Nicole Stewart

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My love of horses started at a very young age, I have photos of me sitting on the front of a stock saddle in front of my uncle as a small child, though I don’t remember it myself, I’m pretty sure I was ‘infected’ at an early age and never looked back. My Mum grew up on a farm in rural Victoria and had a pony herself when she was a kid, so she knew just how much work was involved in owning your own horse. As a result, my parents were always pretty clear on the fact that I could have a horse when I could afford one myself and when I had really proven I was ready to look after one. I think they were just hoping that like any little girl, I would discover boys and eventually the ‘pony phase’ would wear off … sorry guys! Much to their dismay ‘when I could afford one myself’ coincided brilliantly with the start of my VCE year, and I purchased my first ever mare called Delta when I was 17.

I’d always loved jumping, unfortunately Delta didn’t share my passion so we were eliminated from every single event we ever entered in our two year partnership. As a very green rider this was somewhat damaging to my fragile ego and I developed some pretty impressive nervous rider habits as a result. I got my first ‘real horse’ two years later in 2006 when I purchased an Irish Sport Horse mare called Poppy from Rebel Morrow and Tarsha Hammond in NSW, then the real learning began!

I started competing in EA eventing in early 2007 and was soon lucky to build a relationship with my first ever truly influential coach. His name was Carlos, he was a Spanish guy who had ridden with Mark Todd for years and he started cultivating me into a ‘real rider’. Unfortunately I got a little too big for my boots and had a bad accident in late 2008. It happened when Poppy and I were show jumping (a little too big to have not had a coach with us!) and had a full rotational fall over a big 1.30m oxer. All I remember is yellow and white poles going everywhere and the next thing I was standing next to Poppy pulling her boots off to check her legs. Fortunately both of us walked away with little more than some scrapes, bruises and a handful of stitches between us. Possibly the most damaged part of the team was the confidence.

Neither of us were quite the same after that. Poppy and I had been qualified 1*, competing successfully pre novice and ready to go but after our accident we couldn’t even get around a preliminary course without problems. Physically she was sound, yet mentally she was never the same horse again and I certainly wasn’t on my game. Enter my next influential mentor, Megan Jones. Megan and I met during some clinics with the Melbourne Eventing Team and I did two weeks of UNI work experience at her property in South Australia in late 2009. She offered me a permanent position and I relocated to Kirby Park in January 2010.

So together, Megan and I started the slow process of re-building my extremely damaged confidence. There was a long time in there that I simply couldn’t eat when I was out and about at a competition, because I gagged so much out on cross country and during show jumping, that had I had anything in my stomach, it would have come out all over my horse!

The other thing that happened around this time, also due to my involvement with the Melbourne Eventing Team, was my attendance at a weekend seminar about mindset and creating the life that you want. It was called the ‘Personal Success Intensive’. I had one of those clichéd experiences you sometimes hear people talk about, where over 48 hours, my life and my perspective changed dramatically as a result of what I heard and experienced that weekend. Without a doubt had I not done that weekend I would not have actively pursued the opportunity to work with Megan, I simply would not have had the confidence to do so. This was my introduction to coaching, and it planted the seed for my future business!

Fast forward a few years and LOTS of hard work both on and off the horse, and I’m very proud to say I’ve kicked my jumping fears in the tush! I gained my qualification in Coaching for Life and Business in early 2011 right around the time I moved home to Melbourne from South Australia and my business, Think Forward Coaching was born later that year. I am now extremely privileged to work with riders of many different levels, right from level 5 and 4 ARC riders, through to Gold Medal Olympians (Joann Formosa, the para-equestrian rider who won Gold at London is a great client and now also a good friend of mine!) I love applying my experience and professional tools to help these people change their lives, improve their riding in ways they never thought was possible and transform into more confident, inspired and motivated versions of themselves. Doing what I do and helping people in the way I can is nothing short of a blessing!!

I’m now based on the Mornington Peninsula at Coolart Farm, the property owned by Jamie and Sue Coman, with my two geldings Archie and Muz. They haven’t managed to convert me to show jumping yet, but my eye for a distance has certainly improved since I moved there!

I think these critical relationships, with Megan and Jamie, have been essential in my journey to becoming the rider I know that I’m meant to be and capable of being, and I still have so much to learn! The last seven years since I bought that mare Delta have been an absolute whirlwind of opportunity and experiences and I can't wait to see what the next seven years will hold and to share that journey with you through my blogs.

Best Riding,

Nicole

(P.S. Poppy’s story has a very happy ending - I still own her, and she’s now leased out to an AMAZING adult rider home in Eden Park, Victoria doing dressage a few days a week and eating the rest of the time!)