Glenda Monkarsh: Chasing Her Hunter Dreams Despite Partial Blindness

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Monkarsh with Speechless (left) and Monaco. Photo © Katie Browne

BY LILLIAN KENT

The Las Vegas adult amateur rider has fought through repeated setbacks in her equestrian journey

From the outside looking in, Glenda Monkarsh has the picture-perfect set up. Riding two talented geldings, Monkarsh has clinched the 2021 World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) Southwest Region Adult Amateur Championship after only a year and a half back in the saddle.

Her success began in 2020 with a smattering of top-ten finishes in the Adult Amateur Hunters with the help of trainers Peter Lombardo and John Zambrano of Frontier Farms, and her supportive husband Larry. But what you wouldn’t know watching her ringside is that an aggressive facial and eye infection in November 2017 left her with compromised sight in her left eye, sometimes making it difficult to find distances to the fences. Her sight problems, coupled with an old pelvis injury and the demands of a family, meant she had to fight to get back in the hunter ring.

Humble Beginnings

Raised in Pepper Pike, Ohio, Monkarsh became a self-proclaimed “barn rat” at Maypine Farm’s after school program. Riding with Jeff Gogul, Monkarsh spent every possible moment at the barn, hacking, feeding, blanketing, and turning out. She grew up riding the local circuits, watching Gogul head out to A Circuit events.

“My parents didn’t have a lot of money, so it was a real sacrifice for me to be able to do the horses. The trainer never made me feel like I wasn’t part of the group even though I didn’t have the money to travel with everyone,” Monkarsh says.

Her first pony, owned by Debbie and Laura Bass, couldn’t change leads and struggled to get down the lines, according to Monkarsh. From there, she moved onto bigger and more challenging horses. 

In high school, her family lost their business and consequently, the horses. Monkarsh had her heart set on getting back into riding and studied at Cleveland State University until an offer was presented she couldn’t refuse—move to Las Vegas to work with a family member in the billboard industry. She dropped out her sophomore year.

“I didn’t feel like college was going anywhere for me,” says Monkarsh. “I worked my butt off for three years and we ended up selling the company to a public company.”

With the funds from the sale, 25-year-old Monkarsh dove back in to horses. 

Accurate Adult Ammy

Living in Vegas and wanting to compete at a higher level than ever before, “I bought two incredible horses; I showed my butt off. I was on the road all the time and in 2006 I went to Capital Challenge,” she says. 

With Los Angeles trainer Archie Cox, Monkarsh arrived at Prince George’s Equestrian Center, ready to conquer.

“First jump, first day when I landed, the horse bucked and I fell off and broke my pelvis,” Monkarsh says. 

According to Monkarsh, Cox stayed at her bedside after the accident. She still holds their friendship dear to this day. 

For many, the experience would have permanently stained horse showing. Monkarsh bided her time, healing and ultimately marrying Larry. According to Monkarsh, she got four “bonus children” from the union and she and Larry had a daughter named Lila together, now 8 years old. 

With her pelvic injury and newfound family, getting back to horses was going to be more challenging. Then in November of 2017, a cosmetic procedure gone awry left Monkarsh with an infection beneath her left eye that nobody in Las Vegas could treat. 

An encapsulated staph infection beneath Monkarsh’s left eye needed dissolving agents and intense care to resolve. The battle was six grueling months, which included hospital stays as professionals attempted to get the infection under control. Monkarsh adds that the extended stress of the infection lead to a secondary issue. 

“I ended up with shingles on my cornea, so I lost partial vision in my left eye. I can see, but the secondary infection on my cornea eroded part of it. I have a double stigmatism in my left eye and depending on the lighting, I see double,” Monkarsh says. 

Riding While Partially Blind

Partial blindless is a tall hurdle to overcome in any equine discipline, but artfully jumping a course full of fences and lighting changes is particularly challenging. According to Monkarsh, shiny water droplets on the jumps from the arena drag are particularly disorienting. 

“If the light hits it just right, I just see a blob,” Monkarsh says. “I needed to learn how to see in different lighting.”

Monkarsh can close her left eye when approaching a jump, but says her depth perception can be altered as a result. So she sometimes relies on her seasoned horses to get her over safely. 

“At that point it’s, grab your ass and pray and just stay out of their way! If I’m seeing double I go off the rhythm, keeping it the same and pretty much hope that it works out if I am having a vision issue. It’s not usually around the entire course.”

Matching blues for Speechless (left) and Monaco at Blenheim. Photo © Katie Browne

Equine Teammates

Monkarsh is quick to praise her two geldings, Speechless and Monaco, for their stylish flair and individuality. She says the horses couldn’t be any more different from one another. 

“Speechless is a beautiful, graceful, traditional hunter and Monaco is an athletic hunter. They’re night and day from each other. Depending on the judges’ ‘type,’ I’ve got both types,” Monkarsh says.

Speechless is a 12-year-old chestnut Hanoverian sired by Quaid and out of St. PP. Hauptstutbuch. In 2020, Monkarsh and Speechless were 8th in the NAL Adult Hunter Finals. 

Grey Oldenburg gelding Monaco is says to be flashy with his own engine. 

“Monaco is manly and strong, super talented, jumps beautifully and demands stage presence. Peter [Lombardo] always describes him as an Olympic hunter. He’s super athletic,” Monkarsh adds. 

Sired by Chirivell, 9-year-old Monaco is out of the mare Acordia. In 2020 he and Monkarsh finished 3rd in the Zone 10 Horse of the Year Adult Amateur 36-49 division.

Together, Monkarsh and her boys rounded up a 5th place finish in the 2020 WCHR National Rider Standings in the Adult Amateur. This year they’ve won the WCHR Southwest Region Adult Amateur Championship and at the time of publication, they’re sitting in 2nd place nationwide. 

“I need a horse with miles and knowledge that, when put in a bad situation, will help. It’s really breathtaking, to be able to walk into the ring with two incredibly talented horses. You dream about this. Never in my life did I think I would own one this talented, but two?” 

As Monkarsh looks forward to the Capital Challenge and Pennsylvania National Horse Show this fall, she says no matter the outcome, she’s won. 

“I feel like when I’m involved in the horses, my soul is complete. Showing and competing is fun for me, but the love for my horses is truly what it’s about for me.” 


*This story was originally published in the September 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!

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