THEY say that every little girl dreams of owning a pony.
For most, those dreams are outgrown – ponies become Barbies, become iPhones, become boys.
But there are a few, and only a few, who will steadfastly maintain that equestrian bond all their life.
Undaunted by half a tonne of muscle, by the early morning feeds and the late night ruggings, the hours of training and the thousands spent, Nichola Payne is one such rider.
Coming off the back of her crowning achievement thus far, competing at the Melbourne International Horse Trials as a Junior One Star rider, Nichola would be forgiven if she was looking forward to a relaxing winter in front of the fire.
“In the eventing world, it’s a big deal to be able to compete at Melbourne – it’s an international event and something I have always wanted to do,” she said.