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Nicolle Begovic
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Dressage Dreams
Dressage Dreams

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #14


So here we are, bidding farewell to another fantastic Stoke City season with the clubs highest finish in the Premier League table yet. On reflection it has been a privilege and honour also to have had the opportunity to document and share my journey to become an International dressage rider. It has been a great experience and to conclude with my final column this season with the news that I have achieved that goal, making my International debut for Great Britain just a few weeks ago, is very special for me. 


My Dutch ‘Mission’ 

Jim Lovell, one of Nasa’s finest astronauts and most well known for being on the ill fated Apollo 13 mission (known as the “successful failure”) believes every mission has a glitch. This was realised as I was packing my horsebox in preparation for our imminent departure to Holland for an International show when I discovered my tack locker had a flat tyre. This may seem insignificant, but with immovable deadlines and the fact I am reliant on the tack trunk to move heavy tack and equipment, I needed this tyre to be functional. Of course this happened late in the day on a bank holiday Monday so solutions were limited. Thankfully after a dose of “tyre weld” (which I had never heard of until that day) and some ingenious rigging of the tyre, we were back on track and my groom and I could breathe a sigh of relief that we wouldn’t be having to carry heavy tack and equipment for miles and miles across the showground. However, little did I know, that 24 hours later this would pale in comparison to my ‘mission’s’ major glitch!

The evening before our early morning departure, I was packing the last few items into my horsebox ready to get home to see my family and finish my packing. With no warning, a huge explosion in the locker I was walking past nearly knocked me off my feet. A few long seconds later, still trying to gather my thoughts, I could hear sinister sounding ‘sizzling’ and an overwhelming smell of sulphur. I carefully opened the locker door to see the devastation caused by one of the lead-acid batteries exploding with shrapnel and battery acid everywhere- a dangerous situation I have since discovered. Thankfully no one was injured but this still meant I had a very serious situation to deal with late in the day. Swapping lorries was not an option with all legal paperwork required for my horsebox to travel with the horses filed with various organisations. Locating a willing mechanic on a Monday evening was a tall order which we were unsuccessful in. A few frantic phone calls later, Richard’s son Joe, who is an International show jumper for Great Britain, took on the role of ‘chief mechanic’ and went to work till late in the evening replacing my lead-acid batteries with gel ones from his truck. After a few safety checks, we were thankfully on our way the next morning as planned with Foxy and another horse Bubble happily munching away in the back completely oblivious to the drama that had unfolded the evening before. I have had this truck for over three years with no issues and have waited a lifetime to travel to my first International show, and it would be hours before we go that a glitch would threaten this mission!

After an incredibly long journey the next day, we pulled into the showground in Roosendaal, Holland and went to work getting the horses settled into their temporary homes for the week and unpacking all our equipment (the tack locker wheel worked a treat by the way). It seemed we Brits were keen to arrive with majority of the British contingent already in situ and was a great to see so many familiar faces which immediately calmed my nerves. 

The International show was an amazing experience for me personally. I must have experienced every emotion from nerves, trepidation and anxiety to elation, relief and pure joy at the occasion. The intensity of learning I experienced was almost overwhelming at times but it paid off with two good performances from Foxy and I. Sadly, it was not perfect with a few ‘rider’ errors that were costly in the final scores, but Richard was pleased and said I did a great job considering my inexperience at this level of competition. The first big show is always the hardest with emotions running high- next time I know I can easily improve on my scores with more settled nerves. 


Happy Holiday

Although the Premier League season will have wrapped for another season, our schedules will remain packed throughout the summer break. Not only does Asmir have an International qualifier for Euro 2016, my calendar is bursting at the seams with competitions to accommodate around family holidays. It is an opportunity for Asmir to attend and support me at my shows, which can be more difficult to fit in during the busy football schedule.

I have a one off event that Asmir will be my ‘manager’ for and that is when I am put through my paces, as a contender, with the original Gladiators from the 1990’s television show when they reunite for a one off appearance at Bolesworth International show. Even the famous referee John Anderson will be officiating proceedings with his super Scottish voice he is well known for. So if you fancy a good laugh and a great day out with the family it is running on the beautiful Bolesworth Estate in Cheshire on the 18th-21st of June and perhaps Asmir and I will see you there.

Wishing you all a wonderful summer break and here’s to a successful 2015/2016 season for Stoke City.


