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Role Reversal: Susan Stocker & Nicole Giumenti Trade Places in the Show Arena

“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good,” -Wicked

Nearly every rider, at one time or another, has a mentor or a coach of some sort. Not many riders can say that they have been with the same trainer for the majority of their show career. Even fewer can say that they have worked their way up to the same level of knowledge and ability as their trainer. Nicole Giumenti of Port Washington, Ohio, might be one of the only riders able to say that she has become the trainer of her former trainer.

The lives of Nicole Giumenti and Susan Stocker have been intertwined for years. When she was just eight years old, Nicole began taking lessons from Susan.

“She came up through the ranks, started with a pony, then moved to a Quarter Horse and started showing the Quarter Horse shows. She was my first student to win the Congress in 1994 in the Novice Youth Equitation,” Stocker remembers. Shortly after her Congress Championship, though, Nicole got out of the horse industry altogether and lost contact with Susan.

A few years went by, and when Nicole was nineteen and just graduated from high school, Susan offered her a job helping out at some horse shows. At her very first show back with her former trainer, Nicole did not even own a pair of boots. Susan happily bought her a couple and consequently started Nicole down the path that her life has followed ever since. “I went from being a youth to an open rider and helping her,” Nicole recalls. “We’ve been doing the same thing ever since.”

Even though Nicole has not exclusively trained with Susan in the years since she returned to showing, she always seems to find her way back to her first coach. “There have been some times here and there where Nicole has been in different programs. She worked with the Pipers for a while and has trained on her own out of different barns, but any time she’s ‘homeless,’ she comes back here,” Stocker explained.

Even in these times, when they were not necessarily riding or training together, Susan and Nicole remained close colleagues. They have continuously helped each other with their personal or training horses, often calling one another to ask for advice, or conferring when they were at horse shows together.

Giumenti’s experience in the horse industry has shaped her into a capable trainer in her own right. So much so that, when Susan recently decided to give up training and enjoy being a Non-Pro, Nicole stepped into the position of resident trainer.

Upon her return to Susan’s barn, this time for good, Susan “handed the whole place over to her and said ‘just tell me what you need, here you go.’” Their relationship, which had its roots some thirty years prior, had finally come full circle.

“That was a weird transition,” Nicole said of the role-reversal, “She was always used to yelling at me, then I came back with some knowledge, and she was kind of like ‘huh.’” Susan has enjoyed the change and is appreciative of Nicole’s newfound responsibility to keep her from slacking off, saying that, “It’s great to be right here with Nicole every day. She jokes around that I always kicked her butt when she was a kid, and now she gets to return that favor.”

The relationship that these two have is unique. Though Nicole is officially the professional these days, Susan still maintains her horses by herself for the most part, as she is, in the words of Nicole, “an extremely capable Non-pro.”

They operate as a balance for one another when it comes to riding and training. Having ridden together for so long, Susan says that they “have recognized the other one’s holes.” Nicole knows the areas of riding that Susan finds challenging, and Susan knows the aspects of training that Nicole sometimes struggles with. “It’s kind of fun,” Susan told us, “I can bring a lot of things to the table to help her, and she brings a lot to the game that helps me.”

Of course, there are new opportunities that are arising out of this switch from student to trainer for Nicole. One, which she is extremely excited about, is the opportunity to show Susan’s two-year-old in the Open events this year.

“For the first time, I get to play with some of her ‘toys’,” Nicole joked, “It’ll go well, or I’ll get in trouble for messing it up.” Susan laughed along with her former student, poking fun at the fact that, “If it all goes south, at least there is someone I can blame it on.”

All joking aside, Susan’s trust in her former student to show her two-year-old is a testament to the strength of their relationship with one another. Susan is a self-described “control-freak about these things,” but both she and Nicole are looking forward to what this show season will bring with Nicole in the irons for the Open events, and Susan piloting in the Non-Pro. It is the beginning of a new chapter, and the future looks bright.

Some people come into our lives for a reason. Nicole Giumenti and Susan Stocker seem to be living proof of this. Their mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation for one another are refreshing. Their humility and willingness to learn from each other are inspiring. The story of Nicole and Susan is a beautiful reminder of one thing we can never stress enough: we as riders and as people, are never finished learning.

About the Author – Kassidy Lammers is an incoming freshman at the University of Dayton from Delaware, Ohio. She has been showing Quarter Horses for seven years, and currently shows her gelding, Smooth After Midnite, in the all-around events under the guidance of Jeff Geiger.