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The Founders Society Spotlight: Nikko Ritter, 2007
Class 1 - FY2011-2012
Class 2 - FY2014-2015
As a high school student, Nikko Ritter was one of a handful of male athletes to compete at the elite junior level for equestrian sports. These days, he is part of a small group of up-and-coming young riders that are building upon their successes at the junior level to make a name for themselves in professional riding circles. And, as a Crooms Academy of Information Technology Class of 2007 graduate, Ritter is our school's first professional athlete. And, now is a member of the Crooms AoIT Alumni Association's The Founders Society.
Ritter's path in life has been different than that of most students who walk through the door at Crooms AoIT. During his youth, he was a world class equestrian and traveled across the country regularly for competition. His family is no stranger to the competition road either: his mother, Wendy Ritter-Peralta, is a well-known trainer in Florida and is actively involved in the equestrian community, while his step-father, Ezequiel Peralta, is a distinguished Argentinean rider and jumper. "I started riding at a very young age. Horses have always been a part of my life," Ritter explains, "High school was the apex of my competition career since I was really bred for competition at the junior level." In that sense, Ritter's reasoning for choosing to attend Crooms is also unique, "I chose to attend Crooms in part because of Blackboard and the online curriculum that could make schooling easier while traveling. Another factor was that a technology-based educational background could also serve as a back-up career in case riding did not pan out."
Crooms AoIT was a positive experience for Ritter. He enjoyed the technology classes, was a member of some of the sports teams, and was involved in extracurricular activities. Yet, many of his high school successes occurred outside the confines of Crooms. In 2005, Ritter was featured on Animal Planet's Horse Power – The Road to Maclay. The ASPCA Maclay National Championship is considered a "proving ground of champions" and features many young riders who eventually become the sport's professionals. Prior to the airing of the show, Ritter broke into the national spotlight by winning the 2004 Southeast Regional Maclay competition and placing in the top 15 at ASPCA Maclay National Championship. He followed that up in 2005 by winning the $25,000 Calvin Klein Show Jumping Derby at the 30th annual Hampton Classic Horse Show. What made his Calvin Klein Show win even more impressive was that he did so on his first time riding this particular horse – Qroqant Z – in competition after finishing in the middle of the pack during qualifying.
The Road to Maclay series did foreshadow Ritter's future successes. "I went to all the different national competitions and placed in all of them," he proudly proclaims. As the show was airing, Ritter won the 2006 ASPCA Maclay Region 3 Qualifier and ended up placing in the top 10 at the 2006 ASPCA Maclay National Championship. His crowning achievement as a junior rider came months after graduating Crooms AOIT when he won the 2007 USEF Talent Search Finals East.
After graduating, Ritter decided to forgo college to pursue his professional career as a rider. "Forgoing higher education is not an unusual occurrence at the level of competition I'm at. Some individuals go to school part-time to obtain a business degree, but riding is their focus," he explains. Upon turning 18, he entered the professional level and found a sponsorship with Staysail Farm LLC. At Staysail Farm, Ritter helps train the horses and prepare them for competition along with being a rider. In the off-season, he also assists his parents in Geneva, Florida with Seabreeze Farm.
Making the transition from the junior to the professional level isn't always easy. "It's definitely been a change. I'm paying my dues," Ritter says with a hint of dismay, "Mainly, it has been a lifestyle change; adapting to once being at the top of my competition group to now having to compete in a different class and work my way up. Thankfully, the individuals I work for at Staysail are some of the best at what they do in the country." Indeed, Staysail Farm has farms in both upstate New York and Wellington, Florida and is managed by an individual well known in the equestrian community, particularly for their involvement with the United States Equestrian Team Foundation. And, his mentor is none other than two-time Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward.
Beyond riding and training, Ritter is also involved in the equestrian community. He sits on the board of various horse shows. These boards consist of riders, professionals, and attendees who help oversee the planning and execution of the horse shows. As a member of the North American Riders Group, he works with other top-tier riders to lobby parent organizations such as the United States Equestrian Federation, US Hunter-Jumper Association, and Fédération Equestre Internationale for various changes to the sport. And, if that isn't enough, he is also recognized as a certified trainer by the United States Hunter/Jumper Association (USHJA) and is involved in local 4-H clubs.
The future is bright for Nikko Ritter. In the next couple of years he plans to open his own breeding business. His professional riding career is also heating up too. When asked about how long he plans to continue competing, Ritter replied, "The nice this about this sport is you can keep on competing professionally no matter what age. Just stay on the horse, ride nicely, win, and you're good to go.”
Question and Answer:
- What role does technology play in your profession?
Horse breeding and showing might be a centuries old sport, but we used pretty advanced technologies. All of the shows have Horseshow Management Systems in place to randomize competition and monitor conditions. All of our competitions are recorded and simulcasted on the Internet and archived for future viewing. And, when it comes to the horses, basically everything has an aspect of technology to it, particularly when it comes to medical technologies. We use infrared lasers, shockwave machines, magnetic blankets, and basically any other cutting-edge technology we can get our hands on to ensure our horses are healthy and at optimal condition come show time. Even the equipment used for riding, such as the saddles and shoes, is continually being improved upon to provide for better performance.
- Do you see technology being used to raise the awareness of equestrian sports?
Sure, all of our major competitions are simulcast on the Internet through various venues. Social media is being used the various governing organizations to raise their profile and communicate with fans. But, the biggest arena that has been impact by technology is buying and selling. It used to be that one would have to actually visit with event sponsors and request reams of film to judge horses that might be worthy of purchase. These days, sites like www.shownet.biz allow exhibitors and organizers to share and archive footage online for others to judge a rider's or horse's performance.
- Any other extracurriculars or side projects?
As a hobby I show my car. With my old car, I was sponsored by Unitronic. Recently, I upgraded to an Audi S4 and it is currently undergoing R&D work with RAI Motorsport. RAI is acting as a hardware sponsor and we are looking to make this S4 the first one in the United States to get a turbo put on it; hopefully all of the work will be done by April. If everything goes according to plan, it will be the fastest Audi S4 in the country. It's really a great relationship I have with these sponsors: my automobile gets cheaper upgrades while the companies are able to develop and test technologies that they can later mass market.
- What is the end goal for you?
Well, it is to win the world championship, the Pan-American competition, or compete in the Olympic Games. When you get to this level of riding, I think everyone has a goal of winning some competition along those lines.
- Why did you decide to join The Founders Society?
I felt I am in a position to be able to help, and I felt Crooms AoIT's biggest weakness has been it is underfunded, as are most educational institutions. Our school's population isn't necessarily the wealthiest, but we have continually been able to perform at a high caliber and have some of the greatest successes in one the best counties for education in Florida. So, finally being a position that allowed me to help address this weakness, I decided I would.
- Any other parting thoughts you would like to share?
I hope others will decide to join The Founders Society, or at least contribute their time or money, in order to help our alma mater continue to develop and improve during these continual budget cuts.
Updated: March 11, 2012
The Founders Society was established in 2011 to recognize the Crooms AoIT Alumni Association's most generous benefactors. These individuals, couples, or companies have made significant one-time contributions during our capital fundraising periods for the advancement of Crooms AoIT. Society members are sending a message that philanthropic support of Crooms AoIT and the current student body is vital to our alma mater's future success. Their financial support is changing lives and helps promote a culture of community support and involvement. To learn more about The Founders Society visit www.croomsalumni.com/about/founders.