Nicolle x
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #13

The FA Cup Semi Final saw Aston Villa be victorious booking their ticket to the final in May, and lots of amusing jokes about Steven Gerrard’s revised birthday plans. It seems only yesterday that half of Wembley was adorned by sea of red and white with Stoke in the 2011 final. Where does the time go? The final stages of the FA Cup are always a gentle reminder that the Premier League season is drawing to a close for another year. The campaign for the FA Cup trophy begins as early as August as the Premier League season gets under way for the 2015/2016 season. At least not before Asmir and I get a chance to get away for a short break to enjoy some time off. 

Usually Asmir’s International commitments for Bosnia in the summer break can make finding time for a holiday a little challenging, but even more so when we are now factoring in my competition commitments. We have tried to sit down to make plans and this year, it seems that I will be the one complicating matters as my schedule is incredibly busy with shows through May and June. A silver lining is that Asmir can make a rare appearance at my shows, as his schedule doesn’t always allow for him to attend during the football season.

Viva Las Vegas

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro retained their World Cup title for the second year running, doing the double taking wins in both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle. This crucial result means Charlotte still maintains history as the only rider to hold the Olympic, World, European and World Cup titles, not to mention she also holds all three world cup records! It could be a very very long time indeed before we get to witness such an exceptional partnership between horse and rider. Valegro is no ordinary horse and in our equestrian community, he is our ‘Pelé’ and will be remembered for all eternity.

It’s a strange thought of world class Dressage, famous for its conservative and traditional appearance, taking place just a stones throw away from the famously bright, excessive and over the top Las Vegas strip. Is this really the ‘utopia’ for adults? It is only fair if the kids can have Disneyworld. One would think the two just wouldn’t compliment each other, but how wrong I was! Hosting the FEI World Cup Finals was the gargantuan Thomas & Mack Centre that usually houses avid college basketball fans. It was bursting at the seams as equestrian enthusiasts from all over the world descended to middle of the Nevada desert.  


A Hop, Skip and a Jump to Holland

If you are someone who dreads just thought of packing for yourself or the kids for that long awaited holiday, then you can only imagine what packing the ‘suitcase’ for a horse entails. The time has come for my imminent departure to Holland to take part in my first International competition representing Great Britain. As you can imagine this is a long awaited ‘dream come true’ that I couldn’t be more excited about (and not least forgetting a little trepidation which is normal). 

And so it begins, the Tetris style packing to ensure that every square centimetre is adequately occupied with essential gear. This includes heavy bags of feed, shavings bales and hay to ensure plentiful supply for the duration of the travel and show. Topped off with vital equipment such as tack, rugs, buckets, competition gear and stable equipment that has to be squeezed in. And not forgetting the space for the horses to travel in too. Then comes the ‘people packing’ of our clothes, equipment and food and eventually you can collapse with an exhausted sigh of relief that you have achieved your first challenge preparing for the competition and you haven’t even left the yard! The real work begins when you get to the show…….

I look forward to sharing my experiences of Holland and the trip with you next time!


Nicolle x
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #12

The American sports season is now in full swing and Asmir couldn’t be happier. The amount of sport taking over our television at home has been incredible, with the spring baseball season commencing in the States, the build up to the NBA basketball finals beginning. The continuous Masters coverage took over every phone, tablet and television Asmir had access to last weekend. I didn’t feel left out however, as this meant I had no excuse to avoid studying for my upcoming exam. For those of you that don’t know, I proudly hold an HGV license and as I may need to drive other rider’s horses as well as my own I have to hold the drivers Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) as well.  So I have spent many happy hours studying such fascinating subjects as the EU working time directive, various load-handling systems and transport heath and safety! Having done all this, I am planning to take the test to drive articulated vehicles (Yes, articulated horseboxes!). Perhaps I could join Lisa on Ice Road Truckers one day?!

This week sees the start of the FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas where Charlotte DuJardin and Valegro are set to defend their title. It has been exciting watching the qualification stages up to the finals and even enjoying the coverage of the horses’ journey over the pond to Las Vegas. Forty of the world’s top showjumping and dressage horses gathered in the early hours at Amsterdam airport before boarding a chartered cargo flight direct to Las Vegas. Many people often ask me how the horses move inter-continentally and they are usually quite surprised to hear they can take flights just as we do. They fly in pairs in a special stable crate and get loaded into the hold by the hydraulic lifts just as any other cargo. A team of grooms travels on the same flight, and has access to the horses throughout. 

