After a decade of working for IBM, the division where Nicholas worked closed up shop and she was laid off, an admittedly scary time for the couple.
“It was the first time since I was 16 that I didn’t have a job with a guaranteed paycheck coming in,” she says. “Plus, we had started a family and had a 9-month old baby. But my job had paid well and left us in a position for me to be able to make a go at training horses as a profession. We’re often asked about the frog brand on our horses. My husband’s nickname is ‘Froggy,’ so that is where the brand was born and then we appropriately named our ranch Ribbit Ranch.”
With encouragement from her husband, Nicholas trained and hauled locally while juggling duties as a wife and mother to the couple’s two young children, a son, Dalton, now 10, and daughter, Skyler, age 7.
Lisa Nicholas attributes much of the recent success of their Ribbit Ranch horses to she and her husband’s ability to work together.
“Jeremy is self-motivated and tireless,” she shares. “He’s an account executive for Hewlett Packard but puts in just as much time on the horses. He loves to rope, but sacrifices so much roping time to haul and train colts instead. We trade colts back and forth as they need it. I feel like our skill sets and training interests differ, so between the two of us the horses get a well-rounded foundation.”
While Lisa confesses that her tendency as a rider is to be meticulous, verging on picky, even, she says that Jeremy is gifted at building confidence and keeping a horse quiet. That said, he has little patience for bad behavior.
“He gets all the buckers,” she says, adding that her husband also has a keen eye for spotting a diamond in the rough. “He can tell me who my athletes are, whereas, sometimes I’m skewed by emotion. If I hadn’t listened to him I would’ve let two of my best mounts ever slip through my hands because they were so hard to break. I was not in love with them and was ready to sell, but he told me to give them more time because of their talent, and he was right.
“Now, either my husband or Mitzi Mayes from Lexington, Texas, start the horses under saddle for me. But I want no more than 30 days—at this point they are at my very favorite stage,” she adds.
For Nicholas, the most appealing part of training is the transformation that takes a horse from stiff, gangly prospect to well-oiled equine machine—and that process consumes her every thought.
“Watching them learn and understand what is being asked of them is amazingly rewarding to me. Every Sunday I make a list for the upcoming week of which horses to ride each day and I stick to my schedule. Each night I look forward to the next day’s rides and think about what drills are needed for each. If necessary, I set up obstacles in the arena so they are ready in the morning.”
A typical day at Ribbit Ranch starts when the alarm rings at 6 a.m. and chores get started. Once her kids are off to school, the barn beckons for the remainder of Nicholas’ day until dinner time, and mom duties in the evening.
“I love my life – if I won the lottery tomorrow I’d be doing the exact same thing,” she insists.