Andrew Nicholson: ‘Why Aachen is the place to advertise eventing to a wider audience’


  • Multiple five-star winner and Olympic medallist Andrew Nicholson, who is cross-country coach to the Swiss eventing team, is more impressed by Aachen now he’s not riding there

    My recent trip to the great German horse show, Aachen, was the first time I have been there without riding at it. I thought it was even more impressive than ever – I’d never realised that the tradestands were packed with people at the same time as all the seats in the stadium were full, which is quite a feat.

    It’s the place to advertise eventing – an invitation-only, limited field of the best riders, mixing with the top showjumpers and dressage riders. It’s quite something to wander around and look at the big rolls of honour for each discipline; seeing Nereo’s name on there from our win in 2010 made me very proud.

    You need to see it to appreciate just how difficult the showjumping phase at Aachen is for event riders and horses. It’s in the vast main arena, with a 1.50m track set up as well as the evening course – which looks very small in comparison – and there’s the ornamental lake, the open water jumps and so on to catch a horse’s eye. The size of the arena means riders have to go at a faster tempo than feels comfortable straightaway, and it’s a serious test.

    Why time is such a test

    Rüdiger Schwarz, who designs Aachen’s cross-country course, did a great job. It highlights the fact that you can create a course, which seems reasonably straightforward on walking it, very influential by making the time hard to achieve. Once speed is added, you only need to look at the results sheet to see what happens.

    He put the first water at around the two-minute mark and, after jumping in, competitors had to spend a long time in there with probably 100 metres of galloping in the water and four fences, with the driving obstacles to negotiate round as well – that’s a lot to slow you down and you’re immediately behind time.

    Rüdiger gave them galloping stretches interspersed with clumps of difficult jumping lines, often sited near the driving obstacles that took the horses’ eyes off what they were supposed to be doing.

    Once they got to the end of the course in the main stadium, there were more fences to slow competitors down – placed in a smooth route, not twisty, but making sure they had to chase the clock. And while there were plenty of spectators in the stands watching the finish of the eventing class, more were filing in to take their seats for the big jumping class that followed, adding more distractions.

    It’s a very exciting class to watch and to take part in, and Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir looked like the world champions they are when winning it – the first Brits ever to have done so. Yasmin did a smart dressage test, a beautiful showjumping round and then blitzed round the cross-country, not playing safe and getting the job done very well.

    It made me appreciate even more how good Nereo had been – he used to go round the cross-country in Aachen inside the time as if it was normal for him. I get the feeling he might have been the only one to do so the year we won, as I definitely didn’t lead after the dressage!

    I was there this time in my role as cross-country coach to the Swiss – it was the first time their team has been invited to Aachen. They finished second-last,
    but the Australians were behind us and it was a fantastic prep for other big events for our riders.

    It is the only place that can really add to their experience in a major way, and they enjoyed it and learnt a lot. And I thoroughly enjoyed wearing my red Swiss team outfit when the showjumpers won the Nations Cup on the Thursday evening!

    ● What’s the best horse show that you have ever visited? Tell us at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 13 July, 2023

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