Although I was due to attend this fantastic show, I made the decision to stay home and focus on my training for upcoming International shows, one of which will be my debut riding for Great Britain. I look forward to telling you more about this in my next column. 

On the note of good results, I was thrilled to have a first place at “Intermediate I” (the highest advanced test I have competed in to date) in a recent competition with Foxy. This gives me great optimism as we move ever closer to the top test level in dressage, Grand Prix. 

It was great as well to witness the passionate Stoke fans celebrate a well deserved point, on a rare away match trip for me to West Ham. Unable to control our sheer delight at the last second goal for Stoke, my family, friends and I threw our hands up in the air jumping and cheering in delight to suddenly feel the icy disapproving stares of the West Ham fans that were surrounding us bearing down on our group. Safe to say we made an immediate and swift exit to the safety of a hospitality box. It was a great feeling to see Stoke take a point home from London last Saturday.

Also in recent news, Asmir had a successful European qualifier against Andorra winning 3-0 securing their position in the top 3 of the table. These 3 points were vital as Bosnia got off to a slow start. The new manager with his own playing style has complimented the playing style of the team, and the future for Bosnia’s Euro 2016 campaign looks very brighter. 

Nicolle x
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #11

Wouldn’t be it great if Stoke make it three wins on the trot tonight against Everton? Stoke at home have always been a dominating force, even against some of the world’s best football teams. I think that is a valuable tool for mental preparation for both teams. I have always felt that Stoke emerge from the tunnel at the Britannia with a physical and psychological advantage, which is always noticed by everyone I bring to a game, leaving them feeling very ‘pumped’. It is hard to ignore the fantastic atmosphere that is synonymous with Stoke City’s loyal fans.  Long may it continue!


A Tale Of Two Goalkeepers

This Wednesday the 11th of March, here at the Britannia, the Tony Waddington suite will host a rare goalkeeping event aptly named ‘An Evening With Banks & Begovic’. It will be a fantastic opportunity for Asmir and the infamous Gordon Banks, to share with fans their lives as successful goalkeepers who have experienced the very top of the game, including World Cup’s. Asmir is truly flattered to be included in an event alongside Gordon, who he grew up within his sport admiring as one if his goalkeeping inspirations. Whilst writing this column, Asmir recalled the moment, when he was very young and living in Germany, of being told about Gordon Banks as his dad regaled the story of one of the finest goalkeepers in the sports history. So for Asmir, it is truly an honour to be able to share the stage with one of his idols. I am sure Asmir will have as many questions for Gordon as the audience in attendance does.

I can really relate to this experience for Asmir as I am in a similar situation. As many regular readers of my column will know, I am based and train full time with my mentor and trainer Richard Davison. He is one of Dressage’s most successful, influential and well-respected individuals. I have not only participated in Dressage, but have always been a huge fan of my sport and followed Richard and his horse’s successes with great interest. So to find myself now working with him on a daily basis is an amazing opportunity, and sometimes a surreal one, that I do not take for granted. During the first few years of first team football, Asmir used to remark about how unbelievable it was to come home, having played in a match against world famous players that he grew up watching as a boy, having now found himself on the same pitch as them. 

I believe that in sport when you find a mentor or coach you connect with, you become a sort of ‘heir’ to their priceless knowledge. The student develops into the platform for which to carry on their philosophies and invaluable wisdom gained through their mentors careers and experiences, that I hope to share someday, perhaps in the future, with a student of my own. I am sure the same can be said for Asmir who has had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented and successful goalkeeping coaches, one of note, his current coach, Andy Quy.

International Interest

Well I can’t believe that I have reached a point in my career where serious discussions have now begun regarding which International shows I will be attending this year. It is a momentous moment for not just myself, but for Asmir and my family who have been fantastic supporters throughout my life’s preoccupation with horses, along with my Olympic dreams! This is a far cry from when I rode my first low-level affiliated Dressage test just a few short years ago. Now I am preparing myself, and my horse Foxy, for our International debut. I can barely believe it and you can imagine it is a dream come true. I hope that this is the start of an exciting International career that I can take to the very top levels of our sport. The official paperwork has been filed and I will now officially represent Great Britain (que the ‘Rule Britannia’ chorus playing in my head!). It is an honour and privilege to represent my country, as Great Britain has produced some of the best horses and riders in the history of the sport.

