Podcast Episode 22: Nicole Tough - Trusting the Process

Podcast Episode 23: Nicole Tough - Trusting the Process

Love this episode? Make sure you leave us a review! In this podcast, we speak with Nicole Tough. Nicole is one of Queensland's leading coaches, judges, and highly successful trainer/competitor. She has trained many horses to FEI, won many awards and has trained with some of the world's best international coaches.

To keep up with her journey, you can follow Nicole on Instagram @nicole_tough_dressage. 

If you have any suggestions for future podcast content, people you would like Natasha to interview or if you are an equestrian that loves our message and would be interested in being interviewed, contact the team at support@yourridingsuccess.com 

Loving Natasha's message and wanting more? Check out our free web class on goal setting by CLICKING HERE.

Full Transcript Expand to full transcript

Natasha (00:00):

Wow. You've done a lot Nicole.

Nicole (00:23):

Yes. That makes me feel very old.

Natasha (00:27):

All in one year. Let's say that one year and she's still 21 and gorgeous. Oh dear. It is a little bit like that. So how did you get started in horses? Did you start as, um, as a two year old with a Shetland or did you start later in life, how did it all start?

Nicole (00:49):

Okay, well, let's see. My, I started riding when I was 13. I had very supportive parents. I was a member of the module of our pony club and did all my DC and case tickets. And then I guess, between tiny club and the entire school I competed nearly every weekend at gymkhanas combined training, eventing, dressage or shows my poor dad.

Natasha (01:18):

I, um, was he responsible for the white socks? Like D was he following you everywhere with the towel and the shiny stuff?

Nicole (01:26):

No, he didn't do anything other than drive, but that was great. I didn't complain. I did know by 18 that dressage was my, my addiction. So yeah. So with the sale of my two beloved Anglo Arabs, I bought an unbroken warmblood filly called land Lily. Um, and then whilst trying to tackle that monumental challenge, I finished two university degrees, got married and had a beautiful little boy.

Natasha (02:01):

We have to unpack that. So firstly, I love when you decide to become a dress out rider, of course you buy an unbroken three year old or two, whatever you said I'm broken warmblood cause that's of course, you decide.

Nicole (02:13):

Well, it's the only thing you can afford when you're 18. And you've only got the money that you had from your two Anglo Arabs.

Natasha (02:22):

Exactly, exactly. And two university degrees. What were they in?

Nicole (02:27):

I did a bachelor of arts with honors and I did a graduate diploma of education.

Natasha (02:35):

Right. So if dressage was that, uh, you deciding that or your parents were like, if dressage doesn't work out, you're going to have your teaching to fall back on. Was that the plan?

Nicole (02:45):

No, I was going to be a high school teacher of history and English. And then as I was studying, I just picked up a few more lessons and a few more lessons and by the end of my university, um, I thought, I think I can actually make a living out of this and be my own boss.

Natasha (03:03):

Yeah. Yes, yes. Yep. All right. So, um, you were, you were set, you obviously had, you decided you were going to the Olympics at 18 as well. Like was it.

Nicole (03:16):

No, I don't. I don't think that was, um, that was a realistic goal at that point. Um, from, from that point, I, it was just one on broken warmblood after the other. Um, I have had the very amazing support from my hubby. Um, and each time I sold one, so I, I broke it in trained it campaign that I learned from each and every one of them. And, um, I would sell them when I got them to Grand Prix or close. And then my next unbroken adventure was just something with a little bit more natural talent. So the goal was always to try to keep trying to get, you know, a better horse underneath me with the money we had. Um, so, um, yeah, I worked hard and I loved doing it. Um, and I've had some beautiful horses that I'll remember all my life. And maybe from that dedication, I have enjoyed some really tremendous support from a few owners who have each given me some really wonderful opportunities to train and campaign some truly beautiful horses that my husband and I would not have been able to, you know, purchase. Um, I've loved every single minute of that. Um, the people, you know, memories to last a lifetime and, and some of those really special horses were Dante, Flavio, first time. And brasato

Natasha (04:46):

Yes.

