Johno is currently training Medium/Advanced. In terms of the future, Sue-Ellen is in no hurry to compete — although she is looking forward to it. “It will happen when it’s meant to happen. Once we’re at FEI level, Prix St Georges and Inter I, it’s just very comfortable because I know the tests. And then all I have to do with Johno is learn to count the strides…. 18.3 hands is a different number of strides around the arena compared to other horses I’ve had!” Sue-Ellen hopes to be riding Small Tour in a year, but she isn’t putting any pressure on herself as she may have in the past. She explains that she will enter the competition arena when she and Johno are ready as a partnership, however long that takes.
More recently, Sue-Ellen has been able to add another feather to her cap — as of 31 May, she is a published author. With Johno’s Facebook page attracting a dedicated audience, calls for Johno to write a book ensued — leading to the release of Johno and the Blind Chick. The book shares Sue-Ellen’s heart-warming story about love, achievement, overcoming adversity and daring to dream through the eyes of her beloved horse.
Just as Johno’s Facebook page is written from his perspective, so is the book. “I didn’t write the book about Johno, Johno wrote a book about his journey with a blind chick. So it’s very quirky. It also means that Johno can be quite irreverent about the blind chick, for example, he’ll say she needs to go to the gym and get stronger core muscles!”
Sue-Ellen, who if you haven’t guessed by now possesses a great sense of humour and wit, explains that the book follows Johno’s view of how things played out, from the moment they met. “The day we arrived, he sees these four people turn up. And there’s a fellow holding this girl’s hand, who seems very attentive towards the girl… he brings her over to meet him, and he’s saying things like, ‘Put your hand here, here is his neck’. Johno wonders why this fellow seems to be giving her a lot of information, and observes this girl being guided around, but at this stage he hasn’t work out that she’s blind… By the end of the first chapter, he’s worked it out and says, ‘Oh bloody hell, she can’t see!’”
Johno’s experiences take him from life on the outskirts of Sydney with 150 other horses, to drought-stricken Dubbo and being the one horse that is the centre of attention — something that he really loves.
When it came to writing the book, Sue-Ellen felt that writing through Johno’s eyes allowed her to take a step back and not feel as though she was writing about herself. “Through Johno’s eyes, I can show vulnerability, whereas it’s not so easy to show that when you’re talking about yourself. When I’ve lacked confidence, Johno can touch on that; I can’t. It’s really hard (writing about yourself), but it’s easier for Johno to say, ‘The blind chick is lacking a little bit of confidence. This is how we’re dealing with it’. It has allowed me a different way of putting it that doesn’t feel as self-conscious.”
Sue-Ellen explains that the writing process for her begins with setting her phone to “dictate” and letting her thoughts — and Johno’s thoughts — run. Johno and the Blind Chick is very much how Sue-Ellen speaks: warm, funny and straight from the heart. Once her words are captured, a friend of hers edits them and “puts in full stops to make it breathe!”
“Writing the book has been really nice in the sense that most people don’t reflect on how far you’ve come with their horse. I think that’s been probably the biggest thing for me, is reflecting on how far we’ve come.” Enjoying the process, Sue-Ellen has an autobiography and part two of Johno and the Blind Chick in the making.
For Sue-Ellen, her partnership with Johno has been a different journey; not one without hiccups, but ultimately one that she can only describe as magical. Sharing that journey with others has been part of the fun. “We’re about sharing love and joy and happiness. There’s just so much negativity in the world and we really need feel-good stories; things that make people feel good and can inspire them.”
Referring to the numerous videos and photos of herself and Johno in training that can be found on the Facebook page, she explains that this horse is truly something special. “Check out the blind chick’s face; the smile does not move when she’s on that horse. It just can’t be any other way; it just brings such magic and electricity. It’s beautiful.”
Johno and the Blind Chick is available for purchase at sueellenlovett.com.au. or via leading online book outlets such as Amazon. You can also follow the chronicles of Johno and his rider via his Facebook page, Johno and ‘The Blind Chick’. EQ