Nicole Tough is one of Australia's leading Dressage coaches, judges, trainers and competitors. She is a Level 2 EA NCAS Dressage Specialist Coach , National A Level Dressage Judge, Judge Educator and a highly successful dressage trainer and competitor having trained 9 horses from Preliminary to FEI Level, all with State and National titles to their credit. Nicole has coached many students from Preliminary to Grand Prix level, a number of these being selected onto QLD State Elite, Peformance and Young Rider Squads and a few to International representation.
Upon leaving school in 1989, Nicole went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Graduate Diploma in Education, but chose to work within the Equine industry as a Dressage coach and trainer. As an addition, Nicole taught Equine Studies at Somerset College from 1999 to 2009.
Nicole is situated in the Gold Coast hinterland where she offers full livery agistment, private dressage coaching, dressage training and specialised "boot camps".
History of Riding
Where it all began...
Nicole's life long passion for mastering the art of dressage began at the age of 13, when her dad purchased a share in a racehorse with his friend and racehorse trainer, Noel Payne. Her dad and Noel then conspired to surprise Nicole with her very own horse - a galloway of mixed breeding called "Cha Chi", on which Noel's son Terry a professional jockey, took the trouble to teach Nicole the basic riding skills. Moving to the Gold Coast in 1984, Nicole and her sister Belinda joined the Mudgeeraba Pony Club. From here, Nicole went onto a (too slow) racehorse called "Rex Reebo" and then on to an anglo-arab called "Shar", who with coach, Leonie Galbraith, started her addiction to dressage! Nicole competed nearly every weekend at either gymkhana's, agricultural shows, eventing, showjumping, combined training, interschool and dressage days. At the age of 16, Nicole won the QLD State Interschool senior Dressage Championship title and the 15-17 year National Dressage Championship title. Nicole thanks her wonderfully supportive parents for what she now sees as a life long obssession.
In 1990, at the conclusion of her year 12 studies, Nicole purchased her first warmblood - an unbroken Holsteiner filly called "Landerlee", from good friends Jacqui and Geraldine van Montfrans. After a 3 year break from competition (where Nicole completed 2 university degrees, married Colin and gave birth to their son Mitchell) Nicole and "Landerlee" started their competition career in 1994, with son Mitch in a pram and supportive hubby by her side. Landerlee became the first horse Nicole was to train to FEI and her first horse to be selected on the QLD State Dressage Squad.
Over the years, Nicole has trained with some of the world's best trainers including Ulla Salzgeber, Harry Bolt, Martina Hannover, Clemens Dierks, Christoph Hess, Hubertus Hufendiek, Jenny Loristan-Clarke, Steffen Peters, Leonie Brammal, Annemieke Vincourt, Lilo Fore, Peter Storr, Isobell Wessels, Anne Gribbons, Vince Corvi and even Charlotte Dujardin at Equitana in 2014. Nicole has also travelled overseas and interstate many many times to watch and listen to 'masters' at work, either in Masterclasses, Forums or seminars. Around these opportunities, and for the last 9 years, Nicole has trained under the weekly supervision of Traci Baldwin (nee Manca) and insists that lessons/supervision/eyes on the ground are essential, if you want to keep improving.
Turning Point 1
2007 was a major turning point in Nicole's equine journey, with the traumatic injury to her beloved horse, Glencoe Manhattan. This incident led to the amazing opportunity offered by Linda and Beau Dowsett, to travel to Germany and look for a horse to import, train and campaign. Nicole says - "Beau and Linda gave me the opportunity of a lifetime - to find, ride and train an imported horse, something my hubby and I would never have been able to do". So, Nicole and Linda went horse shopping, having QLD ex-patriot, Robert Schmerglatt in Germany to locate suitable horses to try before their arrival. Nicole rode 30 horses in 9 days and particularly liked a 4 year old called Flavio at the Gieselman's barn, a 5 year old called Dante at Holga Finken's barn and a little 2 year old unbroken colt called Finnegan at Leonie Brammel and Volker Dusche's barn. And Beau bought all 3 home to Queensland! As a result, Nicole sold all her horses to commit herself to "this amazing adventure".
