Community Spotlight: Dripping Springs
Anyone that knows Nicki Mathen, knows that she loves horses. Ever since she was a child, she cared for them, she trained them, and she rode them in competitions in the US and in Europe. Just five years ago, Mathen finally opened her own facility, Copper Hill, near Dripping Springs. After decades of working for other stables, she would finally get to run her own facility and do things her way.
In the summer of 2016, life was near perfect. Mathen ran a successful business. She had great clients. She had a loving boyfriend. But in an instant, her outlook on life changed.
“I was in the stable talking with the girls when I noticed a lump near my collarbone,” said Mathen. “At first I thought it was a cyst, but a month went by and it became larger. At a competition in Kentucky, a friend of mine who was a doctor knew it was a swollen lymph node.”
When Mathen got back to Austin, she went to the doctor where her worst fears were confirmed. She had cancer. Hodgkins lymphoma.
The chemotherapy was tough and intense. Luckily for Mathen, doctors used a new treatment strategy, and instead of 12 cycles of chemotherapy, she needed just two.
Weeks later, she was on the road competing at a show in California.
“I wasn’t going to miss that show. I had 11 stitches near my collarbone. It was painful, but once the swelling went down, I was fine. We did really well and finished 11th overall,” said Mathen.
Mathen’s cancer is in remission, but the entire experience has changed her outlook on life.
“I don’t let the small things bother me anymore,” said Mathen. “After cancer, I understood what was important to me. It’s cliché, but you have to live every day to the fullest.”
“Nicki is a fighter in every sense of the word,” said Elizabeth Steinour, a rider at Copper Hill. “She works with a lot of young female riders. During her battle with cancer, she was so honest about her experience. She showed that weakness was okay. She also showed young women that cancer doesn’t have to ruin your world.”
Mathen is back working full-time at Copper Hill and doing what she loves.
“I love growing and bonding with the animals. I love reading their body language. They are my teammates. This is also such a great sport for young riders. It teaches them responsibility and perseverance.”
About Copper Hill
Copper Hill is Austin’s leading Hunter & Jumper training facility. All boarders and riders make use of superior footing (indoor and outdoor), show-quality jumps, round pen workouts, and turnouts. Copper Hill has the only commercial Hunter & Jumping barn horse gym in Austin and offers first class travel in its 15-horse air-ride semi-hauler to and from shows.
Article by SportsXpress and photos by Shari Schmok @DrippingSpringsPhotography