Nicole Webster works alongside Dr. Justin Ritthaler at Weatherford Equine Breeding Center (WEBC), an SBS Affiliate Lab, in Weatherford, Texas. Due to her father’s military service her family had an opportunity to live in California and Germany as well as many places in between. All of the moving around didn’t allow her to have horses while she was growing up. However, her parents did all they could to support her interest in horses.
When she was younger she would spend time taking riding lessons at the stables on the military base, attend summer riding camps and help lead trail rides. Her parents also took her to every equestrian performance they could, including the Lipizzaner Stallions and the Budweiser Clydesdales, while living in North Carolina. Nicole said, “I cannot thank my parents enough for all the pony rides they took me to and hours they spent driving me to the riding stables at Fort Bragg, NC. Not to mention all the muddy boots and dirty clothes I tracked through their vehicles in the process.”
Growing up in the city Nicole thought the only way you could earn a living in the horse industry was to be a veterinarian. It wasn’t until she attended Colorado State University (CSU) that she became interested in the science of equine reproduction. While at CSU she not only served in the US Army Reserves but also spent time at the Equine Reproduction Lab where they were working on the process of harvesting and freezing epididymal sperm and worked with a company on the process of sexing equine spermatozoa. For more information on freezing epididymal sperm please visit our article, Harvesting and Freezing of Equine Epididymal Sperm.
After graduating with her degree in Equine Sciences from CSU in 2003 she had an opportunity to assist with several research projects during her five years of employment at the University of California Davis (UC Davis) as the Equine Facilities Supervisor. These projects introduced her to the process of flow cytometry and allowed her to learn more about cryoprotective agents in extenders. These projects further peaked her interest in sperm cells and how they handle the freezing process.
“Horses are honest. I haven’t met too many that would lie to you and it seems that I can understand the actions of a horse more than I can understand the actions of people. I specifically enjoy working in the field of reproduction because I get to watch God make miracles every day. The foals are precious and it’s amazing to observe sperm cells moving on a slide on the microscope. A single cell with a mission!”
Nicole didn’t get the opportunity to own a horse until her husband, Gabe, gave one to her while they were dating. They have now been married for nearly 15 years, have a 12-year-old son named Isaac and own several cutting horses. She currently competes in the National Cutting Horse Associations amateur classes but they also use their horses for ranch work including branding, weaning and shipping calves. When Nicole isn’t working she enjoys riding her cutting horses, gardening, cooking and serving at her church. She said, “I firmly believe that food fosters fellowship.”
Nicole has been and continues to be very active in the equine industry. She is currently a member of the AQHA’s equine research committee, was the Special Sections Editor for The Quarter Horse News and a free-lance writer for that publication as well as the NCHA’s The Chatter magazine. Nicole went on to say, “I feel very blessed that I get to work and live with horses each day. As a little girl I dreamed of owning a horse. The fact that I am able to fully immerse myself in an equestrian occupation and lifestyle, more importantly one that I can share with all members of my family, is truly a gift from God.” Whether she is in the lab or the cutting pen you can be sure Nicole is ecstatic to be spending her life with horses.
Photos provided by Nicole Webster