‘A genius in the saddle’: 11 moving tributes to Nick Skelton and Big Star

  • After Nick Skelton’s announcement (5 April 2017) that he and Big Star were to retire from showjumping, the tributes to this outstanding pair have been flooding in. We asked some of his friends and team-mates to share their thoughts

    “I’m not surprised – he’s always said “When Big Star stops, I’ll stop” and with the boys [Harry and Dan] and Laura [Kraut] he’s got a lot of other things to do. He’s travelled the world since he was 17 so I can understand the decision. Nick’s planning and his belief has been the hallmark of his career, from winning the World Cup final to the Olympics. How can you pick out a stand-out moment? There are far too many — from winning the puissance and the grand prix in Aachen to watching him as a lad break the high jump record with Lastic — more than any other rider, he’s achieved it.” — William Funnell, international rider

    “We’ve talked about it for the past six months. Obviously it’s disappointing, but at the same time we have to say we’re pleased with what we’ve achieved. It’s the end of a great time with both Nick and Big Star.” — Gary Widdowson, owner of Big Star with wife Beverley

    “It’s a bit of a shock, but he’s had a great career and he couldn’t have gone out on a better note — it took two years of planning but it all came together for him at the Olympics.” — Michael Whitaker, international rider

    “It’s very touching to bow out with your horse, who could blame them retiring now, when they have bagged gold medals at two successive Olympics — what’s left to achieve? Your boy really is a Big Star Nick, what a ride he gave you! Of course you will be missed by British equestrian fans but all the best to you and Big Star for your retirement.” — Leanne Coyle, Facebook comment

    “We used to spend every weekend together, but have obviously gone in different directions recently, but how can he better his last achievement – Olympic gold — when you’ve been at it as long as he has?” — Geoff Billington, international rider

    “Sad to hear that Nick and Big Star will be retiring from the sport. Big Star is an incredible horse, he’s changed many people’s lives including my own in London and I’m privileged to have competed alongside him and witnessed many incredible rounds. Nick has not only been an inspiration to me growing up, he’s been an idol, fantastic teammate, a great mentor, amazing motivator and a great friend and I would like to wish him a happy retirement, his achievements in the sport are truly inspiring. We wish you all the best.”  — Scott Brash, international rider

    “A genius in the saddle.” — AP McCoy, 20-time champion jockey, who rode Big Star for H&H last year

    “He was always a good man to have on your team – we had a system that he would always go first and I would go last and it seemed to work. Most of the time! He’s been a massive influence on a lot of people, myself included. He’ll be greatly missed, but on the other hand, there’s one less for me to beat now! — John Whitaker, international rider

    “Very sad that I won’t be seeing Nick compete anymore. but wish him and Big Star a wonderful retirement from competing, and the very best of luck in their new journey in life. But thank you for your amazing talent you’ve shown us over the years.” — Samantha Jones, Facebook comment

    Continued below…

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    “For a performance manager, he was the perfect man to have on your team — he was always the number one rider, that’s the way he liked it, and he would always come out and set the gauntlet, giving the other team riders confidence. He’s done so many amazing things, but to see him lead out the team in La Baule [in 2016], coming back after an absence of two-and-a-half years, was fantastic, a really special moment.” — Di Lampard, Great Britain’s performance manager

    “Of course I’m going to miss Nick riding — not going to shows with him will be when it hits me, I think. But it’s like when AP McCoy retired — it’s sad but Nick’s picked the right time. He’s a legend. There’s only one Nick Skelton and one Big Star and they’re the best.” — Mark Beever, Big Star’s groom

    Watch Mark’s tribute to Nick:

    Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s special tribute issue to Nick Skelton and Big Star, out on 18 May

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