I look forward to keeping you posted on my journey. Now Asmir and I are tasked with balancing life with two International athletes under one roof. Certainly will provide plenty of conversation and keep things fun and interesting.


Nicolle x
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #10

I am feeling very optimistic that spring must certainly be around the corner now we have passed the first half term of the year. I know Asmir and I, after a long winter of training outdoors in all weathers, are ready for some respite from the elements. I am sure that can be said of the fans who have braved the weather all winter to support their teams. 

Oscar Inspiration

I love the Oscars! One of my favourite television events of the year as throughout my childhood I was nurtured on great movies.  I was recently inspired by the film The Theory Of Everything, the biography of Professor Stephen Hawking’s struggle after his diagnosis at the young age of 21 with motor nurone diseases (or ALS- yes, that’s the one that everyone did the ice bucket challenge for last year to raise awareness). It was really sad and difficult to watch the physical and financial struggle, for such an academic of the highest caliber. Although Stephen’s diagnosis was bleak with only two years to live, he never gave up fighting. He has defied all odds and although his body may have all but given up, his mind was and still is to this very day brilliant. 

It was interesting to note that there wasn’t (and I believe still isn’t) the level of financial reward or recognition for such academically talented individuals, yet in today’s celebrity obsessed culture, people are reaping financial reward and fame without having any actual ‘talent’. I was glad to see Eddie Redmayne win the Oscar for best actor, as he was truly remarkable as Stephen Hawking. He gave us a glimpse into his life as he was before we knew of him, as he is today, wheelchair bound and mostly succumb to the physical effects of the disease.

It is always nice to lose yourself in a good movie, something Asmir and I look forward to when it has been a busy few days or weeks. With that being said- both Asmir and I joined the masses, as the worldwide movie phenomenon, Fifty Shades Of Grey, premiered after years of anticipation. I can admit that Asmir took very little persuasion to see the film as he actually suggested we see it. Having read the trilogy when it was all the rage and every woman everywhere had a Fifty Shades book firmly in her hand, intrigued by the infamous fictional character Christian Grey, I knew what to expect and Asmir had no idea! I can’t say this was of quite the caliber of The Theory If Everything but was worth seeing what all the hype was about. Interestingly enough, it was one of the few films that Asmir DIDN’T fall asleep in- I wonder why that was? ;-)


The Psychology Of Sport

This is a topic that dominates most conversations in the Begovic household. For years, Asmir and I have exchanged views and discussed opinions we hold with regards to our psychological approaches and beliefs with our respective sports. It is one of the fundamental foundations that run parallel to the talent either possessed or required for success in any sport. We are both very interested how our psychology can positively influence our athletic performance. I have worked with a sports psychologist for a few years now and found this to be an invaluable asset to my mental development for me in my sport. I believe that any success in any career is highly relative to ones mental approach. Here is one of my favourite quotes:

“Some people want it to happen, some people wish it would happen, others make it happen”- Michael Jordan

Although it is important to be consistent in my competitions and results, sometimes there are days where things just don’t go your way. Whether it was due to events in and around the competition environment that proved as unexpected challenges, being hampered by weather changes, behavioural changes in your horse and so on. Much of my work with the psychologist is learning to use these adverse conditions and mistakes as a result to my benefit. A recent outing presented me with many unforeseen challenges that at the time were frustrating, however on reflection, were incredibly valuable to me from an educational point of view. It is with these mistakes, that we learn the most and I have learnt not to be afraid of making mistakes. As a goalkeeper, Asmir admits much of their learning, especially from a young age, is from making mistakes. However the key to becoming a great goalkeeper, is learning from them and not making the same mistake twice. 

Competition for Asmir has not been limited to the turf this month, proving to be a popular contestant with his recent fourth appearance on A Question of Sport. His current record stands at 1-2, so he will be happy to even the record. You will have to tune in to see if he manages it this time. I heard that even Dressage made it into the famous sports quiz show and proud that my husband got that question right straight away- I would have been bitterly disappointed if he hadn’t! Here’s to three points today with a busy week ahead as Stoke welcomes Everton next week for a late night battle on Wednesday.


