Rider’s life in a truck

Franklin County News - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAR HUB­BARD

Ni­cole Roberts looked around her horse truck and of­fered a half­s­mile.

‘‘There’s plenty I want, but noth­ing I need.’’

Roberts has been liv­ing in her horse truck for two years af­ter she strug­gled to find some­where to rent when a string of her homes were put up for sale in quick suc­ces­sion. She be­came fed up with the process, so pur­chased the shell of a horse truck and made her­self a home in a pad­dock she leases in Port Waikato.

Her flat­mates are Ash­ley, an old dog she res­cued as a puppy, and an at­ten­tion-seek­ing cat named Suzy. Her neigh­bours are her prized horses - the star of the herd be­ing her mare Vanillees Bling Bling.

She bred, broke and trained Bling on her own, and now, against all odds, the pair have qual­i­fied for the most pres­ti­gious equine com­pe­ti­tion in the coun­try, Horse of the Year.

‘‘It’s been a life­long dream, but I’ve never had fi­nances good enough un­til now...Com­ing from where I am, I never thought I’d get there,’’ she said.

Roberts trains horses for a liv­ing and cur­rently has just one client, since she is fo­cussing on Horse of the Year, which be­gins on March 7. With­out her two spon­sors she would have no chance of show­cas­ing Bling’s tal­ent in sad­dle hunter.

One is a silent spon­sor, and the other is owner of Franklin Brow­bands, Vanessa Ham­lin. Ham­lin has pro­vided most of Roberts’ com­pe­ti­tion gear, and her silent spon­sor will loan a ve­hi­cle and float so she can trans­port Bling to the Hawke’s Bay event. Roberts’ friend has loaned her a leather sad­dle to use, since her own syn­thetic sad­dle is frowned upon in show­ing cir­cles.

Roberts cleaned up at the Franklin A&P Show last month with three of her horses. Bling won cham­pion novice sad­dle hunter, cham­pion novice paced and man­nered and was re­serve cham­pion in the over­all paced and man­nered class.

At Horse of the Year she will com­pete in two ris­ing star sad­dle hunter classes - one of which is a ti­tle class.

‘‘I don’t care if we come last, I just want to get down there...I still have in my head that it’s not hap­pen­ing, that I’m not good enough, but I need to get into the men­tal­ity that we’ve proven that we are good enough.’’

Af­ter the show, Roberts will prob­a­bly put her trea­sured mare on the mar­ket.

‘‘She’s worth too much for me to keep. If I was a mil­lion­aire I would never sell her.

‘‘What I hope in the fu­ture is that be­cause Bling is do­ing so well, that her brother Bro will start do­ing well. Be­cause he is a stal­lion, there will be his ser­vice fees and I might be able to move up in the world.’’

The horse truck that Ni­cole Roberts has called home for the past two years.

Ni­cole Roberts and her mare Vanillees Bling Bling will take on the big guns at Horse of the Year.

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