By Britney Grover
Ruth Nicodemus hasn’t just been passionate about horses all her life — she’s been passionate about teaching. “My passion for teaching was instinctive,” she said. “I was the annoying friend who, while I was hacking with four or five of my friends at 12 years old, would stand in the middle of the ring on my horse and begin to teach them. They never asked for it, but they continued to be my friends in spite of it. Our passion for riding and our horses created a bond that to this day hasn’t been broken.”
Ruth’s story begins like many others: Despite her parents not having anything to do with horses, she was a horse-crazy child. “I’m the only rider in my family, but my mother will tell you that I get it from her; she’s passionate about John Wayne movies,” she said. “My favorite animals were horses so when I was 9, my dad took me for my first lesson. It still comes up at Thanksgiving each year that if they had let me start as an 8-year-old I would’ve had an additional junior year of eligibility.”
As it was, Ruth’s junior career was still impressive: She began by showing at the local level and worked her way to the USEF Medal Finals at Harrisburg and the Maclay Regional Finals. But her favorite memories of showing as a junior don’t involve ribbons. “Some of my fondest memories of riding as a junior are either times spent at shows with my friends or times spent in my horse’s stall crying into his neck about whatever had happened that day at school. The barn was my life; I don’t have any childhood memories that don’t include my horse.”
Becoming A Professional
Ruth’s penchant for coaching her friends turned into teaching lessons by the time she was 16. “I was so eager to officially be called a ‘pro’ that I decided to become a professional the moment I turned 18,” she said. “My parents were incredibly supportive. My dad helped me start my own business, and when I told him my plan he simply stated, ‘It’s about time.’ It was, and still is to this day, a dream come true.”
Finally, in 2014, Ruth felt she was ready to go out on her own. “At 39 years old, I was confident that I’d learned enough from my trainers in the past and had gathered enough information that I’d be able to start my own business,” she said. “People who recognized my passion for riding and helped to mold me into the professional I am today have surrounded me, even at a young age. I try to carry forward traditional values in riding, reinforcing the basics, while encouraging empathy and understanding for the animal.”
For Ruth, part of understanding horses is learning from them. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have so many special horses in my life,” she said. “My children’s hunter, The Lone Ranger, was a school horse turned show horse with a little TLC and a whole lot of flat work. My big equitation horse, Tom, was a former grand prix horse and taught me all about jumpers and how to believe in myself. So many of my investment horses have taught me about persistence and work ethic. The ponies I’ve had the pleasure of keeping in my program have taught me patience. I find that if we listen carefully to them, they will be our greatest teachers.”
Serenity Show Stable was created in Stamford, Connecticut, as a haven for Ruth to do what she loves: teach others who are passionate about horses. Her program, including 20 hunter and jumper horses and ponies, allows students to excel at every level, showing twice a month at both local C-rated and A-rated shows. Her students have brought home ribbons from shows such as the Marshall and Sterling Finals, New England Equitation Championships, Zone Finals and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show.
“No one cares more about their clients than I do,” Ruth said. “I not only care about my clients but I make their goals into my goals. I’m incredibly grateful that my clients have chosen me to help them make their dreams come true. It’s not only a huge compliment, but a responsibility that I take very seriously.”
To that end, Ruth’s life revolves around those she teaches — and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Even when she’s not at the barn, she lives less than two miles from it. “I like to spend time with my family — my cousins are more like siblings,” she said. “I watch movies, read and hang out with Bam Bam, my 2 ½-year-old cockapoo.” Weighing in at 12 pounds, Bam Bam is well known around the barn where he plays with children, rides around on the golf cart and brings everyone good luck with contagious cheer.
With Bam Bam at her side, Ruth’s heart is truly with her students. “My goals for the future are simple: I’m here for my clients, and will go in whatever direction they’d like to go in. I’m living a life beyond anything I could have imagined. If I came up with my own goals, I’d be limiting myself.”
For more information, visit serenityshowstable.com
Photos by Julie Unger