Storm Doesn’t Let Deafness Dissuade Her Passion

Sep 28, 2014 - 6:30 AM
Kimberly Storm doesn't allow being deaf to hinder her enjoyment of eventing with Bucky O'Hanlian. Lindsay Berreth photo.

Kimberly Storm is like many amateurs in eventing, balancing her work life with raising her two sons and being able to financially support her horse habit.

But she also faces a unique challenge—she’s deaf.

Storm doesn’t let hearing impairment stop her from pursuing her passion though.

She brought her homebred 9-year-old German Warmblood Bucky O’Hanlian to the Nutrena/U.S. Eventing Association American Eventing Championships to contest the novice amateur division, and she fundraised her trip to Texas.

“I had a lot of different sponsors,” she said. “I earned over $3,000 in a month. We came to American Eventing Championships because life is short! I could be out of job or I may not have a horse to bring to AEC or we both could be injured.” 

Storm’s mother had the flu when she was pregnant, which caused Storm’s ear canals to be underdeveloped, so she was born deaf.

She was raised as an Oralist, a school of thought in the deaf community that discourages the use of sign language and encourages reading lips. Storm knows basic sign language but is an expert at reading lips.

About ten years ago, she got cochlear implants so she can modulate her voice better, making it softer.

Storm, 45, noted that the PA system at events can be very uncomfortable because all she hears is a buzzing noise.

Since she can’t hear the dressage judge’s whistle, “the judges have to wave at me instead of using the whistle and I’ve never had a problem.”

Storm, Queen Creek, Ariz., made the two day trip to the Texas Rose Horse Park, her first time at the venue. She admitted she was nervous to ride a new cross-country course, but was confident with “Bucky’s” jumping ability.

“I’ve had him since he was born, nine years,” she said. “He is patient and a big-strided jumper for a small horse. Cross-country seems to be challenging for him because he doesn’t have opportunities to go out in the field to jump over creeks and ditches like many Irish Horses do in pastures—on his own to explore the new world out there. At my home, there’s mostly desert, catcus and washes.” 

Storm, a Pony Club A graduate, used to be a professional rider and trainer until about 12 years ago when she wasn’t able to make a living. She’s competed to the intermediate level and rode Bucky’s dam, Kentucky Gamble, to novice before breeding her. She bred the mare to the pinto Oldenburg stallion Sempatico.

“[Bucky] is easy keeper with excellent ground manners, and willing to give his best and try as [hard as] he can,” she said. “He is not the bravest horse I ever had ridden but he is a greatest prince for trusting his life with me to give him confidence and guide him through all three phases.” 

She now works as a cost specialist for a utilities company in Arizona, who helped sponsor her trip to the AEC.

Storm trains with Frederic Bouland for jumping and Valerie Crail in dressage.

She’s able to read Bouland’s lips, “even with his big mustache,” she joked. She’s learned to read body language and Bouland will show her with gestures during a lesson, then explain at the end.

“Because I’ve known him for almost 15 years, we have a way of communicating,” she said. “He uses a lot of body language. He’s very careful about his pronunciation and makes sure he has my attention when he’s talking to me. After our lessons, he explains why things are the way they are.”

Storm’s advice to any rider dealing with a disability is to never give up. She’s found a way to compete in the sport she loves, despite a disadvantage.

“Live today as if it is your last day of your life,” she said. “You’ll never know what tomorrow brings. Always be kind to everyone. They also have their own personal battles and hardships against all odds.” 

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