Nichola Mohr plans on becoming the first South African pairing of horse and rider to compete in the Olympics Games Dressage Discipline. She won’t be going alone though, she’ll be going with Callaho Winston, her beloved horse she’s trained to compete.
For those unfamiliar, dressage is the art of training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility and balance. Competitions are based on the rider and horse’s ability to do a series of movements in an arena of 60mx20m, with each movement being marked out of 10.
To get to the Olympics, Nichola must start training and competing at outdoor international shows starting in March next year. To prepare she plans on working with Callaho Winston to make him fit and strong, as well as competing at the local shows to get him used to the atmosphere.
Like many other Olympians, part of her training will take place oversees. Nichola along with Callaho Winston are headed to Germany for 2 years of training. During the time, Nichola will come back to South Africa every 3 months for a week or two to continue training her horses, her pupils and for visa purposes.
Before she jets off, we chatted to Nichola about Dressage, training, her love of horses and the fundraiser she has planned this November to cover the costs of getting herself and Callaho Winston to Europe.
Where does your love of horses come from?
Horses have always been in my family, so I grew up surrounded by them. My mom, Linda Mohr, rode and loved horses from a very early age and my gran, Judith Wintle, used to race and breed thoroughbreds. My mom taught us to ride when we we’re little and I’ve never looked back.
How did you know Callaho Winston was the perfect partner for you?
We had bought his brother, Callaho Fabriccio, 2 years before and he was so easy to work with that I wanted to buy his brother too. We don’t often go try the horses before the auctions, but we did that year and Winston and I just clicked. It’s been a very bumpy road, but I’ve learnt so much and he’s learnt to trust me.
How do you train for dressage?
The most difficult thing to achieve and understand is ‘feel’, we’ve got to feel what is going on in the horse underneath us. I’ll often have an idea on what I want to train but if the horse needs to be more supple, I can’t work on what I wanted. We, as riders, need to be very flexible when we school (train).
Currently, I work my horses on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays and Saturdays, I’ll go easy and take my horses on an out ride. Our horses are out in big fields most of the day in all weather conditions. My routine will change when I’m in Europe as the horses are unable to go outside as often.
How do you prepare before a competition?
I prepare all my clothing and tack; make sure it’s all ready for the next day. I also like to make sure I know my tests, that way I know what’s coming up.
What’s the hardest thing about being a dressage competitor
It all comes down to us and our horses. We are working with a flight animal that has a mind of its own and anything can happen on the day; wind, rain, heat, etc
How much of winning is you, and how much is it your horse?
I would say it’s 50/50, without the horse there would be no rider and without the rider it would be just a horse. I’ve always felt that the horses are more important than the rider; the horse always comes first.
We are working with a flight animal that has a mind of its own and anything can happen on the day
What’s your most memorable dressage experience thus far?
Riding my first Grand Prix test. Growing up we couldn’t afford to buy fancy expensive horses, a thoroughbred, Sport Schu (aka Takkies), had come to be sold and I decided I wanted to buy him as my first horse. Over the years he has taught me so much and we finally made it all the way to the top!
What advice would you give young South Africans who are getting into dressage and want to compete?
This is going to sound cheesy but “Don’t give up”, equestrian is a very difficult sport and you can never stop learning.
Do you stick to a specific diet?
I try eat as healthy as possible but I’m not too strict about it.
What is the fundraiser you have planned for 3 November at Kennilworth Race Track?
We have planned a super exciting day of entertainment for guests at our special Race Day Fundraiser. There will be races of the day and the possibility of winning a fortune on the tote by betting on your favourite horse and jockey. We are also hosting a 6 Bar Show Jumping Event, for the first time ever on the race track! This will take place after the races. Riders will be “auctioned” and a “winner takes all” will ensure a nail-biting finish to this spectacular event.
During the day, there will be a dressage display by well-known riders Candice Robinson, as well as a demonstration of the highest-level dressage movements by myself and my famous thoroughbred ex racehorse, “Takkies”. To showcase the versatility of the thoroughbred racehorse, a parade of horses who have made their careers in other disciplines after racing will be held between races too.
If you are in the mood for a little pampering, we will have some beautification treatments on offer, as well as a deluxe fashion show of equine ensembles, all of which will be available to purchase.
For those with a yen towards frivolity, a craft beer tasting may set the tone for a fun afternoon, and we have a caricature artist ready to capture your priceless expressions.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make on the road to achieving your dreams?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always put riding first, I’m not a very outgoing person so it’s very easy for me to not go out.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
One would be “if riding was easy, everybody would do it” and another would be “if you want it to be perfect, buy a quad bike”
To follow Nichola’s Journey find her on Facebook
To book a ticket to her fundraiser to help her get to the Olympics email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
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Images courtesy Nichola Mohr
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.