Life lessons: Showing producer Magnus Nicholson *H&H Plus*

The show producer on his coffee addiction, acting ambitions and the 21st birthday present he still wears to this day

  • North Yorkshire-based Magnus is a leading producer of show horses. Prior to this he was an international event rider and also competed successfully in showjumping and as an amateur National Hunt, polo and point-to-point jockey. As a showman he has won titles at all major shows including Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International.

    I was very lucky to be taught to ride by Chris Bartle. Chris was definitely my hero. He is a brilliant, analytical horseman and I really looked up to him. Horses aren’t as complicated as you think they are and so I try to keep things simple. People can get too carried away with the need to have the latest gadget or newest bit, but I’ve never been one for all that.

    I always try to use the best. No matter what it is I will always try to make sure it’s the best quality I can afford, whether that’s the farrier, vet, tack or feed. It saves money in the long run. My tailcoat was made in 1929 and my current show boots were given to me as a 21st birthday present; I’m not going to say how long ago that was but I’m just grateful I haven’t put on too much weight since they were gifted.

    I don’t go to that many shows during a single season. We pick and choose and like to go out when we think a horse is ready to win. My current top cob has only been to 11 shows in two seasons, and he won at 10 of them.

    Caffeine requirements

    If I don’t have my morning coffee I am just impossible. If I haven’t had a cup my wife, Kate – or on occasion my owners – will go off to get me one. When I’ve had a coffee I’m a pussycat, but without it I can be a ratty old bugger.

    I am more relaxed at shows than I am at home. When I rode at Badminton I kept getting asked if I was nervous but I wasn’t – I’d already made it there and there was nothing more I could do. It’s the same at a big show such as HOYS; you can get yourself wound up in the preparation but once you’re in the ring just relax as you’ve done the hard bit.

    I idolise fellow showman Robert Oliver, who is one of my friends. I speak to him regularly. He’s one of the best show riders we will ever see; he can ride a 14.3hh hack and then jump on to a 18hh heavyweight and get the same impeccable tune.

    When I was 16 I wish I’d known that I was never going to make a lot of money out of horses. While it’s a great lifestyle and I’ve made some wonderful friends, the financial gains are minimal.

    When I was younger I actually wanted to be an actor but my mother told me there was no money in it, so I do sometimes wonder why on earth I ended up in the equestrian world!

    While my mother swayed me away from acting, in terms of other advice, I remember my father – who was ex-army – telling me that if you’re out and you’re not in bed by 10pm then come home. I’ll never forget that.

    I’ve changed my feeding regimes over time. I used to feed all my horses masses of straight feeds four or five times a day and I’ve now realised what a waste of money that was. My sponsors at TopSpec are brilliant if I have a feeding problem and you don’t have to feed a lot of their products to get results. I now wouldn’t use anything else.

    A true hunter

    I’ve been lucky enough to ride some brilliant horses, many of which have probably made me look a better rider than I actually am.

    I had a lovely grey middleweight called Granite City a few years back. I bought him from Goresbridge sales with a good friend of mine, John Grieve. He should have won more than he did and he wasn’t just fantastic in the ring, he was also the most incredible hunt horse.

    He was sold to Countess Goess-Saurau who would have him back every winter after Horse of the Year show to hunt; he’d be in the hunter of the year final on Friday and then would be out with the hounds the very next day.

    He also took a sidesaddle and taught a few people to ride that way; I remember Kate saying that she thought she was quite good at it until she got off him and tried to ride something else.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 July 2020