Nicole Hintz calls Pete her life coach and looks on Sapphire as the best therapy money can buy. After a prolonged battle with breast cancer Nicole has come through with renewed strength and vision for her future.
“After overcoming the challenges of my cancer I wanted something that was just for me. I had enjoyed riding horses as a teenager. For me, riding always gave me a sense of freedom; I was able to forget everything else going on in my life. The idea of just me and a horse and the bond we could share was so very tempting.”
“I realise how lucky I was to find Sapphire; big and strong but with a softness and a willingness to be a partner on rides and in life. She is part Clydesdale with a beautiful, quiet nature. Sapphire is dependable and reliable and not easily spooked. After all I’d been through; I wasn’t about to risk my life on a crazy horse! Although she did have a few minor issues, I came to discover.”
Nicole was keeping Sapphire at a friends’ place and she suggested Nicole attend one of Pete’s foundation clinics. Nicole was a first hesitant. She was still in a very fragile place after recovering from serious illness and the last thing she wanted was someone barking orders at her, or criticising her riding skills.
‘I have a reason to smile, I’m alive and I’m on a horse, I told him. Life is just wonderful.’ – Nicole
“At my friend’s urging, I took Sapphire to the clinic and right from the start I knew Pete was someone I could feel comfortable with. I enjoyed the lesson and his easy way of coaching. I remember he commented that I was always smiling, and I was. I had a big grin on my face and why not! I have a reason to smile, I’m alive and I’m on a horse, I told him. Life is just wonderful.”
From that time on, Nicole and Pete became a team working towards a common goal. Not just learning to communicate with Sapphire, who had a tendency to pull away, a reluctance to be tied up and a pretty stubborn attitude to floating; but learning some important life lessons too.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Nicole says. “There was a reason I got sick. It led me to finding Sapphire and she led me to Pete. Both are vital to my recovery and continued wellbeing.”
‘With horses there is no rush, I had to learn patience.’ – Nicole
“Pete taught me to slow down; for my sake and for Sapphire’s sake. I have always rushed through life, always busy and focused on ticking off goals and achievements. With horses there is no rush, I had to learn patience. I had to learn for my own benefit to go back to basics, start at the beginning and wait for the rewards that come with time.”
In working with Pete, Nicole formed an important friendship and learned that trust is a vital element in relationships. “Pete has given me back my confidence and made me feel grounded,” she says. “He’s always so supportive. He makes the learning environment a safe place to grow and learn. I feel I can be honest and vulnerable with Pete and I trust his advice completely.”
‘Groundwork and communication; important in life, relationships and working with horses.’ – Pete
The relationship with Sapphire also became an issue of trust. The problems with tethering, leading and loading all pertained to trust. So it was back to groundwork and communication; important in life, relationships and working with horses. Control of the horse on the ground translates to control in riding.
It was also important that Nicole learned to maintain belief in her own abilities even when she didn’t get instant results. “Pete is always so patient with me. Sometimes I question my techniques because the desired outcome doesn’t come easily or quickly enough for me. Pete supports and encourages me until finally something just clicks and I realise ‘oh, I get it now!’ and that’s a lightbulb moment for me.”
‘Start controlling your horses’ feet, first from the ground and the rest will follow.’ – Pete.
“Once I understood that my horse looked to me for clear signals I began to modify my behaviour so I was communicating clear directions to Sapphire and strengthening the bond between us,” Nicole explains. “Guided by Pete, I learned that standing in front of my horse and leading her into the float made her feel fearful. By standing to side and teaching her to self-load, I was putting my trust in Sapphire and treating her with respect.”
Nicole has gained confidence in herself since working with Pete. Floating used to be a nerve wracking experience. Just recently she has encountered a few problems but dealt with them with ease. When her daughter’s horse suffered a fall while being floated, Nicole worried that he would be traumatised by the experience. She was relieved to find that by staying calm and in control, Nicole allayed his fears and he had no concerns about walking onto the float again.
‘We are all fearful of things but we have to learn to face our fears and find ways to get to the other side.’ – Nicole
“Working with horses is therapy for me,” Nicole says. “We are all fearful of things but we have to learn to face our fears and find ways to get to the other side. Pete has impressed on me how important it is to closely observe my horse and watch for clues about how she is feeling. Now I recognise them I can be positive in my communication with her. It has given me a greater sense of connection with Sapphire and she is more relaxed.”
“Sapphire feeds off my vibes and responds to them. I think that’s what this journey has taught me; to slow down and have confidence in my own abilities. I’m grateful for the opportunities this journey has given me and for the bonds of friendship I have made.”
“When I’m riding Sapphire I can forget all my aches and pains; all my worries go out the door! Being with horses makes you focus on nothing but them and your surroundings.
“Sapphire is more to me than the horse I ride, she has soul and we have a bond that’s unbreakable.”
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