Ready to Horse Show

After stepping away from the show pen almost a decade ago, Managing Editor Nichole Chirico is preparing for her first horse show—in a totally new event.
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Five years ago, I came to terms with myself about my horse life. I knew that showing horses was out of reach for me for a long time. I had graduated college during one of the largest recessions in our country's history, and between car payments and a mortgage, owning a horse was out of the picture. 

As a youth kid who spent most of her time in the show pen, going to horse shows was all I knew. So when I found myself horseless in 2011, my life changed a lot. Somehow I ended up at H&R, and while I wasn't seeking out a job within equine media, I was so happy  when it fell into my lap. One thing is for sure, without Horse&Rider I wouldn't be in the position I'm in today.

When I first started with H&R I had shown all-around horses for 15 years. And when I sold my last horse, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue doing the all-around or venture into a new discipline. Then I had the chance to work with some cow horse trainers and I knew this was going to be my next event. But I wasn't sure how I would get involved in this event...or even when. 

About a year and a half ago, I was asked to start producing content for our new Horse&Rider OnDemand subscription series. When Brad Barkemeyer signed on as our cow horse expert, I pitched him with the idea of having him do a video series with me where he introduces me to working cow horse events. Brad being the easygoing guy he is was game for it, and we found a location in Colorado that would be perfect for our shoot (because Arizona summer heat doesn't make for great all-day video shoots).

nichole chirico on a horse in a reservoir with the mountains in the background photographing someone on their horse

When I'm not working cattle or buffalo on Hot Wheels, he's my photography assistant.

We ended up working with Bill and Janiejill Tointon, owners of Diamond Double T Ranch, who let us use their facility, and horses, for our shoot. I expected them to let me ride an old, broke horse that would take care of me, and I definitely got that, but he also happens to be a legendary stud in the cow horse world. Riding Shining Lil Nic confirmed my suspicions, I had to figure out a way to do the cow horse. 

Since that day I've become good friends with the Tointons, and since that video shoot last year, they've given me the opportunity to learn how to work cattle and have allowed me to ride their horse Shinee Hot Wheels. Earlier this year when the pandemic hit, I found myself at the barn more than ever. With the whole world basically shut down, being outside away from crowds seemed to be the only thing I could do. (Which sounds like paradise to me, anyway!)

My must-haves for showing:

Ariat R.E.A.L bootcut jeans. Some of my favorite riding jeans to wear under chaps. 

YETI tumbler. I take this with me everywhere! It holds ice all day and helps me keep track of how much water I'm taking in. Plus using a reusable water container helps cut down on plastic.

Leather cleaner. Presentation is important—even at small shows. I always have leather cleaner on hand to wipe down my saddle and headstalls before walking into the show pen.

Neatsfoot oil. While great for softening reins, I always have some of this on hand to keep my stingray boots looking their best.

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Now, I'm heading off to my first NRCHA horse show to compete in the non-pro boxing, and I couldn't be more excited. After stepping away from the show pen almost 10 years ago, I get to go back into the show pen in an entirely new discipline. At the beginning of 2020 I would have thought you were crazy if you told me I'd be showing a horse again, but here we are. 

Through all of this, I plan on taking you guys along for the ride as I venture to my first cow horse show to (hopefully) give other people the courage to try something new, because none of this would have been possible if it weren't for my journey working for Horse&Rider. You guys have inspired to me get out of my comfort zone and do something completely different. And I'm loving every minute.