Nicole (04:48):

So is that that's, that's the journey.

Natasha (04:52):

Yeah. That's, that is the journey. Absolutely. And, um, I believe your journey took you to Germany at one point.

Nicole (05:00):

Yes. Uh, 2008 was my first trip overseas with, um, a lovely family, Linda Dowsett and what we found when we went to find one horse, but, um, Belinda fell in love with three, so they bought three back. Um, but yeah, that was my first trip over and I just started learning a bit, bit more German each time.

Natasha (05:23):

Yep. Yep. Oh, that's good. So what are your current competition horses?

Nicole (05:29):

Um, my current competition horse is our, our own Ferragamo who my hubby and I bought as a four year old in Germany. He was the first horse that we have imported and it was very scary. He is by first and ball out of the Sedona homemade he's now eighties competing small too. He's a very quirky character. Um, and he certainly presented his challenges, but they do say overcoming challenges, what life is all about. So I've learnt a lot from him as every horse, as I've said, he's currently on the settle feeder Queensland state, yourself squad, and he was president George state champion last year and his third president George.

Natasha (06:14):

Congratulations.

Nicole (06:16):

Thank you. My other competition horses include Flores and Fabish, they are both owned by Paul and Emma wheel and we found them in Germany as well. Lauren's is by a foundation out of a Saint Moritz mare he's elementary, medium level. And he's currently on the river main estate Queensland state talent squad. Faberge's by feedback out of a rodeo rodeo Martinez. His story is a very long one and it can be found on my Facebook page and website. They are both truly amazing athletes that I just hope to do the best by. Um, I have one more, um, I blessed to, to train Leopold is a five year old by is a gentle giant at 17 two.

Natasha (07:04):

And how tall are you?

Nicole (07:09):

And I'm five foot two, and a bit that bit counts.

Natasha (07:19):

I'll give you the bit, just round it up five, three.

Nicole (07:26):

So they are my current team.

Natasha (07:28):

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And so let's dive into a little bit, you said there was one, um, there, you and your husband purchased that it's been a long road. Um, you've got into small tour now, but it's there, it's a windy road and there's quirks and there's things. How do you go when, um, I'm sure there's there's if, if horse people are listening to it, we understand that riding and training a horse is not a straight line. It's not, um, uh, I always love did you watch that movie with the foal in it? Um, international Velvet.

Nicole (08:02):

I am a total movie buff. I've seen nearly everything and I guess I have seen that one.

Natasha (08:08):

Don't you love it. It's like you, you fall in love with the foal. You break in the foal, you go to the Olympics and you win and that's just how it happened. Um, and so I think it's really important that people understand that that's not how it goes. So how do you, um, get, get past all the little stumbles and all the little roadblocks that come in the way when you're riding and training horses, whether it's horses being ill or horses, um, having a stumbling in their training or, um, that stuff going on, you know, all that kind of stuff. What do you use to get through all of that?

Nicole (08:43):

Well, there's lots of different tools for each little hurdle that, um, that presents itself, but the true motto is just never give up.

Natasha (08:53):

I love it.

Nicole (08:55):

If that means getting some help, if that means, sending them back to, uh, you know, sending them out to a cowboy to go and chase cows for a little while for Ferragamo, his, um, his quirkiness has been all about traveling. He's a terrible traveler.

Natasha (09:11):

Right.

Nicole (09:12):

And he's very attached. So I don't know if any of the listeners saw what I had to do when I took him down to the nationals, but I had to sleep outside his stables because they're quarantined stables in Siack and he cannot handle being on his own. So, um, you know, so the things you have to do, but you just, um, you either decide to, you know, to stick to it. And nearly every challenge is surmountable. Occasionally you do come across, uh, a horse that just doesn't want to be a dressage horse. So you do have to listen sometimes and say, look, this is torture to this horse. And, you know, and sometimes even the most beautifully conformed horses that are just built to do the job, don't have the heart for it. They have to want to, they have to work hard to be a dressage athlete. And some of them don't always say, pick me, pick me. I don't want to be a dressage horse. Um, so I think if you're listening to them and they do have to be a happier athlete, they do have to be happy about working and to be the fairest, to be the fairest trainer, you have to keep your ears open cause they don't speak English. So.

