One of the world’s greatest eventers has announced he’s calling time on competing at 5* events. A former world no.1, Andrew Nicholson’s impressive career spans decades and includes team gold, silver and bronze medals and an individual bronze from six Olympic Games and seven World Equestrian Games.
He has won nine 5* crowns – his first in 1995 at Burghley on Buckley Promise, and his last at Badminton in 2017 aboard Nereo. He is widely recognised for his superb horsemanship and ability to read a cross country course.
In 2015 he had a near-career ending fall at Gatcombe but miraculously came back to win Badminton just two years later, for what became his last 5* victory.
In an interview with Rupert Bell at the Blenheim Palace International Horse trials, the five-time Burghley winner said “wait and see” when asked whether the British public would see him back out at Badminton and Burghley.
“I wouldn’t think so. That is why Oliver Townend is riding my best horse her – Swallow Springs,” said Andrew who had already qualified the horse for Badminton. “I suggested to the owner that we put Oliver on.”
He was hopeful Oliver would qualify and then if Andrew didn’t feel “up to speed next year” the horse would run regardless.
While he is possibly stepping back from the “big” stuff, he will still be competing in the lower levels. He has a plenty of novice horses and the idea is to get them 2*-3* level before selling them. “So I am still riding a lot and competing,” he says.
“To be at the very top of things, like Badminton and Burghley – I have a lot of respect for the courses there and you’ve got to be fully up to speed and I don’t feel like I used to, to be honest. The mind tells me to do this and it takes that little bit longer.”
But he was quick to assure Rupert he would still be at the events. “I just might not be leaving the start box!”
Sixty-year-old Andrew is currently the cross country coach for the Swiss eventing team. “I am really enjoying with them all . . . they are a nice bunch of people,” he says. “When you are busy riding full time you don’t really have a lot of time for teaching. The more I have started to do it the more I have enjoyed it. Working with very good ones – it is very easy. It is a pleasure really.
“When you are busy riding horses all day at home and then you rush off to an event, ride five then go to the next one, it is hard to get off that merry go round,” says Andrew. “But I have gotten older, I have cut down on horses and I was asked about doing the Swiss job. To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about it but I said yes and I got quite into it, so I have cut right back on the riding and doing more of it. It is good, dealing with very experienced riders is easy. I have no idea how you teach young or inexperienced riders or amateur type people. It is a different art all together – what I am doing is very enjoyable.”
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