Horse of the Week
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Chestnut Paso Fino MareNicole de Laura

This week's featured horse is Nicole de Laura, an 11 year old, 15.2 hh chestnut Paso Fino mare. She is owned and loved by David Ross who lives outside of the city of Barrie, Ontario. Nicki is boarded at Denise and Peter Chandler's Petise Paso Fino Stables near New Lowell.

The horse community in Ontario, although large, is still a tightly woven circle. I am constantly amazed at this intricate web of fate and circumstance. These photos of Nicki and David were taken at the Eastern Canada Paso Fino Horse Association's Fun Show, held in Erin this past July 2007. This was not the first time I had met Nicki. Before she came to be with David, I had the privilege of riding this lovely tall "redhead" at the annual fall Forest Gait trail ride in 2005. Denise Chandler was kind enough to trailer Nicki to this farm in Georgetown so I could have a mount for the day.

As fate would have it, that still was not the first time I photographed Nicki. Rewind back to the late 90's when my eldest daughter was taking riding lessons at a local stable, Lonesome Acres. I didn't get to be around horses much in those days because of my young children and the thought of becoming a horse photographer wasn't even a twinkle in my eye yet! I remember during one of my daughter's first riding lessons, wandering up and down the stable aisles, stopping to chat with every horse and snapping the occasional photo. (I was supposed to be photographing my daughter.) I came to a stall with a pretty chestnut mare in it. The first thing I noticed was her long mane and I discovered she was a Paso Fino. I had never seen a horse of this breed in real life, only in books! I'll never forget Nicki for that and little did I know our paths would cross again.

David has this to say of his horse:

Nicki had been broke to saddle at four years old. She then spent the next five years as a brood mare producing beautiful offspring. Nicki was started back under saddle at nine years old and I purchased her in her tenth year, even though she had most of the year off to have another baby.

Paso Fino MareAlthough she has not had a lot of mileage under saddle for her age, she is a great horse to ride. This has been a love affair from the start. I first rode Nicki in February 2006 and then had to wait until April for the snow to melt and the ground to dry before trying her again. My intentions were to ride all the gaited horse breeds before I decided on a particular breed or a horse. Nicki was the first gaited horse I tried and I fell in love with her sweetness, her size and her smooth gait. I then made the decision to purchase her. Little did I realize that the sweetness could change into "if looks could kill" when another horse comes too close or looks at her wrong! This is never directed at people though.

Many a wintry Sunday afternoon was spent just grooming her or just hanging out together, to get acquainted. I was able to ride Nicki in May and half of June before I laid her off to have her foal.

In 2007 Nicki’s riding career resumed as we participated in several trailered trail rides and a fun show. Nicki displayed an interest in the games such as barrel racing and pole bending at this ECPFHA Fun Show. She would rather skip the trail classes, thank you, but I tell her these are works in progress. We also ride out on the many trails around the stable as often as we can. Her companion on many of these rides is a 16.3hh Chevaux Canadien named Justin, my wife Simone’s horse, who Nicki has learned to like and trust as a trail companion.

Nicki likes the fall season when apples are readily available out on the trail and lots of carrots are in the barn. She loves having her bum scratched - she will back into you - which was disconcerting the first few times, as you think she is getting ready to kick. It just means she has an itchy bum! She hates to go through brush, heaven forbid it should touch her belly.She also dislikes jumping (she thinks it makes much more sense to go around the obstacle), and she hates being given needles by the vet.

Nicki loves clicker training, and we currently participate in trail riding and classical dressage.

Congratulations to Nicki for being our October 29th, 2007 Horse of the Week!

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