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A lifetime of Standy Love does the ‘Trix’ for Nikky Fontana 

Carmel Pethick

Looking back, some of Nikky Fontana’s fondest childhood memories were those shared with standardbreds.

“I remember when I was around eight years old, my best friend’s older sister Joanne had a standardbred”, Nikky recalls.

“Of course, being the pony-mad child I was, poor Joanne was stuck with her little sister and me following her around the paddocks.

“Joanne was kind enough to let me have a few rides on her mare and that’s really where my horsemanship journey started”.

Nikky’s parents soon realised that the phase was not wearing thin and leased a horse for their daughter as a thirteenth birthday gift.

Trixie was an ‘oopsie-bred’ mare, with an unregistered standardbred mother and unknown father, widely regarded as ‘one of the quietest horses on four legs’.

“I can recall my mother hollering from the backyard, as she had just hung a bunch of crisp white cloth nappies on the washing line.  There was Trixie, standing right in the middle, being bopped in the face as they blew around her head”, Nikky laughs.
  Nikky and Trixie shared some important years of learning together and Nikky continued to ride into adulthood. Many years later, Nikky found herself considering taking on a new mount.

Photo credit: Katherine McQuade

“My current horse at the time, a Clyde X, was entering her senior years and I began to think about starting the search for a new horse”, Nikky recalls.

“A friend sent me a photo of a retired trotter named Chip In, who was looking for a new home. There was something about the photo that really stuck in my mind.

“I called the owner and thought it was fate that the mare was located just an hour or so down the road from me. I hooked up the float and went for a look.

“When they brought the mare out from behind a shed, I immediately noticed that she had a facial marking that was exactly the same as my first horse, Trixie. It caught my breath and felt like a sign. 

“The mare’s owner, Trudy, made sure that all of her harness horses were broken to saddle during their racing careers, as a bit of an insurance policy to safeguard retirement options.

“I took the mare home that day and named her Trixie, in honour of the horse that started my passion for standardbreds and because my mother had recently passed away and she had been very fond of my first mare, Trixie”.

It was a tentative start to the new partnership, with Trixie being very green under saddle and Nikky coming off an educated horse with whom she ‘knew inside and out’, after many years together.

Photo Credit: Cool Country Photography

“Things were a bit rocky in the beginning with Trixie, so I went back to riding my old horse for a while to get my fitness and confidence back up”, Nikky explains.

“By the time my old horse turned twenty-six, I knew it was time to put my ‘big girl pants’ on and for Trixie to step-up from being on the backburner.

“I’m really proud of how Trixie and I have gone from strength to strength over the past few years.  We’ve had some lessons, attend monthly rallies at the Trentham Adult Riding Club and have enrolled in some online courses with Hero Education Partner Raising the Standards.

“At the start of each year I write some goals in an exercise book. A few days ago, I was flipping through what I’d written at the start of 2023. I was aiming for three things: to earn some points in HRCAV showing, to score 60% in an official Level 4 HRCAV dressage test and to qualify for the Alabar Hero Series Final.

“I got a little teary and had to sit down with a stiff drink, when I realised Trix and I had achieved everything we’d set out to do this year!”

With the 2023 checklist completed, Nikky is looking to set some lofty goals for the upcoming year of standy adventures.

“I’d really love to get into jumping a bit more with Trixie, as she seems to really enjoy it”, says Nikky.

“I’ve already booked us in for a cross country clinic in January 2024, which I’m very excited about.

“Introducing poles and jumps has really helped to develop Trixie’s canter, so more cross-training is on the agenda.

“I really love how versatile standardbreds are. They can literally turn their hoof to anything and they’re so smart and willing.

“My love of standardbreds spans back many years, to riding as a child and also being taken to my father’s annual work break-up party, which was held at the Moonee Valley trots. I absolutely loved watching the harness racehorses go round.

“This passion has carried on over the past thirty-five-or-so years. I currently own a small share in a pacer and it was such a thrill when she chalked up her first win a few weeks ago!

“My racehorse’s trainer, Clinton McSwain, is very knowledgeable and has been sharing fascinating insights into the things our filly is doing day-to-day around the stables and the types of harness gear she wears.

“I think this is just another example of the amazing support you receive from the standardbred community. It doesn’t matter whether you’re involved in the racing side of things or the equestrian world, there are so many helpful people there to share knowledge and encouragement.

“This sense of being part of a team is also something I share with Trixie. She’s so trusting and we have that kind of bond where she’d walk through fire for me.

“I love Trixie’s cheeky, curious nature. She will tell me if she doesn’t like something, but still give it a try.

“I think this is testament to the nature of the standardbred. They are just such fantastic, willing horses.”

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