Natasha (10:33):

When I look back in my horses, I can say, there's two that I know of, that I did. Yeah, exactly. Came to that understanding. And to me, they were the two most talented horses I've ever had and ever sat on. And those two were the ones that were like, I am not a dressage horse. And it's very interesting.

Nicole (10:54):

And it's heart breaking.

Natasha (10:54):

Yeah. And then I've got these untalented, this horse that is not a dressage horse. That's like, I really want to be one, can I be one I've tried really hard? And you're like, if I can have that temperament with the one that is built for it, um, at like can do it.

Nicole (11:12):

yes. If we could just, um, pick a little bit from that horse and pick a little bit from that horse, we'd have the perfect, we have Allegro that story.

Natasha (11:21):

Absolutely. And so I think, um, I was even going through it and I think not many people talk about their horses and I was going through all the horses that I've had in my life and going, Ooh, I'm at about 50%, 50%. I'd love to know your number of the horse. Either. I've had some horses die, I've had some horses be injured permanently or in a way that means they can't continue their career. I've had one that just weren't going to continue their career. Cause I didn't want to. Um, and then I've had some ones that really worked out and we ended up achieving the goals that we set. Um, do you have that kind of experience? Well, hopefully not. Hopefully your percentage is way better than mine.

Nicole (11:59):

Um, definitely. You know, one of the unbroken ones that I, um, I got when I started working with him, despite his breeding and despite his confirmation, I had to sack him as dressage horse. Um, there was another one, another one going kind of Manhattan that I had very early on. He was my third, um, unbroken one that I took on. He was exceptionally talented and looking back on, on my life with horses, I certainly didn't do him justice. I didn't have the skill for him at that time. I'd love to have him now. I would do a much better job with him, but he still had a lovely, beautiful life and um, and you know, I achieved a lot on him, but he was, um, uh, bit, I had bitten off more than I could chew with him.

Natasha (12:53):

That's absolutely the way the horse journey, isn't it. They're not just ad in the paper and go, I want to get to Grand Prix who would like to be my volleyball partner and who has that same goal.

Nicole (13:07):

Yes, exactly. Yeah. I would make a really good dressage horse.

Natasha (13:13):

Right. Would you say I would be, uh, uh, I would just be really lazy and buck everyone off to that. You said you were going to be, you would be an amazing dress out horse. So do you have a great work ethic? Do you go to the gym? Do you have a fitness routine that you've committed to?

Nicole (13:31):

Yes. I'm currently waiting for a knee surgery, so I've been a little bit limited in the last year with what I can do, but yes I do. I, um, supplement my riding with usually just to run running five times a week. Um, and I do a bit of yoga. Cause as a dressage rider, I've had my share of falls and my back is let's just say my back is going to stop me riding before anything else.

Natasha (14:01):

But you find the yoga does help with that.

Nicole (14:05):

Yes, yes it does.

Natasha (14:06):

Yeah. That's great.

Nicole (14:08):

And pain medication and muscle therapist.

Natasha (14:14):

Yeah. Yeah. I definitely not a Alegra if I'm in the gym, I need to have a personal trainer and he's like, squat Deeper, Squat longer. And I'm like, Oh go away, I just want to kick him.

Nicole (14:31):

I'm the opposite.