Nicolle x
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #10
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #9

Trying to focus on writing this column, whilst watching the battle between Newcastle and Stoke play out on the television in front of me, is certainly a challenge. I am so relived that Crouch snatched a point to draw in the dying minutes of the game with his trademark header. Newcastle is always a long way to go and not get a point- so all in all a good result.

On the note of good results, Asmir was thrilled to watch the New England Patriots win the Superbowl. He stayed up through the night till the very end on the edge of his seat to witness one of the greatest games NFL fans will have ever seen. Both teams were incredible but Asmir’s team were the victors with Tom Brady being declared the MVP (most valuable player) which is such an honour.

Strictly Come Dressage…

The time has arrived in training where we have turned out attention to designing and creating a freestyle for this competition year. This process is so involved and somewhat complicated which one would never necessarily expect or know about when you see the final polished performance in the competition arena.  The critical point in this process is designing the floor plan that has technical difficulty but is ride-able to ensure maximum marks can be gained from the judges. Choosing music to compliment the horse and rider combination is the final step and is crucial as the right or wrong music can affect the perception of what the judge sees and interprets- too heavy and loud and it can make a horse look flat and heavy, too soft and light and can detract from the presence of a very powerful moving horse. This process is no doubt similar for figure skaters and gymnasts. We work tirelessly on perfecting our freestyles, as it is an opportunity to showcase and play on our horse’s strengths and gain some our highest percentages.

The long winter months can stifle the enthusiasm of even the most positive and dedicated of people and athletes, but I have found the key to this is in fitness work. Although I can ride three or more horses a day, this isn’t enough to rely on for fitness. It is important I push myself out of my comfort zone. So I can’t recommend enough getting on those trainers and getting active. Summer can’t be far now…so I hope!



Bosnian ‘brothers’

Tonight, Asmir will be re-united on the pitch with Bosnian teammate and friend, Edin Dzeko. Usually, Asmir would be watching Edin at the other end of the pitch netting the goals for Bosnia, but against Man City, Asmir will be coming face to face with Edin’s attempts on goal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re best friends or even family, when you play against them on the pitch, you always play to win. Asmir and Edin will meet again in March for the next International break where Bosnia will play away to both Andorra and Austria as they continue their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Here’s to a great result tonight. Now the transfer window has closed for the last time this season, we can now focus on Stoke hopefully achieving their highest finish in the table yet. I am feeling very positive and optimistic about that with such a strong and talented team going forward.


Nicolle x
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #8

It is great to be back writing my column after a short break over the Christmas period. I cannot believe that we are at the end of January already. The way the fixtures have fallen so far has meant that it has been a relatively quiet start to the New Year at the Britannia, with only Wrexham gracing the pitch for Stoke’s winning FA Cup home fixture. Since then, Stoke have advanced ever closer to Wembley Stadium with this weeks win against Rochdale.

My competition year started with great success at Addington High Profile show a few weeks ago. The freezing weather conditions and threat of snow couldn’t stop us hardcore ‘Dressage Diva’s’ from strutting our stuff. I knew it was really cold when I was rudely awoken at 3am by the subzero temperature in my truck and I swear there was even ice on the inside of my windows. Clearly I hadn’t travelled enough in these colder conditions when I admitted, to an astounded audience, that I in fact did not own an essential piece of equipment, a heated blanket! I now have my very own safely stowed away for next time. I am feeling really positive and excited about the upcoming year.

 

THE ‘CHRONIC’ NEW YEARS RESOLUTION…

Speaking of the end of January- how are everyone’s New Years resolutions going? It is inevitable that we all set out with great determination to succeed with our resolutions and if you are still going strong- good work! Like many, I ditched the chocolate and treats and my wine glass has been sat empty having been denied its preferred Pinot Noir. All in favour of the gym partnered with a healthy and ‘clean’ diet.

In preparation for this year’s competition season, it is important that the focus on fitness and health is not exclusively applied to our horses, which we treat as top athletes, but to also ourselves as riders. Therefore I have embarked on improving my fitness and diet and I have to say that I am already feeling the benefits and have wondered why I didn’t come to this revelation sooner? It is a careful balance between training, preparation and management out of the saddle, which is predominantly where most of the work is done.

