Each issue, MSEDA will highlight a member who is active in the organization to give other members a peek into their horse-loving lives. Interested in being featured? Email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sarah E. Coleman
Photo by Dory L Tuohey
After choosing riding as a career because it was the job (of five!) that kept her busiest after college, Nikki Jewell has spent her life in the hunter, jumper, dressage and eventing worlds in Kentucky and Illinois. Since relocating to the Bluegrass in 2015 and founding Hidden Gem Equine, Nikki is enjoying her 2017 Retired Racehorse Project competition mount, Love You Mon, a narcoleptic, slightly crabby gelding by Monarchos.
MSEDA: Where are you from?
Nikki Jewell: Northern Illinois
MSEDA: What brought you here?
NJ: I went to school at the University of Louisville and had family and friends in Kentucky. I was at a crossroads and it was a good time to relocate.
MSEDA: When did you begin riding?
NJ: My parents gave me a five-pack of riding lessons through the Park district when I was 5.
MSEDA: What is your background in horses?
NJ: I did grassroots hunters and eventing as a kid, retrained OTTBs to pay for college and worked at an event barn in college. After college, I started managing a large facility in Illinois and then started working for an A circuit hunter/jumper trainer at that barn. Eventually I opened my own hunter/jumper business. After 15 years of that, I moved to Kentucky and found my way back to eventing, which I loved as a kid. I now own Hidden Gem Equine.
MSEDA: How long have you been competing?
NJ: 40 years.
MSEDA: When did you get your first horse?
NJ: When I was 12. My parents couldn’t pay board, so when we moved to a place where I could have one in my backyard, I was able to get a horse!
MSEDA: What horses do you own now?
NJ: I have an OTTB that I did in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover in 2017 named Love You Mon.
MSEDA: How did you get him?
NJ: I bought him from his race owner.
MSEDA: Do you compete him?
NJ: My horse is still very green, so I’m not really competing myself right now. I coach my clients in eventing, all levels of H/J shows and dressage shows.
MSEDA: How long have you been a MSEDA member?
NJ: Three years.
MSEDA: What is your favorite event or horse show? Why?
NJ: I love River Glen for the mountains and the laid-back atmosphere. I also love Dunnabeck Horse Trials in Southern Illinois for the laid-back and old-fashioned feel of the competition. They do a great job with their course.
MSEDA: What is your horse’s favorite treats?
NJ: Hay cubes.
MSEDA: What do you do full-time? Do you enjoy it?
NJ: I train horses and clients. I split my time between Illinois and Kentucky, coach at shows and teach clinics. I love the process of training and managing a horse, and the improvement that horses and riders make.
MSEDA: How did you get into this job?
NJ: I had five jobs when I graduated college and training got the busiest, so I stayed with it.
MSEDA: How long have you been doing this?
NJ: I’ve been a professional for 28 years.
MSEDA: What are your favorite riding accomplishments?
Riding in the Chicago Hunter Derby
Wins in the First Years
Winning Novice at Catalpa on a client’s green horse
Competing in the RRP Makeover
The first time a young horse picks up the correct lead
The first course a horse does, the first good transition
The first lateral movement
So much more
MSEDA: What is your favorite memory with your horse?
NJ: Every day I see him and say “hi” to him.
MSEDA: What are your favorite equestrian brands?
NJ: Tredstep breeches, Ariat boots, Vespucci bridles, Erreplus saddles (I’m saving up for one), Rambo blankets…
MSEDA: What are your horse’s quirks?
NJ: He’s narcoleptic, and he’s super crabby getting groomed and tacked.
MSEDA: What is your goal this year?
NJ: To teach my horse to jump and do some extreme trail riding with him.
MSEDA: Who do you ride with?
NJ: I don’t get to take lessons myself very much. I love to clinic with Geoff Teal. I’d like to do some eventing and dressage clinics.
MSEDA: What is your favorite clinic you’ve taken part in?
NJ: Geoff Teal is wonderful. Laura Kraut was also one of the best I did. She really understood the horse.
MSEDA: What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome with your horse?
NJ: He tried to amputate his right hind twice last year. It’s been a long road of rehab.
MSEA: Describe your horse in 10 words.
NJ: Confident in himself, crabby, particular, food motivated and paddock ambassador.
MSEDA: What other animals do you own?
NJ: I have 5 dogs.
MSEDA: Do you have active roles in horse-related organizations?
NJ: I am on the board of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA).
MSEA: What are you passionate about other than horses?
NJ: Yoga, my dogs and healthy, sustainable living without chemicals.
MSEDA: What is one piece of advice you wish you had when you were younger?
NJ: Don’t be afraid to go for what you want not what others want.