Natasha (14:33):

No, that's awesome. That's awesome. So what else do you do? So what is the typical day in the life, um, of you you've got, uh, was it four or five horses that are in your current team? There's four. So our little barn here, it's not a huge or incredibly fancy, but it has a lovely, friendly vibe to it with everyone at each other's backs and genuinely wanting each other to get better every week, day, as long as I can remember, starts at 4:30 AM. And with the groom, we feed 10 to 12 horses, turn out eight horses might foxes our ride, four to five horses start teaching at 10 30, have a little break at three o'clock where the horses are brought back in. Um, then I have one more lesson to teach and then I feed up, tidy up drag the arena, make the am feeds. And my day is done. Saturdays. I teach from seven 30 to three and it's only been this year with the coronavirus that I've started taking Sundays off. And that's been pretty cool, but I really love coaching. I love being part of the riders journey. I feel their pain and frustrations. I love their light bulb moments and the joy. And I know that their life with horses is better than without.

Natasha (15:53):

yeah, that is crazy. I love it. And how often do you do so are you riding horses four days a week, six days a week?

Nicole (16:05):

Five days a week, Monday to Friday, they get the weekends off.

Natasha (16:07):

Right. Yes, yes, yes. Usually a one heck out they get one heck out a week unless they haven't deserved it. I have to do five days in the gym. So I'm assuming Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday is in the arena as, and when you say you're back in the arena, if you need it, otherwise you do get to go out.

Nicole (16:29):

Yes. Yeah. I literally think of the training sessions as their gym sessions and I'm their personal trainer. Um, and it generally works. You know, if they've worked well, they'll get a day out, um, in the Bush and if not, then they have to go back to the gym and readdress some, some issues.

Natasha (16:50):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that is like, I do think our sport definitely is the gym, but then sometimes it's the psychologist as well. Isn't it? And we can get into that around the coaching, but even with the horse it's like, okay. Yeah, he, is he saying no cause of his body? Is he saying no because of his head what's what's really going on there.

Nicole (17:10):

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

Natasha (17:12):

It's tricky. Yep. And then you'd probably find that in your coaching as well. Like if the person isn't executing what you're asking sometimes that's because they can't physically do it or because they haven't mentally understood that. Um, and do you enjoy it? Just getting to, it sounds like you're an amazing coach and you enjoyed just getting to the bottom of how can I say it in a way or explain it in a way that can help this person get, like you said, that light bulb moment.

Nicole (17:38):

Absolutely. If, if you give someone, um, an explanation and a reason for doing something and they don't do it, it's not because they didn't want to do it it's because they either, they didn't understand or they're not quite, they don't have the techniques yet to achieve it. So repeating what you said is not the answer. You have to find another way to say it or sometimes show them, you know, get on the horse and, and, and show them, um, what you're after. Um, so a bit of a mix, but yeah, you repeating something, you know, five, six times, is it clearly something you know, is broken down?

Natasha (18:20):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, um, what would you say are your biggest, um, mentors? Do you have a coach at the moment? Who do you look up to?

Nicole (18:31):

Yeah, I'm a huge believer in the coach. No one gets better in their comfort zones and training on their own. If you want to be good at anything, you need experienced eyes on the ground, giving you honest feedback and not just what you want to hear. So I've been blessed to always have weekly lessons from that age of 13, when my parents allowed me to start this journey and, um, I still have two lessons every week and I supplement those whenever. And whenever I can with clinics from visiting master coaches at the moment, I'm blessed to train, um, with Tracy Baldwin. Uh, I have two lessons a week with her and have done for the last 12 years and monthly for many, many, many years from Matthew downstairs.

Natasha (19:18):

Yeah. Love it. Has that stopped, um, this year with the virus or are you doing it online?

Nicole (19:25):

Uh, Tracy can, um, can work with me each week. She's a traveling coach, so she's, and she doesn't live too far from me. So we have been able to continue our weekly sessions, sadly, Matthew they've seen near Sydney. Um, so we've only had a couple of clinics this year and at the moment Queensland's board the shut again. So I'm missing it cause he, he really pushes me out of my comfort zone.

Natasha (19:51):

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And then what about on the world stage? Do you have a particular rider that you try to model or try to have in your head of? This is what I want to replicate.