This same methodology is what is practiced by footballers; with the majority of time being spent perfecting their bodies for their careers and honing their skills in daily training. The actual game time is but a fraction of the work and dedication that they put into their careers.

With the Premier League season continuing through the colder months of winter, the opportunity of a warm weather training break is always welcome. Stoke recently returned from a week in Dubai where they were able to take some respite from the bitterly cold weather that has grasped the UK and enjoyed time training together in the sun with a chance for some team bonding. Asmir commented to me that the trip was great as everyone returned feeling refreshed, recharged and positive, ready to build on what has been a strong start to Stoke’s season so far. So as I always say, the parallels between horses and footballers are similar indeed.

 
SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

It is one of the world’s biggest sporting events, famous not just for the American football, but for its half-time shows usually with a dose of celebrity controversy mixed in. For advertisers, this is some of the most expensive television time I the world with a thirty-second advert slot costing over four million dollars. For the fellow horse (and beer lovers of course), we wait with baited breath each year to see what advertising delight Budweiser will produce with their famous Clydesdale horses that always bring people to tears with their endearing plot lines.

Asmir will of course be cheering for his team of choice, the New England Patriots, who have made over eight appearances in the final and won the prestigious trophy three times. Not only is Asmir a huge fan of the Patriots but also one of his most admired athletes is their star quarterback, Tom Brady. Maybe it is the similarities in their respective roles of on the field that Asmir can relate to Brady- or is it because they look very alike? I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.

‘REAL HOUSEWIVES’ HAS ARRIVED….

The famous reality franchise has arrived all the way from America and has debuted in the UK. What a treat it is to see another Stoke City wife adorning our television screens. Tanya Bardsley is fast becoming the star of the reality show Real Housewives Of Cheshire, showcasing the luxuries that Cheshire has to offer its residents. Tanya is proving to be one of the most liked and popular on the show with the viewing audience, which comes as no surprise as she’s incredibly down to earth and very funny.

Go #TeamTanya!

 
Till next time…

 
Nicolle x
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #7

Wouldn’t it be great to see in Christmas with three points today?! The sound of sleigh bells and Christmas songs are everywhere I go and that means they are ever playing on repeat in my head. Having grown up in a traditional small town in Tennessee, Christmas was a very big deal taken very seriously. There wasn’t a space in town that hadn’t been adorned with fairy lights, fresh greenery wrapped in beautiful red velvet ribbon, or some kind of Christmas ornament. To top off the quintessential Christmas look was the six feet of perfect powdery white snow that fell on schedule every winter. Thinking back, it really was a beautiful way to enjoy Christmas. I think I might be asking a bit much to wish for a white Christmas here, for not only is it inconvenient but also would be likely to threaten the busy and hectic football calendar over the festive break.

Christmas Cheer

It is always an interesting time of year for Asmir and I as we both find Christmas to be the busiest for us in our careers, whereas most people look forward to a welcome break, with their feet up enjoying the company of their families and friends. It is something that we have adapted to over the years and have found a happy balance with our training and schedules. For both Asmir and I, our daily training continues as normal over this period as the games come thick and fast for the players, and also the horses need to be kept fit and in training for the imminent 2015 competition season.

We have found the best way to balance a traditional Christmas celebration in our family is to have our family Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, which is always beautiful being lit by candlelight. We are up early the next morning with our daughter to watch her delight at seeing Santa’s overnight delivery sitting at the base of the tree, where after presents, we enjoy a brunch with all the left-overs before seeing Asmir off to training for the Boxing Day game. At this point, overfilled with turkey and all things yummy but bad for us, we collapse on the sofa, no doubt like everyone else is, to enjoy the television delights for the rest of the evening.

Whilst Asmir prepares for the game at the team hotel, early that morning you will find me at the yard mucking out and helping with the horses. It always surprises some people when they realise that we still have to look after the horses as normal on Christmas and Boxing day, but sadly horses have not yet learned to look after themselves and as far as they are concerned, it is just as normal a day as any other.

With the Boxing Day game only a few clicks north on the M6 at Goodison Park, it will be a popular game to attend for the families of the players and Stoke fans alike. No sooner will the final whistle blow, that the team will be steaming back down the motorway to prepare for West Brom at home a few days later bringing the 2014 football season to a close.

