British show jumping legend Nick Skelton was born on 30 December 1957 and lives in Shrewley, Warwickshire.
He initially envisaged an equestrian career in the racing industry and had planned to join British jump-racing trainer David Nicholson as a teenager. However, Nick’s show jumping talent won out and he has since become one of the biggest names in the sport, with a remarkable record of success.
At 15, when visiting Ted Edgar’s yard with a difficult pony, Nick was offered a job there, beginning a 12-year stint under the watchful eye of one of the world’s leading show jumping trainers. An illustrious career followed in which he has amassed over £4 million in prize money and won over 1,500 classes.
He still holds the record for the British equestrian high jump, which he set in 1978 when he jumped a staggering 7’7” in London, beating the record set by Don Beard in 1937. He also has an Olympic team gold medal, seven European Championship medals, five World Championship medals and a World Cup title to his name.
Nick has represented Britain at six Olympic Games — seven if you include the ‘alternative Olympics’ in 1980 — and won team gold in London riding Beverley Widdowson’s Big Star. Nick was also favourite for an individual Olympic medal, until Big Star had a fence down in the final round — the only mistake the partnership made throughout the five rounds of jumping at London 2012.
Nick has won the Hickstead Derby three times, the King George V Cup four times and the Du Maurier in Calgary four times, which awards some of the highest prize money in show jumping history. A true horseman, no other rider has won so many major competitions on so many different horses.
A consistent string of top horses, including the famous Apollo and Dollar Girl, kept Nick in the spotlight and at the pinnacle of his profession for 27 years, in which he made 122 Nations Cup team appearances. However, in 2000 he suffered a near-fatal injury following a fall in Cheshire, in which he broke his neck in two places. With the upper half of his spine immobilised by a halo brace for five months, Nick was told by surgeons that another fall could prove fatal, and he was forced into early retirement.
However, it proved to be only a temporary break from competition. After consultation with a German specialist in 2002, he was given the all clear to start riding again, and fuelled by a fierce ambition to compete the legendary Arko III, he returned to the show jumping circuit immediately. The duo won major grands prixs all over the world, and competed at the Athens Olympics in 2004 before Arko’s retirement in 2008. Nick also rode at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 with Russel.
Nick has two sons, Daniel and Harry, who learnt to ride on the same pony as their father, the Welsh mountain pony Oxo. Oxo died at home aged 39. Daniel and Harry are now pursuing careers in racing.
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â€¢ 2008: Beijing Olympic Games
â€¢ 2004: Athens Olympic Games
â€¢ 2003: European Championships
â€¢ 1999: King George V Cup: 1st
â€¢ 1999: European Championships
â€¢ 1998: World Championships: Team Bronze medal
â€¢ 1996: Atlanta Olympic Games
â€¢ 1996: King George V Cup: 1st
â€¢ 1995: European Championships: Team Silver medal
â€¢ 1995: Volvo World Cup: 1st
â€¢ 1994: World Championships
â€¢ 1993: European Championships: Team Silver medal
â€¢ 1993: King George V Cup: 1st
â€¢ 1992: Barcelona Olympic Games
â€¢ 1991: European Championships: Team Silver medal
â€¢ 1990: World Championships: Team Bronze medal
â€¢ 1989: Hickstead Derby: 1st
â€¢ 1989: European Championships: Team Gold medal
â€¢ 1988: Hickstead Derby: 1st
â€¢ 1988: Seoul Olympic Games
â€¢ 1987: European Championships: Team Gold, individual bronze medals
â€¢ 1987: Hickstead Derby: 1st
â€¢ 1986: World Championships: Team Silver, individual Bronze medals
â€¢ 1985: European Championships: Team Gold medal
â€¢ 1984: King George V Cup: 1st
â€¢ 1982: World Championships: Team Bronze medal
â€¢ 1980: Rotterdam Olympic Games: Team Silver medal (Alternative Olympics)
â€¢ 1978 – 2004: Nations Cup Teams: contributing to some 58 team medals
Nick Skelton’s current top horses
â€¢ Transmission: 14 year old, bay gelding, owned by Mrs. B Widdowson
â€¢ Carlo: 8 year old, grey gelding, owned by Mrs. B Widdowson
â€¢ Nemo 119: 10 year old, dark bay gelding, owned by Mrs. B Widdowson