Bio on Nicole Nowak
Nicole Nowak is currently finishing up her freshmen year at Boston College where she is studying math and economics. She fell in love with riding when she was just 6 years old. One lesson a week quickly changed to two, until she was at the barn everyday after school. Although her main focus now is on Dressage, Nicole started out competing in small jumping shows. She is passionate about Dressage because of the connection and bond it creates between the horse and rider and the never ending strive for perfection.
Nicole’s twin Kristen and older sister Stephanie, also support each other and cheer each other on from the sideline, which she loves.
Nicole’s current mount is a 17.1 hand Bavarian Warmblood named Deinhardt. Nicole has had Deinhardt for three years and together they have participated in many of Lendon Gray’s EDAP Clinics, clinics with Conrad Shumacher and George Williams, and many Dressage shows and championships in both Fourth level and the FEI Junior Division.
Last year, Nicole and Deinhardt qualified to compete in Kentucky at the North American Junior Young Rider Championshiops, where they represented Region 8 in the FEI Junior Division. One of Nicole’s favorite Dressage programs to participate in is the Emerging Dressage Athlete Program. She loves these clinics because not only does she always learn new tips on how to improve her riding, but she likes that they also include different lectures on horsemanship as well as bring riders from all over the Country together. Nicole has made many friends through these programs and hopes to participate in them as much as she can.
One of Nicole’s favorite memories in Dressage thus far, is when she competed in the FEI Pony Division where both she and her sister Kristen qualified for the Festival of Champions. Nicole ended the year being 4th in the Country, and Kristen 6th.
Nicole trains with both Bill Warren and Bill McMullin. She is grateful that she gets the opportunity to train under them as they have helped her and her horse improve tremendously. Their keen eye for details have greatly enhanced her skill as a rider and her test scores. She has learned so much from them and looks forward to what the future holds. Nicole follows their training pattern of competing in New England in the summer and fall, and competing in Florida in the winter. Although challenging while juggling school, Nicole loves traveling to Florida on some weekends during the winter. Being surrounded by the many incredible riders down there inspires her to work hard and to better perfect her skills.
This year, Nicole hopes to compete her silver medal and qualify for the NAJYRC in the Young Rider Division as well as qualify for Nationals. She looks forward to competing this summer and cheering on Kristen with her new horse as they too make their FEI Young Rider debut, as well as cheer on Stephanie.
INTERVIEW WITH NICOLE NOWAK
1. When did you first start riding Dressage?
I first started riding when I was six years old. One lesson a week quickly turned into two, until I was at the barn everyday after school and all day on the weekends. My first trainer always combined dressage with jumping. Some weeks were focused on dressage and some weeks were focused on jumping. Soon after I started riding and when I was ready, I started going to dressage schooling shows and small jumping shows. I loved both, but my passion definitely is in dressage. I love the never ending strive for perfection and the partnership you create with your horse.
2. Do you ride without stirrups when schooling your horse?
All the time. Riding without stirrups has been very helpful in improving my position and overall making me a more effective rider. Lately, I’ve been turning my right hip back, which is causing me to sit crooked. To fix this, I’ve been riding a lot without my stirrups and it has been helping fix this problem by getting me to sit more level and even in the saddle.
3. What is your training regime on a daily basis with your horse or horses?
During the summer, I ride my horse Deinhardt five times a week. During the school year, I try to leave school to ride him three to five times a week depending on how much work I have to get done for school. During the winter, Deinhardt goes to Florida, so every few weekends I will fly down and ride him. During the summer, I like to give him the weekends off unless we have a horse show on the weekend, then he will get Monday and Tuesday off. I start off every ride by walking on a lose rein for ten minutes. Deinhardt is a nervous horse who is very concerned about his surroundings, so this helps to relax him and have him let a breath out. Next, my warm-up consists with bending lines to loosen Deinhardt. I think it is very important to always school the basics. So, I always begin the canter with canter walk transitions and serpentine loops. This helps loosen Reinhardt, get him listening to my aids, and gets him to sit more in the canter. Then, I try to focus on one area each ride that needs improving. I like to school the basics more than the movements. When the basics are good, you will have good movements. So I always work to improve straightness, quickness on aids, and my half halts. This translates into well balanced movements. I finish each ride by stretching Deinhardt for a few minutes in the trot and canter, and then walk him on a lose rein.
4. How important is the warm up and cool down of your horse ?
I believe the warm up can make or break your ride. It is very important to stretch your horse and loosen him up. They are athletes. Just like we stretch before we workout, it is important to do the same for your horse. The warmup has been so helpful in allowing Deinhardt to release all his tension and get him to relax. It makes him loose and lighter in the bridle, which then makes for a better ride. The cool down is just as significant. It is important to allow your horse time to get his breathing rate down and to stretch out his muscles after working hard.
