Complete equitation is all things horse

Complete Equestrian founder and owner Nicole Rau works with two vaulters on Chunky Monkey, who is one of the program’s stars. Courtesy photo

Nicole Rau had a vision that would not be denied. Born in 1982, she spent her early years in a part of Denver not at all rural or affluent. But as her heart continued to pound to the sound of hoofbeats, she determined she’d someday create a non-profit to help all horse lovers gain ready access to them.

Expense and lack of parental involvement deny many horse-crazy youngsters fulfillment of their equine hopes. Rau, who spent the first nine years of her childhood in the inner-city, credits horses with setting her apart from peers who yielded to negative influences. She sought to help other children gain positive reinforcement through equestrian activities.

Autumn Morgentern vaults on Gwyneth, a 14-year-old Clydesdale mare. Courtesy photo

From ages 9-18, Rau was a liberty and trick rider with the Westernairres. At 13, she met two girls who boarded at her barn that were vaulters with Golden Gate Vaulters in Boulder, Colo. She so fell in love with the sport that while at Colorado State University she started their vaulting team.

Fast-forward to 2005. Rau had earned bachelor degrees in psychology and equine science. She bought an 11-plus-acre horse property on Douglas Road in Fort Collins, Colo. Christening her business Complete Equestrian, Rau filed the necessary paperwork for CE to become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It was time for her dream to come true.


The CE crew is now large, knowledgeable and dedicated. Rau is a certified vaulting instructor and equally skilled in teaching Western and English riding.

Her Assistant Director, Mattie Monson, is PATH certified and instructs therapeutic riding classes. There are four vaulting coaches and five riding instructors. All either carry an equine science degree or are well on their way to earning one.

Nicole Rau displays her appreciation to Dozer for a job well done at a vaulting session. Rau is founder and owner of Complete Equestrian in Fort Collins, Colo. Courtesy photo

Rau’s sons, Marshall, age 15 and 10-year-old Jackson have recently chosen other activities over vaulting but still ride and eagerly help mom with a myriad of chores.

To securely attach the synonym “Complete” to Equitation, the facility welcomes all people interested in learning about any and all things horse. Classes include English, Western, vaulting, summer camps, after school riding sessions, and therapeutic riding. Horse owners can choose to ride/vault on their own horses but most participants are horseless and so use CE’s mounts. In 2022, more than 600 students attended the popular programs.

Complete Equestrian’s activity schedule includes summer camps. Here, 2022’s campers get several thumbs-up from Coaches Mattie Monson and Briana Santora. Courtesy photo

“Something changes in their eyes the first time they stand on the back of a draft horse,” Rau affirmed.

She believes that vaulting is the best way to perfect emergency dismount skills and to fine-tune harmony with the horse. Rau acquired her initial vaulting expertise while with Golden Gate Vaulters. In fact, when that facility closed in 2014 she brought a special little horse to CE .

Not only was Chunky Monkey everyone’s favorite, the 12-hands high Hafflinger gelding came complete with his own fan club and T-shirts. Now in his 20’s, he is still in high demand, especially with small/young vaulters.

Complete Equestrian founder and owner Nicole Rau works with two vaulters on Chunky Monkey, who is one of the program’s stars. Courtesy photo

“He’s very reliable, trustworthy and patient. He gets along with everyone (horses and people),” Rau proclaimed in a tone combining delight with love.

Chunky probably doesn’t know just how special he really is. In 2017, he was given a lifetime achievement award for starting more Gold Level vaulters than any horse in the United States.

Vaulting horses must exhibit certain traits. Consistently good temperament is No. 1. They need to readily accept a variety of movements on their backs at multiple gaits and speeds.

Chunky Monkey is a veteran Hafflinger vaulting pony who has won many awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Courtesy photo


One of Rau’s original horses, a 16.2 hands high, 1,500 pound bay Belgian X Quarter Horse mare, is an attention glutton. Somewhat retired now, Fantasia’s repertoire nevertheless extends from vaulting to Level 1 dressage and jumping.

Actively engaged in CE’s programs (besides Chunky), or in-training, are Ranger, another Hafflinger, age 11; a Clydesdale mare, Gwyneth, age 14; 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Dozer; a 6-year-old Belgian mare called Honey; a 6-year-old Percheron X Thoroughbred named Black Jack. Any guesses what color he is?

Versatility is a must, too, so cross-training under saddle is required. This variety of skill sets keeps horses’ muscles, joints, ligaments and minds in excellent working order. All CE horses participate in all disciplines, including therapeutic riding.

There are no age restrictions for Complete Equestrian’s programs, as can be seen by the happy wave from this toddler training for vaulting. Courtesy photo

It generally takes up to several years to create a good vaulting horse. In competitive events, the horse, vaulter and lunger each receives a score.


Every February around Valentine’s Day, CE holds the Heart Beats Gala, its major fundraiser of the year. CE vaulters compete regionally and nationally. Travel is expensive; competition fees, costumes and sundries are also costly. To raise money, each club member solicits the gala event’s donations and auction items. Proceeds are dedicated to care of the horses and scholarships for students. Complete Equestrian’s Gala includes a vaulting demonstration for VIP ticket holders.

Everyone at Complete Equestrian is passionate about providing a fun, happy, welcoming and safe environment for horses and horse-loving students. If you are interested in joining them or gaining   more information about their programs (there are no age restrictions for participants), visit Complete Equestrian’s website at You may also call Nicole Rau at (970) 213-0759. Also, watch Facebook for activity updates. And, Chunky Monkey has his very own FB page at

CE owner Nicole Rau believes that vaulting is the best way to perfect emergency dismount skills and create harmony with the horse. This youngster practices fine-tuning both goals. Courtesy photo


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *