After taking the top spot in the inaugural running of the Event Rider Masters at the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials this weekend (14-15 May), it’s about time you knew a bit more about Frenchman Astier Nicolas (if you didn’t already…)
1. The 27-year-old is not short of ambition
“When I go to a competition I always think that I can win, that’s why I go,” he tells H&H. And it’s an attitude that pays off — he took his first four-star title on home turf at Pau last October, with the 17hh gelding Piaf De Bneville.
2. He’s also pretty upbeat
“Don’t dwell on things that are not going right, but focus on what you can do to make them better,” says Astier, who is the youngest of five siblings. “Consider all your options and the bigger picture — not everything is about the immediate win.”
3. Astier is one of England’s biggest fans
“It was love at first sight when I arrived in England,” he tells us. “[Eventing] is more professional and organised in England.” First sight was in 2009 when, aged 20, he came to Wiltshire to work for Andrew Nicholson, having been introduced at Saumur.
4. He has learnt from the best
“For a long time now I’ve said that my time with Andrew was the best time of my life — I got a very good insight into a proper, professional yard. It left a big print,” he says.
5. He likes England so much, that he enrolled to do a degree here so that he could stick around
“When I left Andrew’s I thought, ‘I have to come back’. I was studying at the time so I managed to get a scholarship to Hartpury College to do a degree there and ride horses in England.”
6. He’s had his fair share of big results
Astier returned to France in 2012 to prepare for the London Olympics and despite not being selected, he did manage to take the under-25 CCI3* at Bramham that year. In 2013 he came ninth at his first Badminton with Piaf De Bneville, in 2014 he took the CCI3* title at Blair with Quickly Du Buguet and this year the pair finished 14th at Badminton.
7. Astier is now fully settled this side of the Channel
In 2013 he set up camp at Nick Gauntlett’s in Gloucestershire to prepare for Badminton, and he is now based on eventer Helen Cole’s Wiltshire yard, where he rents 12 boxes and has access to two schools and a walker.
8. He’s had a taste of championship glory
Astier had his first taste of championship success in 2013 when he was part of the French bronze medal-winning team at the European Championships in Malmö.
9. He produces his own horses
“I prefer to produce my horses from when they are babies — I want them to trust me 100% and be my friend, so that I can ask more of them when I need to,” he says.
10. He is not one to sit around
Astier “never switches on the TV in his room” and when he is at a loose end he rides out for local Flat trainer Roger Charlton.
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11. He’s a speed demon
In fact in another life, he would have liked to have been a jockey. “When I see the finances, I should have been a jockey,” he says. Luckily for the eventing world, he hasn’t pursued that one…