Nicole (20:04):

Look, I, um, there's so many of them I've been so lucky to train with, um, uh, you know, worked with Charlotte. I've worked with you Boda Schmitz, uh, and to make VIN court trained with some really amazing coaches. But for me, um, if I had to pick one, it would probably be Isabel Isabel werth because she's had so many setbacks and she just keeps coming back and she's not a perfect shape. That's something I love about our sport. You don't have to be rich to do it. You can come from nothing. And I just worked my butt off, getting something that we could afford at each time, just slogged away and got something a little bit better the next time. But for me, um, you know, to be a really good basketball or you have to be six foot tall to be a really good gymnast, you have to weigh 47 kilograms in our sport. It doesn't matter if you're tall. It doesn't matter if you're small, if you're young, if you're old if you young. The oldest dressage athlete in the last Olympics was the Japanese rider at 75. He's going to be me. I'm going to be still riding Yeah. So Isabelle me because she's had so many, um, setbacks and keeps coming back. Um, if not better, I think that's really inspiring.

Natasha (21:36):

Absolutely. Absolutely. And, um, uh, what about you when you've had a setback? Um, do you, well, actually, let's go to first. What is your biggest proudest moment? When you look back at your horse riding career, there's been so many, as we said in the bio, there's been so many amazing things you've done, but what is the biggest success to you? And it might not even be a competition. Winning can be anything that when you looked at, look back, you get that. Oh, I was so proud when X happens.

New Speaker (22:07):

Um, there has been many, um, gosh, I guess, to really come to me right now off the top of my head. Um, so one was, uh, winning the, the intermediate one at the Australian national championships on Dante because of the company I was in. Um, you know, I had Rachel center, Mary Hannah, Matthew Dows Lee, um, the company that I rode in, um, and that test, I was so proud of that test. I, I honestly couldn't have gone better. It was one of those tests that you just, you dream of the night before that everything goes right. And that happened. And I was so proud for the owners who had another horse in that class. Matthew Desi was riding Flavio, um, and he was winning and I was last on dressage. You know, sometimes you can, you can just ride a really good test and just get really average school. Was it just all one judge, you can have four judges and then one judge has you like second last and you ended up in 10th position. Um, so it can be just a soul destroying sport. But on that day, um, the icing on the cake that the cake was just delicious and said he didn't put it wrong. And the end of the test, I just felt like I'd won the Olympics. I was so happy with that. I looked up at Linda Linda, and by the owners and fist pump. I was so happy. And then about half an hour later, my, I was talking to my husband and he, he was on his phone and it looked at was just looking at, he's phone, he's always welled up with tears. I immediately thought of my 18 year old son at home. He's just got his p's. I'm like, Oh my God, what's happening. And it couldn't even speak. He just turned the phone around and the horse had got 72% and was in the lead. And I just thought, wow, that is cool. When five judges agree. Yeah. And you're in that company. That was pretty cool. And then another really big moment for me was winning the intermediate one and intermediate one freestyle on brasato at the Brisbane CDI, because I had found out, uh, the week before that, uh, my time with him was ending. And that, that was probably going to be my last competition on him. So the pressure of that, and just wanting to finish, I didn't have such a wonderful three years with him and I really wanted, really wanted to win. And sometimes when you really want something, you override it and you self sabotage. Um, but you know, the music was divine. It just didn't put a foot wrong. And he was, he won and I was so happy for Tracy and best boat, his owners as well. So, yeah, they're just a few, but there's so many Glencoe Manhattan's come back test after he had a nervous breakdown in a clinic this time, any there's so many, but yeah.

Natasha (25:28):

love it. And that's, that's the thing with our Sports. We've got these beautiful highs where the emotion and the accumulation of how was an hours and hours of hardware, like your 430 am starts. It's like, yes, it was all worth it. Yes. But then there's the high, there's the low. So do you mind sharing your worst moment, your saddest moment, your crying in the toilets, crying on the floor. Can't get up off the floor moment. You don't have to.

