About Marsha Cullen: Cullen grew up in Missouri where she began riding at age 5. Cullen rode all types of horses and ponies and made her way into the western discipline before tackling dressage. During her early teen years she began to have a lot of pain in her wrists, hands, feet, ankles, and knees. The joints would swell, get red and stiffen. She suffered from fatigue and had to take frequent naps to make it through the day. In 1977, her mother took her to Dr. Browning in Joplin, Missouri where she was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 16. Over the next four years Cullen lost range of motion and often suffered from painful, swollen joints forcing her to give up participation in track and volleyball. Missouri High School Rodeo became the only sport she could participate in after her diagnoses. Also in her teen years Cullen noticed brown patches of skin that became shiny and thick on her abdomen, arms and legs. In 1987 she was diagnosed with scleroderma, a connective tissue disease in the same family of diseases as rheumatoid arthritis.
Cullen moved from Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1980 after marrying her now husband. The two started a family and Cullen went on to graduate college at the University of Tulsa. During her second summer at college, she joined the Green Country Chapter of Oklahoma Dressage Society. While volunteering at the Green Country Dressage Classic she met Lynn Seidemann. Lynn, a two-time Paralympian, was wheeling around in a wheelchair and riding in the competition. “Being a disabled person myself, I was very curious how Lynn was able to do this,” noted Cullen. ” I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to compete at a recognized show. So I introduced myself and she invited me to a
para-equestrian clinic at Flower Mounds Texas the following February. There I met Jonathan Wentz and Wendy Fryke.”
In 2010, Cullen drove from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Lexington, Kentucky during the WorldEquestrian Games by herself reclassified. Because of her lack of flexibility in her neck and upper back, plus other stiffness in her lower body and loss of range of motion in her joints, she is currently a Grade II para-dressage rider.
In 2014, Marsha Cullen earned qualifying scores for the USEF Para-Equestrian DressageNational Championship held June 2-5, in Gladstone, NJ. Cullen competed with her own Latte. Cullen was also awarded The 2014 Sportsmanship Trophy. The Sportsmanship Trophy is a Perpetual Trophy awarded to a Para-Dressage Athlete competing at the National Championship who best personifies the high standards and virtues of integrity, sportsmanship, honor, courage, team spirit, good temper and unselfishness.
Radio Show Interview: http://uspea.org/june-26-2014-horse-radio-network-features-uset-foundations-sara-ike-and-para-dressage-rider-marsha-cullen/