Loxahatchee, Fla. - June 23, 2016 - Many dream of the life they would like to have, but very few have the opportunity or courage to pursue it. Nicole Loochtan is one of the lucky few. With the support of her family and the Wyndmont, Inc. team, she has been given the chance to become exactly who she imagined she would be.
As a first generation equestrian in her family, not many believed that her love for horses would grow into a lifelong passion and possible professional career.
"I started when I was 6- or 7-years-old," Loochtan explained. "I got into it because I lived across from a barn. I always saw the horses and thought, 'I have to do that.' Nobody really thought that it would become anything, but as I got older, I realized it's what I want to do with my life."
The 18-year-old will celebrate her birthday in July while she competes in the jumper divisions at the Tryon Summer FEI CSI3*/CSI4* with trainers Ronnie Beard and Michael Dorman by her side.
"Michael is more of the teacher and Ronnie is more of the mentor," Loochtan said. "They've really helped me grow. I've become a much better and much stronger rider. They work with me every day. They've improved me overall. I get a lot of one-on-one time with them, which is great and different from other barns. They have a great team."
The trio was introduced through renowned Grand Prix Jumper and trainer, Candice King, at a Chicago-based show. After the initial meeting, Loochtan flew to Tryon in August 2015 to compete with Wyndmont and sealed the deal.
"I was really nervous, because I've never ridden with such big-name people," Loochtan shared about her feelings entering her first show with the Wyndmont team. "My thoughts were 'oh my gosh, they're going to think I'm terrible,' but they were very welcoming and very nice. I was set after that weekend, and I decided I was moving."
Loochtan continued, "It's hard to find good horse people, but I completely trust them, and I have never wondered if what they're doing is right for me and my horses. I know that my horses are being taken great care of."
The Lincolnshire, Ill. native has had trouble finding the perfect horses in the past - a problem that Dorman and Beard quickly solved upon teaming up with Loochtan. In fact, the two helped her secure two great horses within the last 10 months.
The aspiring jumper rider now owns and competes all the way up to the grand-prix level on three horses, boarding them at the beautiful Wyndmont facility and training with both Dorman and Beard.
"All of my horses are moving up and doing really well," Loochtan expressed proudly. "They're all different, which I think will be really great for me if I ever become a professional."
About eight months ago, while in California, Dorman spotted Carla de Kalvarie Z being hacked, immediately noticed the mare's quality and encouraged Loochtan to try her the same day. Her power and potential gave Loochtan confidence, making the decision to purchase her a no-brainer.
"You can put anything in front of her," Loochtan said about her new mare. "There's no challenge she won't take on. We're doing the smaller prix's and high amateurs together. It's a give and take kind of relationship. You tell her what to do, and then you give her what she wants. She's by far the strongest horse I've ever ridden. She's a professional. She's here to do her job."
The most recent addition to her string of horses is Quarterman. The 13-year-old was purchased a month ago after competing in 1.60m classes across Europe.
"We bought him to be my move-up horse," Loochtan said. "He's very sweet and very big. He's at least 17.1 or 17.2. He's a big boy, so I'm still trying to figure out his stride. For a big horse, he's a very light to ride, which is good. He's not heavy. I'm just figuring him out right now."
Memory Lane is the only horse that Loochtan brought with her to Wyndmont. The 10-year-old Holsteiner was imported from Hungary and initially intended to be her junior hunter. However, upon learning a little more about his personality and temperament, has been made into a jumper. He is currently competing in the 1.30m, but Loochtan hopes to move him up to 1.40m soon.
"He's a complete pushover," Loochtan said of Memory Lane. "He's always is in your face. You have to pay attention to him all the time. He's a quirky horse to ride. He's all business in the ring, and acts weird when you're just walking around. He's just a quirky horse. He's a very light horse to ride. He's not too strong, but he's not lazy. He's very good in that sense."
The future is bright for this aspiring professional rider, who just started some online classes at a community college. She plans to study while working with the Wyndmont team and growing as a rider.
"For the next couple years, my plan is to keep riding. I'll continue showing and see how things go. I hope to keep moving up. I hope to be a professional in the future. That's the goal."