After Nick Skelton’s official retirement ceremony at Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday (14 May), we thought it was high time we took a trip down memory lane and watch some of the double Olympic gold medallist’s greatest moments from a phenomenal 40-year career. And don’t miss Horse & Hound’s Nick Skelton souvenir special issue, out today (Thursday 18 May).
1. Breaking the British high jump record
At Olympia, London, at the age of 20, Nick and Lastic cleared 7ft7in and 5/16 of an inch (2.32m) at their third attempt to break the British high jump record. 39 years later, the record still stands.
2. Winning the Aachen grand prix for the fourth time
After wins on If Ever in 1982 and Apollo in 1987 and 1988, Nick triumphed for the fourth and final time on Big Star in 2013. After a masterful double clear, the pair took the lead in the jump-off and, when Frenchman Patrice Delaveau hit a fence, victory was Nick’s. His reaction says it all.
3. A hat-trick of six-bars
Held under the spotlights and attracting a bumper crowd, the Spruce Meadows, Canada, six-bar is legendary for the fierce rivalry between competitors and the dizzying heights that the lane of verticals reach. In 2007, Nick completed a hat-trick of wins, with the final obstacle standing 2.06m (6ft 6in) with the grey stallion Russel in an epic showdown with Piet Raymakers of the Netherlands.
4. Winning individual bronze in 1986
At the world showjumping championships at Aachen in 1986, Nick rides a beautiful clear on Pierre Durand’s Jappeloup in the horse-swapping final four to decide the medals. “He really suited my way of riding and I got an unbelievable feeling riding that horse,” says Nick.
5. The Derby treble
Nick won the Hickstead Derby three years on the trot — in 1987 with the only clear on J Nick and in 1988 and 1989 on Apollo. In this, the first of his wins on the latter, Nick reveals how he “just let him gallop” down to arguably the most difficult fence on the course, The Devil’s Dyke.
6. Victory in the Hamburg grand prix
There aren’t many grands prix around the world that Nick Skelton hasn’t won and this win in Hamburg on Big Star in 2012, shows the master of jump-offs at his very best…
7. Winning on Maybe in 1980
Even so early on in Nick’s dazzling international career, his talent in the saddle is evident, with this convincing win at Horse of the Year Show on Maybe.
8. Nick and Arko III beat the best in the world
Like Aachen, to win at Spruce Meadows once is a lifetime achievement for most riders. But for Nick not even two or three titles were enough as in 2008, riding Arko III, he landed the CN International grand prix for an incredible fourth time. Nick describes the track that year as the biggest, the most difficult and the most technical he’d ridden.
9. A five-timer in Dublin
Among Nick’s many multiple grands prix wins is a sensational five-timer in Dublin. In 1990, he lifted the trophy on Phoenix Park
10. And, of course, saving the best till last…
We all shed a tear when, in August 2016, Nick Skelton and Big Star were crowned Olympic Champions in Rio. “It was the most amazing thing to have happened,” says Nick. It’s time to relive those final moments one more time…
Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound (out today, 18 May) for the full report of Nick Skelton and Big Star’s retirement