In this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (12 October 2017), read an exclusive extract from Nick Skelton’s new autobiography Gold, which hits the shelves on 19 October. Here Nick reveals his five favourite horses of all time
None of the medals and accolades bestowed upon Nick would have been possible without the team around him and his gallant, talented and obliging equine partners.
1. Big Star
“He’s the ultimate horse and without doubt the best I’ve ever ridden. He was only five when I got him but you could see he had all the attributes then and the older he got, the more they became apparent.
“The final three rounds he jumped in Rio were as good as he’s ever jumped — and he gave me a similar feeling when he won the Aachen grand prix in 2013, and the German championship [Warsteiner Prize] there in 2012, too. He never jumped a bad round and you can probably count on two hands the number of fences he’s had down in eight years of competition.
“When you walked the course, you didn’t worry about anything with Big Star — as long as you were within the vicinity of the jump when you rode it, it didn’t matter if you were a foot long or a foot deep. You just never contemplated having a jump down. The feeling on him was just totally amazing.”
2. Top Gun
“He had the same qualities as Big Star — all the scope, he was careful and he had the rideability. He didn’t have the best style in the world — he went along with his head up in the air a bit — but saying that, when he left me he was jumping in a really good style.
“But I think he reverted back again to his old ways with Jan Tops riding him. I knew how good he was, so I was so sad to lose that horse. I tried everything I could to keep him from being sold, but unfortunately he had to be. He went on to win an Olympic gold medal as well.”
3. Arko III
“Arko was such a beautiful, classic style of jumper. His rideability was perhaps lacking — he wasn’t the easiest horse because he was a little bit mouthy — but he was very careful and extremely brave.
“Again, as with Big Star, you never worried much about what tracks they built when you went to shows — he could jump anything.
“I suppose there are some ‘what ifs’ with him, like at the Athens Olympics [when the pair were in the gold medal position going in to the final round yet finished 11th], but I would put that down to a little bit of inexperience.”
4. Dollar Girl
“She was the absolute stable favourite. She was very intelligent. You walked into the stable in the morning and she had her head over the box looking for you. She had all the ability, but you had to make her do it. You had to ride her a little bit aggressively. But again she won a lot — the World Cup final in 1995, Calgary, St Gallen… so many grands prix. I think she’d be as competitive in today’s sport. In fact, I think all these horses would be equally competitive now as they were back then.”
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5. St James
“He was careful, competitive and quick. You wouldn’t think he had all the scope, but he always managed to do it — you never went to a place where he couldn’t jump it. He even won in Calgary, and two years on the trot at Olympia he took the grand prix and the World Cup qualifier. That ability came from wanting to do it; when he went in the ring, like all these horses, he just had that desire to compete. They were all fighters.”