Dressage Dreams

It has been an incredible few weeks (and years for the matter) for Dressage’s greatest and most successful competitor and ambassador, as Charlotte DuJardin, was fourth in line for the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year award. It has been a whirlwind few years for Charlotte and my beloved sport of Dressage as it has danced its way onto our screens and around the world. A few years ago it wasn’t a sport you would see on mainstream television, but thanks to Charlotte and her dancing partner Valegro with their incredible achievements, it is now starting to appear amongst some of the largest and most long-standing sports. It was incredible to watch Dressage be profiled alongside such great and historic sporting events that regularly adorn the front of the sports pages.

Charlotte, earlier this week, will have attempted to break two of her three World Record’s when she competed at Olympia International Horse show in London. I can’t wait to tell you all how she got on as Asmir and I will have been there for our annual visit with our family and friends to kick off our Christmas celebrations.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Christmas full of joy, laughter and happiness!

Nicolle x

#Dressage #Dreams #Horse #Begovic #Stoke #Bosnia #Football #Goalkeeper #PremierLeague #Christmas   #Festive  
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #6

Wouldn’t it be great to see in Christmas with three points today?! The sound of sleigh bells and Christmas songs are everywhere I go and that means they are ever playing on repeat in my head. Having grown up in a traditional small town in Tennessee, Christmas was a very big deal taken very seriously. There wasn’t a space in town that hadn’t been adorned with fairy lights, fresh greenery wrapped in beautiful red velvet ribbon, or some kind of Christmas ornament. To top off the quintessential Christmas look was the six feet of perfect powdery white snow that fell on schedule every winter. Thinking back, it really was a beautiful way to enjoy Christmas. I think I might be asking a bit much to wish for a white Christmas here, for not only is it inconvenient but also would be likely to threaten the busy and hectic football calendar over the festive break.


Christmas Cheer

It is always an interesting time of year for Asmir and I as we both find Christmas to be the busiest for us in our careers, whereas most people look forward to a welcome break, with their feet up enjoying the company of their families and friends. It is something that we have adapted to over the years and have found a happy balance with our training and schedules. For both Asmir and I, our daily training continues as normal over this period as the games come thick and fast for the players, and also the horses need to be kept fit and in training for the imminent 2015 competition season. 

We have found the best way to balance a traditional Christmas celebration in our family is to have our family Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, which is always beautiful being lit by candlelight. We are up early the next morning with our daughter to watch her delight at seeing Santa’s overnight delivery sitting at the base of the tree, where after presents, we enjoy a brunch with all the left-overs before seeing Asmir off to training for the Boxing Day game. At this point, overfilled with turkey and all things yummy but bad for us, we collapse on the sofa, no doubt like everyone else is, to enjoy the television delights for the rest of the evening. 

Whilst Asmir prepares for the game at the team hotel, early that morning you will find me at the yard mucking out and helping with the horses. It always surprises some people when they realise that we still have to look after the horses as normal on Christmas and Boxing day, but sadly horses have not yet learned to look after themselves and as far as they are concerned, it is just as normal a day as any other. 

With the Boxing Day game only a few clicks north on the M6 at Goodison Park, it will be a popular game to attend for the families of the players and Stoke fans alike. No sooner will the final whistle blow, that the team will be steaming back down the motorway to prepare for West Brom at home a few days later bringing the 2014 football season to a close.


Dressage Dreams

It has been an incredible few weeks (and years for the matter) for Dressage’s greatest and most successful competitor and ambassador, as Charlotte DuJardin, was fourth in line for the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year award. It has been a whirlwind few years for Charlotte and my beloved sport of Dressage as it has danced its way onto our screens and around the world. A few years ago it wasn’t a sport you would see on mainstream television, but thanks to Charlotte and her dancing partner Valegro with their incredible achievements, it is now starting to appear amongst some of the largest and most long-standing sports. It was incredible to watch Dressage be profiled alongside such great and historic sporting events that regularly adorn the front of the sports pages. 

Charlotte, earlier this week, will have attempted to break two of her three World Record’s when she competed at Olympia International Horse show in London. I can’t wait to tell you all how she got on as Asmir and I will have been there for our annual visit with our family and friends to kick off our Christmas celebrations.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Christmas full of joy, laughter and happiness!

Nicolle x

#Dressage #Dreams #Horse #Begovic #Stoke #Bosnia #Football #Goalkeeper #PremierLeague #Christmas   #Festive  
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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime- #6
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