Andrew Nicholson is setting equestrian standard

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013
Andrew Nicholson
Reuters
WORLD CLASS: Andrew Nicholson in action at the London Olympics.

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It's not just Andrew Nicholson's talents as a rider that have seen him recognised as the world's top eventer for the third time.

Nicholson's keen eye for promising young horses and his ability to train his charges mean the 52-year-old from Te Awamutu is poised to keep setting the standards for his younger rivals to chase.

Along with the world's No 1 spot for 2013, Nicholson stood at the top of the British eventing standings for the 15th time in an illustrious career, and his horse, Nereo, was crowned best eventing horse for the year by the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses.

"It's been a lovely year, very consistent and that's what it's all about - trying to keep your consistency and hitting a winning streak," Nicholson told the Waikato Times on a brief trip home from his English base this week.

"I didn't want to finish the year last year, because I'd won Burghley then winning Boekelo and then Pau, with two of them being four-star events - I was quite happy to carry on but there was nowhere else to go.

"So when my horses came back in at the start of this year I knew they were all very good horses that had won some big events, so I thought if I could just start off like I finished the last year then I should be in for a pretty good year, and it pretty much went like that."

Nicholson is quick to pay credit to a string of quality mounts he has at his disposal - along with Nereo, he has had success on Mr Cruise Control, Avebury, Calico Joe, Viscount George and Quimbo.

"You very much rely on the horse,' he said.

"To win, you need very very good horses - it's quite easy to take part in the big events but to be able to win them they have to be very well trained and very good horses, and that's what I'm lucky to have at the moment."

But what many may not know is that Nicholson has overseen his own production line of world-class eventers.

"All my top horses I've got I've started at the bottom level myself, and all but one of them I've sold to the owners.

"I normally buy them as three-year-olds and then I start producing them. When my owners want a new horse I head them in the direction of one of my younger ones.

"They know that I'm thinking of the future and want them to buy a very good one if I'm going to ride it.

"I take the risk with them, in that if they don't shape up I find a job that is suitable for them and maybe take a loss on what I've paid for them. My owners appreciate that, they put a lot of trust in me and enjoy me out competing on their horses."

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On the day he flew out to New Zealand, Nicholson oversaw the arrival of three three-year-olds from Spain, where he buys most of his horses from.

Nicholson's still an outstanding rider too, despite his advancing years.

"The knowledge I've got sort of makes up for my age and my reactions, which are probably not as sharp as what they used to be," he said.

"My balance isn't probably what it used to be either, but the experience I've gained can make up for that, and being able to read the game play very very quickly makes me feel I should be able to carry on for quite a few more years."

He knows that there's a crop of top young riders nipping at his heels, including a group of New Zealanders headed by Jock Paget, who won at Burghley and Badminton this year before a positive drug test on his mount Clifton Promise put his Burghley victory in doubt.

"It's been a very good year for the new talents," Nicholson said.

"Having Jock has helped the younger ones, like Tim Price and Lizzie Brown who both won big competitions in the second half of the year.

"Jock winning just showed them that the younger ones can step up to the plate. It's all very well Mark and myself doing it, but we've been doing it for a very long time, so when Jock comes along and wins Badminton it gives the others hope and switches them on to want to win something themselves."

Nicholson has his eye on a medal at the World Games next year, and the other on what would be his eighth Olympic Games, at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

"I'm very much focused on that - I'm definitely thinking about that already."

- Fairfax Media

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