Speculation had been rife since Andrew’s five-star ride Swallow Springs joined Oliver Townend’s string in the summer, just after winning Barbury with Andrew. However, the grey isn’t the first top horse that has changed hands between the two riders, following the likes of Armada.
The 13-year-old Chillout gelding, owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon, has remained based with Andrew while Oliver took over the reins in the build up to Blenheim. The horse finished 10th in Blenheim’s CCI4*-L under Oliver, securing the pair’s five-star qualification as a combination.
Speaking ahead of the Blenheim CCI4*-L prize giving, Andrew, 60, said he enjoyed watching Oliver riding Swallow Springs this week and also enjoyed seeing Nicola Wilson win the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S class with Coolparks Sarco, a horse he sold at the start of the year.
“I think Oliver has done such a good job, I can’t see why I need to go to Badminton again,” he said. “So, I think I’ll step back from these five-stars and four-star big [fixtures] like this one, and maybe just do the smaller level horses that I can get up through the grades and then sell.
“I didn’t want to say too much [at the start of the week] just in case Oliver hopped off and told me ‘I don’t want him’ and then I’m [the one] going to Badminton.
“I haven’t asked [Oliver] yet if he wants to ride him at Badminton, I’m just presuming,” he added, with a smile.
Andrew Nicholson: stepping down from ‘the big stuff’
Video courtesy of Lloyd Bell/the Jockey Club
The five-time Burghley winner first hinted at the upcoming news in a video ahead of the final showjumping session on Sunday (19 September), before later confirming his decision.
When asked whether fans could expect to see him at Badminton and Burghley in 2022, Andrew replied: “We’ll wait and see. I wouldn’t think so. That’s why I’ve got Oliver Townend riding my best horse here, Swallow Springs, to try to qualify for Badminton.
“I’ve already qualified the horse and I suggested to the owner to put Oliver on, then Oliver can qualify, and then if I didn’t feel to speed [Oliver could ride him].
“It would just be [stepping down from] the big stuff. I’ll still have novice horses, I own pretty much all of them, with the idea of getting them to two- and three-star level and selling them. I’m still riding and competing. But to be at the very top [events] Badminton and Burghley, I have a lot of respect for the courses and you’ve got to be fully up to speed. I don’t feel like I used to, to be honest.
“I will still be [at Badminton and Burghley], I just might not be leaving the start box.”
His announcement at Blenheim comes, fittingly, on the 20th anniversary of his victory in the CCI4*-L class of the Oxfordshire event, which he won in 1991 aboard Park Grove.
What’s next for Andrew Nicholson?
Andrew heads off to Avenches for the European Championships in his capacity as coach for the Swiss team.
“I really enjoying working with them, helping them as a cross-country coach,” said Andrew. “It’s a nice bunch of people. When I was asked about doing the Swiss job to be honest I wasn’t that excited but I said yes and I got quite into it, so I’ve cut right back on the riding and I’m doing more of it [coaching]. Dealing with really experienced riders is easy. I’ve got no idea how you teach young or inexperienced rider or amateurs, that’s a different art altogether.
“I never thought I’d enjoy teaching riders – when you’re riding full time you don’t have time – but the more I’ve started to do it, the more I’ve started enjoyed it and working with the good ones, it’s a pleasure.
“When you’re busy riding horses all day at home and you rush off to an event, ride five and go to the next one it’s hard to get off that merry-go round. Now I’ve got older I’ve cut down on horses.”
Andrew Nicholson: an eventing legend
The UK-based New Zealand national is one of the world’s most successful event riders of all time.
He has five Burghley titles to his name, winning the five-star three times on Avebury (2012, 2013 and 2014), as well as the 2000 title aboard Mr Smiffy and the 1995 crown with Buckley Province.
Andrew holds the record for the most Badminton completions, finally adding the trophy to his cabinet in 2017 with Nereo. His other five-star victories came at Pau in 2012, also aboard Nereo, and Kentucky in 2013, with Quimbo.
He has ridden at six Olympics, winning two team bronze and a silver in the process, and seven World Championships, with team gold and both team and individual world medals in his collection.
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