Nicole (25:58):

Yeah. Yeah. Um, there there's been as many of them as the highs. Um, the sport is a roller coaster. Um, the lows, the lows just make the highs that much better. And I think that's the thing to remember when you're, when you are at a low point. Um, but I think one of the, again, that'd be many, but one that particularly comes to mind is, um, was a really hot clinic up here in January. My horse was on the national squad and had a 12 o'clock midday lesson. Um, and he was eight years old. Hadn't done his first priests and George. Um, you know, I just, I should have, uh, been a better rider and said to the coach that, um, this was, you know, this was him at 100%, um, instead of trying to get 110%. And, um, he, he did, uh, blow his lid and he bolted with his in a Lavard type of situation into the fence and he tore himself open. And I was very lucky, um, at that time, people weren't riding with helmets and I didn't have a helmet on and no one else, I think one other one person in the clinic did. So, you know, I've learned a lot since then, and that I really know how to listen to the horses and speak up for them. And, um, yeah, just learnt a valuable lesson and mentally, physically he recovered, but mentally, it was a long journey back.

Natasha (27:40):

Yeah. I'm wondering what you can say because humans are like that aren't, they we've heard of those stories. And, but until, as you said, you have that lesson that you experienced that you understand at that core level, it's very hard to hear, hear it and go, Oh yeah, that makes sense. I'll know it, when I get to that, would you, is there an unwrapped in there or give us more that we could, you know, and it's also a lot, as you said, there's that side of it, of noticing it, but I say that that, that, that strength to be all I know, and especially when you're a coach or someone that, you know, that there's rules when you're getting coached, that's how we learn. We have to say, okay, well, we're saying that, you know, more than we do, and we want the feedback. We want to know anything more there or help us any more than that.

Nicole (28:37):

Yes. Um, I think going through the experience now as a clinic coach, cause I do travel to, to, to teach clinics. I always say to people, you know, your horse more than me, you know, it's history, you know, it's comfort zones, you know, it's triggers. Um, please tell me if we're pushing a trigger, please give me a bit of history. Because when you work with someone, week, two weeks, you learn that horse and you know, that rider and, and you're part of that history. But when you meet someone new, um, you have to listen to them and trust that they know their horse. And sometimes it is a very hard job to be a coach because we do want to push people out of their comfort zones. Sometimes some people, you know, they'll come to you and say, I want to learn flying changes today. And they can't, they can't do a simple change. Well, so, you know, it's really hard to be able to say to them, look, I'm, I would like to help you with the flying change, but I think you're 12 months away from that. Because if you try to teach your horse this, now you're skipping grade seven at school, you're trying to go from grade five straight into high school and he will not cope. Um, and so it is a re I think that the dressage coach has a really difficult job and we are a sports psychologist. I totally agree with you. We are a muscle physiotherapists. We are a personal trainer, and I do feel that responsibility as a coach very, very much and often I'll wake up, you know, having a nightmare because, um, you know, there's been a little moment where, you know, you have to push a horse sometimes through a boundary that the rider has never pushed them past before. And sometimes that horse will, will not just say, Oh, okay, well, who are you? And what did you do with my rider? Like I normally get away with that. So sometimes it can get a bit ugly. And as I said, sometimes it does wake me up at night and I, and um, so yeah, I do feel the responsibility is huge. Having, having, having been the recipient of a rider in a clinic situation, um, that, you know, I didn't handle, uh, well, yeah.

Natasha (31:05):

And I think that is, that is the tricky thing. And that's, that's where I'm, I'm flabbergasted by the social media world and, and the crazy world of people deciding to pass a judgment. When I don't even know what happens in my own life, let alone what, what led to whatever moment that we're seeing in time. Like, it's crazy that with today's technology, we live in the 21st century and I love the internet and I love everything. But the fact that we can patch moments in time without, as we said, the history that got us to that moment in time means we, we could never, we got.