5. What is the importance of transitions in your schooling?
I school transitions all the time. It is more important to focus on the basics than the movements. When you have a proper foundation, you will naturally have better movements. I ride transitions to better balance Deinhardt for collection and to get him to sit on his hind legs more. Transitions also help me ride a better half halt.
6. Do you follow the Scales of Training on a daily basis?
Yes of course! In order to achieve collection you need to make sure you have a good rhythmic and energetic tempo, relaxation, acceptance of the bridle and aids for a solid connection, impulsion, and straightness. When Deinhardt ins’t straight he falls on the forehand and lose his self-carriage causing me to have problems in the changes and half pass.
7. What is the most essential quality in the early stages of training a horse?
Its tough to to choose just one! I think their are many essential qualities in the early stages of training a horse. One significant element is trust. Without trust you will always be fighting with your horse and never moving forward. Trust not only creates a wonderful bond between you and your horse, but also makes the horse happy and willing to work and learn.
8. Have you ever owned a Schoolmaster or have you done the training yourself with your horse?
I’ve leased a schoolmaster before from Lendon Gray’s Dressage 4 Kids program. His name was Gismo, and he was so helpful in teaching me about the upper level movements. When I bought Deinhardt he was was a confirmed third/fourth level horse. With the help of my trainers, we are now schooling movements from the intermediate tests such as piaffe.
9. Do you include interval training for your horse?
Yes. Every so often we use cavaletti poles in our training. Down in Florida, the dressage ring is surrounded by a track. I love switching things up and riding around the track. Sometimes we just gallop around the track. Deinhardt enjoy this because it switches things up for him.
10. How often do you show?
Since Deinhardt goes to Florida for the winter circuit, I am able to show year round. I try to compete in two to three shows down in Florida each year. With school, it is often a challenge to get down to Florida as much as I would like to. This winter it was especially hard as the weather was horrible. There were a few times my flight got cancelled because of all the snow. In the Spring and Summer, I show every couple of weekends. I love showing! I love getting feedback from different judges on what I need to work on and seeing old faces as well as meeting new people at shows.
11. Do you do your own braiding?
Yes. I love braiding. It is very relaxing for me to do the morning of a show and its great to just spend time with my horse in his stall.
12. Who grooms for you at your shows?
My two sisters, and I always help each other out at shows. I love going to shows with them, because they are so supportive and helpful.
13. Do you trail ride and how often?
I love to trail ride. Although, not as often as I would like. Every so often I do try to trail ride where ever I can go around the barn. In Florida, Deinhardt is stabled in White Fences. I love trail riding around the whole circle when I am down there with him.
14. What are your goals for you and your horse?
This year, my goal is to qualify to compete at Nationals in the FEI Young Rider Division. I have a few more years of competing at the FEI Young Rider Division since I am only 18. I hope to move up to Brentina Cup with Deinhardt. I would love to be able to represent the USA one day and get to compete internationally.
15 Do you have a musical freestyle for you and your horse, and if so what type of music do you like?
Yes, I do have a musical freestyle. My music is from the movie Lion King. I love riding to it. It is very fun and upbeat.
16. Name your favorite horse and rider
My favorite horse and rider pair right now is Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro. They are so harmonious together. I love that she still allows Valegro to just be a horse by taking him on trail rides and turning him out everyday.
17. What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
Never give up. Its easier said than done. But, success comes to those who are willing to work hard and persevere. Life with horses is very unpredictable, so use your mistakes and bumps in the road as fuel to your fire, to be the best horseman and rider you can be,
18. What is your horse’s personality like and what is the funniest thing he/she does?
When I first bought Deinhardt is was very nervous and timid. Some people describe him as the giraffe in the movie Madagascar. Now that we have built a partnership together and there is more trust between us, he has relaxed more. He’s definitely a one rider horse. It takes him a little while to warm up to people, but once he does he is very friendly and sweet. He LOVES other horses. He is so gentle with them and will never try to bite them.
19. Please tell us who you would like to Thank for being your best supporters:
I would like to thank my parents who have always supported my in the dressage world. Without them I would not be able to ride dressage and follow my dreams. I would also like to thank my sisters Kristen and Stephanie for their never ending encouragement. They help me strive to be a better rider and always offer great advice. I would also like to thank my trainers Bill Warren and Bill McMullin for their wonderful training program. They have improved my riding so much. I have learned so much from them and I feel so grateful for that. I would also like to thank all those who have helped me along the way such as Lendon Gray and Andra Collins. Lendon’s EDAP and Dressage4Kids program have played an essential role in my riding. Andra gave me the ride on her pony Bella, who I was able to compete in the FEI Pony Division and qualify for nationals where we placed fourth in the country in 2012.
20. What is your favorite quote that you love and want to share with others?
I have many favorite quotes that I would love to share. One that really resignates with me is “I’ve got a theory that if you give 100 percent all of the time, somehow things will work out.”-Larry Bird