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Nick Skelton on trying out Big Star: ‘He gave me the most amazing feeling, but I thought he was too brave for his age’

Olympic gold medal-winning showjumper Nick Skelton rode countless horses to the very highest level throughout his illustrious career, from Maybe, who took Nick from young riders into his first taste of international success, to Big Star, who obviously needs no introduction.

The story behind Nick’s acquisition of Big Star, with whom he won individual gold at the Rio Olympics, is an interesting one, though.

“It was 2008 and the American team were training at a showground in Holland before they travelled to the Beijing Olympics,” explains Nick, when H&H’s showjumping editor Jennifer Donald chatted to him on episode 31 of The Horse & Hound podcast.

“Laura [Kraut, Nick’s partner] drove out to Holland to go to a little show where the Americans were training, and when she arrived, a horse was jumping in the ring and she thought to herself ‘My God, this horse is unbelievable’. So she got out of the car and ran to the entrance of the ring to talk to the rider as he came out and it was a guy she knew from California; Alan Waldman. She asked him if the horse was for sale and he said ‘Yes it is but it’s expensive and I want him to go to a good rider’. She asked how much and she said ‘Oh God, yes that is expensive, but Nick has an owner who I think will buy him — would it be ok if Nick had him? ’ and he agreed. So Laura rang me telling me to get over there to see the horse.”

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So Nick duly got on a plane with one of his owners, Gary Widdowson, and Gary’s father, Albert.

“When we got there, he was in the stable and he had the longest mane and as a five-year-old stallion we then stuck tack on him to try him, surrounded by mares and foals out in the field next to the paddock we were jumping in,” Nick says.

“He gave me the most amazing feeling over a fence but I thought he was too brave for his age. A 5ft3/4ins fence was put up, which is a big jump for a five-year-old, but he just came bounding down to it, gave it a foot of air, and before I’d pulled him up, Albert said ‘Right, I’m buying that horse’, so I had no say in it!”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

If you’d like to hear more from Nick, listen to episode 31 of The Horse and Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.

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