Nicole (31:44):

Keyboard warriors of today are, um, I just feel sorry for them because, um, you know, they, haven't obviously experienced the setbacks and the comebacks that come with life and the most important thing, you know, people aren't remembered for the metal say when you're remembered for the kindness that you did to others and the memories that you make with people, and, you know, you do not make good memories, being a brave person on there, on, on the other end of the keyboard, pick up the phone and say it to them. And if you can't do that, then don't write it.

Natasha (32:18):

I love it. I mean, a hundred percent in agreement and very, very cool. Okay. So, um, what are your future goals? You said, I like it. Like, do we have a goal? You said 75. What year is that? Is that an Olympic year? Are you going to get the award for the oldest? Are you going to go for 76 or 77?

Nicole (32:40):

I'll have to have a little talk to my back therapist about that, but, um, look, it's always just my goals to do the right thing by the horses and their owners. Uh, second to that is certainly my goal to train them as far as they will happily go, which I always hope is grand Prix level. Of course, if national representation should become a possibility, then we would find a way to make it a reality. Um, but I love putting my training to the test and the competition arena. I also love writing and I do hope one day to write a book about dressage training. I used to one day want to be an international judge, but I got a little disillusioned by that path. And, um, I'm not sure, but I do love, I love judging. So maybe that for me, if I'm not in the Olympic arena, maybe I'll be on that in the, in the little judges had on the other side.

Natasha (33:33):

and both the dressage. And then you can judge the eventing. We can make it work so good.

Nicole (33:42):

Maybe I'll tell all those events, events and dressage riders to slow down. It's not a race.

Natasha (33:48):

Exactly. Right. Okay. And I read that there was, um, you've put a roof over your arena. Do you want to speak a little bit about that and what led to that?

Nicole (34:04):

Yes. Um, that was early 2017. The first year that I had, um, our young important horses here and I got diagnosed with melanoma. So that was, um, I was very, very lucky. Um, my skin cancer specialist had just, um, said to me that he wanted to check me every six months. I used to be on a 12 month check and it was on my first six months check that you found a level four aggressive melanoma on the back of my ear. Um, so two operations later, many cat scans and a pet scan. And I was cancer-free that August, but my husband decided that, um, that, uh, yeah, losing an ear meant I could have a roof over my arena. so I joke about it and say, yeah, it only cost me half an ear, wait, we'll be paying the bank off. But honestly, it's a life changer. I used to dread summer every October in Queensland, I would just, Oh no, I've got to get through the next five months. The weather here is absolutely beautiful, but in summer training and riding through the day is difficult, but the roof it's 10 degrees cooler under it. And life is now wonderful every day of the year. Instead of, instead of just autumn, winter and spring.

Natasha (35:29):

Whereabouts in Queensland, are you higher up or near Brisbane.

Nicole (35:34):

On the gold coast.

Natasha (35:34):

Beautiful.

Nicole (35:37):

Yes. Very lucky.

Natasha (35:41):

Awesome. And it sounds like your support network of your husband and your son is also a big part of your success. Would you say that's true?

Nicole (35:51):

Absolutely. My husband has made my life every day. Just, uh, just amazing. He made all the dreams possible. And my son, I look, I often have the guilt of mothers and that's been at an OCD obsession with, with, uh, with a sport. So I do, but he's, he's a beautiful person and he loves animals. And, um, and I think I did, I did a good job.

Natasha (36:20):

I love that you can say that good.

Nicole (36:21):

But I do have moments where I think, Oh my gosh, you know, I was too heavy. I was too selfish and should have done more, but anyway, but I do have, um, also the amazing support of some wonderful sponsors and, um, and the grooms here are, sorry, the grooms are amazing here. The whole team of people that make it all happen. Um, and some truly wonderful owners in Emma and Paul wheel, Karen and Tim Gordon. So very, very lucky. And I can my sponsors too. Um, what was that Natasha?

Natasha (37:02):

No, I said, yes. Please tell me who helps you.