Turning Point 2
Nicole enjoyed 4 and a half years of hard work, learning curves, wonderful memories and many milestones (which can be read about in "past horses"). In April 2013, after Nicole's dream of competing at Grand Prix level was realised, Dante was exported back to Germany to be sold. Nicole and Colin were able to purchase Finnegan from Beau and Linda and they purchased a new horse, Fioretta, from friends Traci and Bas Bolt. In 2013, Nicole, with friends Traci and Bastion Bolt, travelled to The Netherlands for a 3 week training trip under the watchful eye of Dutch Federal Trainer, Annemieke Vincourt. Nicole says she refined so many skills, and got to study Annemieke's training philosophy in practise. As an added bonus, Traci and Bastion decided to purchase a 6 year old, KWPN gelding called Borsato, which Nicole would care for, train and campaign back in Australia. From October 2013 to September 2016, Nicole had Borsato under her care and management, and they formed a strong bond and partnership, achieving many State and National titles and accruing 4 National Performance Gold Medals. Nicole says, "words cannot express my gratitude to Traci, for entrusting Boss' care and training to me. Together, we soared the clouds. He enriched my life and taught me so much".
Turning Point 3
At the end of 2016, after losing the ride on Borsato back to his owner, Nicole and Colin made the heartbreaking decision to sell their beloved Furst Tyme, to self-fund the purchase and import of a young horse from Europe. It is with much joy and anticipation, that they can announce... "Thanks to Rebecca Dudley Dressage in The Netherlands, we have purchased 3 year old Voodoo (aka Spekkie), a 16.1 hand KWPN gelding by Dark Pleasure, out of an Inspekteur mare, and with thanks to Viola Abrahams in Germany, we have purchased 5 year old Ferragamo (aka Favory), a 16 hand Hanoverian gelding by Furstenball, out of a Sir Donnerhall mare. Colin and I are very much looking forward to getting to know, travelling and working with these two exciting youngters in 2017".
Summary so far...
Nicole says, "I have been blessed to have a life with horses, and each horse has been so special and it breaks my heart every time, when they leave my life." From Shar - I learnt not to give away unnecessary marks though lack of accuracy and precision. Thankyou for the life long obsession of striving for excellence. From Landerlee - I learnt not to sit like a passenger in a test. If its going wrong, make a correction like you would at home. Thankyou for our journey. From Northern Flamenco - I learnt not to just buy a trot! The way the back wants to function is really important, not to mention the walk and canter. From Cherenton Armani - I learnt not to accept half hearted responses in a test, even if it means deliberately throwing a movement in a test, to not let them get 'test smart'. Thankyou for being you, a very funny boy. From Glencoe Catwalk - I learnt the balance between hot and still being in control. Discipline and routine were essential to her. Glencoe Manhattan - I learnt to practise test movements til they can't go wrong and anticipation is NOT an excuse. It just means you need more practise. Thankyou for your huge heart and always giving 100%. Sorry I wasn't good enough for you at that time. From Flavio - I learnt the true meaning of Being Effective. Every aid must have a response. Another horse I wasn't good enough at the time, to get the best out of. From Dante - I learnt how to keep them in front of the leg, honest when they are spooky, and that having a monkey grip is not an admission of defeat. Such a beautiful boy and gave me more than I can ever re pay. From Fioretta - I learnt that mares are not for me. She hated my attention to detail, and thought what she gave should be enough. HA! A very beautiful and proud spirit. From Borsato - I learnt the true meaning of being in balance, felt exactly what I want in an equine athlete, and that horses can have 'brain farts' too! Such a cool dude. Thankyou for 3 amazing years. From Furst Tyme - I learnt how to take risks and not train in 'comfort zones'. Gorgeous boy, with a beautiful heart and not a mean bone in his body. Thankyou for always giving me 100%, even when you are were terrified in the Sydney indoor!
Nicole's goals are always to keep learning from the horses and trainers that come her way, to guide each horse to be the best athlete they can be, to keep promoting the wonderful discipline of dressage through the QLD Festival of Dressage fund raising event, and to one day become a FEI 3* Judge.
Nicole's advice to riders is to - "Love your horse and your sport, and find a coach willing to help you achieve your goals; and to practise until you can't get it wrong".