Nick Skelton and his Olympic gold medal-winning partner Big Star made their long-awaited return to top level showjumping at La Baule, France last week (12-15 May).

This was the pair’s first major show since they finished third in the Global Champions Tour grand prix of Estoril in 2014 and their first team appearance since winning the Nations Cup in Dublin in 2013.

“He felt like the good old Big Star,” Nick told H&H.

On Friday (13 May) Nick and the 13-year-old stallion, a Dutch-bred son of Quick Star, represented Great Britain in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup. The pair looked as good as ever, jumping one of eight double clears in the team competition. The British squad finished sixth.

The recurrence of a leg injury kept Beverley Widdowson’s stallion out of competition for the latter half of 2014 and most of 2015, when he and Nick made a comeback to lower level competition.

At the start of this year, Nick took Big Star to Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and jumped him lightly before “Henry” picked up an infection in his leg from a cut, which required another short spell on the sidelines.

“We jumped him in America just to get him going,” explained Nick. “But the Nations Cup in La Baule has always been the main plan.”

The Warwickshire rider jumped Big Star at a three-star show in Le Touquet, France, the week before stepping up to five-star level at La Baule, where they returned to their usual slot as pathfinders for the British team.

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Nick, who won team gold with Big Star at the Games in London in 2012, is bidding for a spot on the British Olympic team in Rio in August.

“Di [Lampard, Great Britain’s showjumping performance manager] doesn’t want me to jump him too much and I don’t want to overdo it,” said Nick. “But Rio is the big aim this year.”