Ruth Nicodemus began her equine odyssey when she was 9 years old.
“My dad took me for riding lessons in Pleasantville,” she recalled, adding that she immediately enjoyed a bond with her horse that went beyond just a hobby. “I wanted a horse as a pet.”
Fast-forward to today and Nicodemus is still in love with horses, not only from an emotional standpoint, but also as a professional pursuit. Her Serenity Show Stable, located within the 193-acre Cedar Farm Lodge property in Stamford, will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in business in 2019, and Nicodemus seeks to bring her distinctive passion to educating the next generation of equestrians.
“Horses are majestic animals,” she stated. “But I have felt that some trainers do not really teach people the basics correctly. They seem to encourage buying an expensive animal and letting the animal do all of the work. I want to teach kids the way I was taught.”
Nicodemus began riding in the horse show circuits during her youth, reaching the United States Equestrian Foundation (USEF) Medal finals and the ASPCA Maclay Regionals. She also earned a degree in equine studies from Pace University. And while she enjoyed being in the saddle, she found her calling as a teacher as a 16-year-old.
“The instructor at the barn had to leave for an emergency,” she said. “And I jumped up and volunteered to take over.”
Nicodemus’ students range from ages 5 and up and are encouraged to become part of the horse show circuit. Riders attend two to three shows a month, ranging from the USEF “C” rated programs (which tend to attract local talent and modest prizes) to more prestigious events where the rider and horse need to qualify for consideration. Nicodemus’ students have won prizes at regional and national shows, and each winter they travel to Florida to participate in the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington.
However, Nicodemus stresses that being in the saddle is only half of the experience.
“This involves learning discipline and compassion,” she said. “We are dealing with a 1,600-pound animal that is very, very good to us. The students here learn to take care of the animals prior to horse shows. There is a lot that goes into this before and after the riding.”
Nicodemus stressed the importance of building and maintaining a relationship with her clients, and she is not shy if she believes that her clients are not taking their responsibilities with the horses seriously. “I tend to be super honest and very straightforward, and I am still surprised when other people aren’t,” she said.
There are 20 horses in residence at Serenity Show Stable, which operates as a 24/7 business with a seven-person staff. “At Christmas, we just can’t take off for a few days,” Nicodemus said, adding that the commitment to the horses’ care requires a great deal of time and effort. “You have to be passionate about this.”
There is also the question of the notoriously fickle New England weather, and Nicodemus noted that the horses have different responses to the seasonal extremes.
“They are kind of like people,” she observed. “Some horses hate the cold and are not happy. Others are not bothered by it. We have an indoor ring, so the horses don’t have to be exercised outside when there is bad weather.”