Polly Bryan hears more about the quirky De Niro gelding who doesn’t act his age, and who made a winning comeback from more than a year off earlier in 2020
Super Nova II
Breeding: De Niro x Weltmeyer
Owner: Jen Goodman
Rider: Spencer Wilton
Breeder: Eva Kirby
Greatest achievements: championship debut at the Rio Olympics in 2016, team silver; sixth individually in the grand prix special at the 2017 European Championships in Gothenburg; team bronze at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon.Holly Smith’s up-and-coming showjumping star Denver
Rider Spencer Wilton
“‘Neville’ is 17 now, but he doesn’t feel it! He doesn’t need to learn anything new, so we are planning to take things easy with him for the rest of this year. He’ll hack out and potter about, then we’ll start again in the autumn with some quiet training and target the Tokyo Olympics with the same plan as we had in place for this year.
“Over the past six years Neville has actually missed a considerable amount of time in proper competition work, so even though he’ll be 18 next year, his brain is still very much up for it and I have nothing to lose.
“Making our ‘comeback’ this year, he felt genuinely better than ever, and there was actually a lot more in the tank. There are plenty of horses who have continued to compete at 18, and Neville and I have unfinished business!”
Groom Claire Hinton
“Neville is both the love of my life and the bane of my life, and I’ve never met a horse like him. He loves routine – I could set my watch by him – and anything out of his routine makes him unhappy. He’s such a big personality on the yard and has lots of little quirks. He loves a mid-morning nap – sometimes Spencer arrives to ride at midday and I have to tell him that Neville is still asleep.
“He is quite a polite horse to handle, but he can get grumpy in his stable. He prefers to be left to himself most of the time – he likes cuddles but they have to be on his terms. But there’s no nasty bone in his body.
“He also loves pears – the mushier the better. They’re his favourite treat and whenever we go to shows I have to stock up on them.
“Neville is a sensitive soul and has to have trust in the person handling him or riding him. I don’t think many people would be able to ride him like Spencer does; you have to get in his head. To this day, Neville still does things he’s never done before and throws new challenges into the mix.”
Judge Clive Halsall
“I judged Spencer and Super Nova when they won at both their comeback internationals earlier this year – Lier and Keysoe – and the horse looked really good. One of the biggest challenges with older horses is keeping them supple and gymnastic and he looked to be in top form. When I’m judging, I look at whether the horse can do it, and also whether he wants to, and Super Nova really did.
“At Lier there were a lot of distractions and plenty going on, but Spencer did well to keep the horse attentive and focused throughout his tests, and they were very polished. It’s a challenge for horses to come back out the next day and do the grand prix special, but I remember this pair having so many highlights, particularly the passage in the special.
“It was early in the season, and February and March are not the easiest months for a horse to come out looking great, but Super Nova really said, ‘Here I am, ready to go’.”
Ref Horse & Hound; 21 May 2020