Natasha (37:06):

Yes. I have the amazing support of sponsors and riders, XO XO, which is a small, the question to your boots. Don't they take, who specialize in individuality and styling. Right. So yes, they do matching boots to helmets. Yes.

Natasha (37:30):

What is your style? Are you blue? Red, Brown. What's what.

Nicole (37:35):

I love to mix it up. I'm a bit of a rainbow.

Natasha (37:42):

What colour boots do you have?

Nicole (37:45):

Okay. Let's I have a tan pair. I have a, um, like a crock, dark Brown pair, a gray pair, a black and silver, and I think Melbourne is designing a purple set next.

Natasha (38:05):

And what is your favorite? What just depends on your mood? What color you feel?

Nicole (38:10):

Um, the tan per tanboot is my favorite. It just goes with a lot.

Natasha (38:17):

Yup.

Nicole (38:19):

I have Kathryn Sullivan bought a business called the saddle fitter. She is another sponsor and she's so passionate about saddle fitting and I'm so lucky that she fits all the horses here. Um, and yeah, just a lovely, lovely person and a very generous sponsor to the whole sport. And then Kristy Baker, she's a photographer and she catches so many special moments from my working life to share on this in a social media world.

Natasha (38:49):

And what saddles do you tend to gravitate to? Are you it's fine. Whatever. So do you have a preferred brand or style?

Nicole (38:58):

I definitely love the Cape range and the custom range of saddles.

Natasha (39:05):

Yes. Yep. Great. That's awesome. Okay. So I think good. Is there anything else you would like to add or anything else, else that you think would be valuable to our listeners?

Nicole (39:17):

Um, no, just that teamwork, teamwork. Um, it's not one person, even though it's an individual sport, if every, if everyone gets better and then everyone gets better on don't, don't begrudge someone, some success try to, um, you know, be happy for them and make it drive you to be better. At one point when imported horses started to be the norm here in Queensland, then, um, you know, there was a lot of jealousy and, um, you know, negative feelings towards that, where I just thought, you know, those people, for whatever reason, they've got this wonderful horse that we would never be able to see in Australia. And now they're lifting the bar and then the bar is getting bigger and better. And as long as we're fair to the horses, then that's a wonderful thing. Well, the sport.

Natasha (40:15):

Yeah. Yep. And what about advice to the young riders who go well I'm 18 or on 13 and I'd like to have, um, the success and the life that you've had. What is the number one thing that they should be focusing on?

Nicole (40:33):

Get up early, be prepared to work hard, find a coach that doesn't just tell you what you want to hear and, um, is, you know, is invested in you getting it, you're getting better. And a quote that I heard from animate Vencore in, when I was training in Holland, she said, there is no elevator to expertise. You have to take the steps. And at the time I thought, Oh, just one freaking elevator would be really good right now, but she was absolutely right. It's just one step at a time, just trying to get better. Never think, you know, at all, because, um, another mentor of mine, Vince corvee, he was in his seventies and still going to sit on the side of an arena of a visiting net international coach to learn as much as he could and all, I didn't think Vince had anything else to learn. And I always thought that made it, made him very special in my eyes. And I hope that at 75, I hope I'm still here and I hope I'm still sitting on the side of an arena, if not in the saddle, watching and learning from an international coach, if not even not a national coach.

Natasha (41:54):

I love it. Thank you so much. That has been an amazing conversation. I'm sure there's so many great nuggets in there from everyone listening. Thank you so much for your time and we'll make sure to put your sponsors in the show notes. So how can people get in contact with you? I'd like to just follow you on social media or, um, talk about coaching if they're in the area.

Nicole (42:17):

Um, yes. Um, my contact information is on Facebook, Instagram and my website. So I'm sure they're more technical than me, cause I think everyone in the world where there's a will, there's a way Natasha, thank you so much for having me. And I'm making me feel really comfortable with this very strange new world.

Natasha (42:43):

Thank you so much. All right. You have an amazing day and thank you so much for sharing.

Nicole (42:48):

Thank you, Natasha. Thank you everyone. Bye bye.

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