July 17. While he was at Marble Falls Middle School, he was a member of the cross-country team.

He participated in most of the rodeo events, and those close to him say he’s a natural.

“You’re either a horseman or you’re not,” his trainer Sarah Hopkins said. “He’s a horseman.”

Clements said there’s a huge difference between being a runner for the Mustangs cross-country team and competing in a rodeo.

“It’s faster,” he said. “You can go faster on a horse, and you don’t have to waste energy. You control the horse.”

Just like other riders, Clements uses his legs and hands to control the horse. That helps offset his sight, he said.

“My mom (Lori Clements) encourages me to ride horses,” he said, “and my dad (Everett Clements) loves for me to ride horses.”

He and Hopkins have worked together since December 2012.

Their working relationship started when a friend took Clements to meet Hopkins. He said he fell in love with horses during that encounter.

“He will ride anything,” she said. “He’s brave. The fact is his sight is compromised. … It allows him to advance the horse when a lot of people struggle. He’s calm and has respect.”

His goal is to add more rodeo events by the time he finishes high school.

“I’m not afraid,” he said. “I love riding horses.”