When Nikki Ayers wants something, chances are she won’t stop until she gets it or accomplishes her goal.
And this trait — along with a little white lie — began at an early age and helped get her start with horses.
“My parents had no desire to ride horses,” said Ayers.
“I begged and begged and begged to take riding lessons when I was six years old (and) the only place that offered riding lessons was at the old Thunderbird and they said I was too small.
“I wasn’t heavy enough and I wasn’t tall enough,” she explained.
“They said come back when you are 60 pounds.”
A petite child, that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. So after Ayers turned seven, her mother took her to the equestrian centre anyways.
“My mom lied about how heavy I was and I got to start riding lessons,” Ayers says proudly.
“(And) every Saturday, I went to learn how to ride horses.”
Given a taste of the sports only further cemented Ayers’ burgeoning passion for riding horses and she soon set her sights on purchasing a pony at Thunderbird, Simon Says.
“He was $800, which was ridiculous back then,” Ayers said. “(My mom) gave in and bought me that darn pony.”
She began doing hunter/jumper shows before switching to dressage.
“When you event, you have to be good at dressage, jumping and cross-country, so I think it is just the fact that my personality, I like to be a perfectionist, I want to work hard at everything and be the best that I can be,” Ayers explained.
“I think that is what drew me to that; I had to work really hard in all three phases.”
This was nearly 40 years ago and Ayers, 45, is still going strong in the sport she loves.
She recently finished as the second level open champion at the B.C. dressage championships held at Vancouver’s Southlands Riding Club from Aug. 21 to 23.
And it has been quite a ride for Ayers the past couple of years as she progresses up the ranks of the sport.
Earlier this summer, she was named to Equine Canada’s training list for the Pan American Games.
More than 100 athletes had declared for the list back in November, and Ayers made it down to the final 30. Ultimately, she did not make the final list of four riders, but is still surprised at just how far she progressed.
“I never dreamed in a million years I would be in this position,” she admitted.
“Coming from my background, we had no money … I never even really thought I would do something like this.
“(And) I certainly never had the horse to do something like this.”
She was referring to Rubicon, a Swedish warmblood cross owned by Andree Stow.
But when Stow got injured a few years back, she wanted Rubicon to continue riding, so Ayers took over, even riding Rubicon herself in competitions.
And the pair have progressed, going from entry level events to national level competitions.
“(Andree) just kept saying, ‘enjoy the horse, enjoy the process and see where this goes and wherever it takes you, it takes you,’” Ayers said.
Ayers credits Rubicon for much of the duo’s success.
“This animal is amazing,” she said.
“Honestly, he has made it. Every time he goes out, he tries as hard as he can.”
In addition to competing, Ayers also owns and operates Harmony Farms, an indoor arena and equestrian centre her family built in Hazelmere Valley back in 2002.
The five-acre farm has capacity for 16 horses and Ayers offers lessons and training.
And while representing Canada would be a wonderful opportunity — but something she has never really considered a major goal — Ayers is just as happy continuing to do what she has done since quitting her job as a travel agent in 1998 to follow her passion.
“I can’t believe how lucky I am,” she said.
“Every day, I wake up, I get to do exactly what I want to do, every day.
“It is amazing.”