Andrew Nicholson first competed at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in 1984. He has since completed the event a record-breaking 37 times. But today (7 May) he won the competition for the very first time.
Riding the 17-year-old Nereo, owned by Deborah Sellar, the New Zealander jumped clear, but incurred one time-fault, which was enough to seal victory.
Andrew was in third place going into the final phase, but when second-placed Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW had a fence down and then overnight leaders Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob OLD had three fences down, a stop and seven time-faults, the win was handed to Andrew.
Long-term owner Rosemary Barlow joked; “It’s about bloody time!” to Andrew in the collecting ring afterwards.
“All those years ago, I thought it was going to be easy — just turn up on my horse and win,” said Andrew. “Nereo is a big, strong horse and not really built for showjumping. I’ve tried going into the jumping in the lead before and that hasn’t worked, so I was quite happy to be going in in third.”
When asked about how this victory felt compared to others, Andrew said: “It’s one hundred times a better feeling to win this than anywhere else. At other events, I’ve gone and done what’s expected, but this is different.”
In the collecting ring, fellow competitor, Jonty Evans, gave three cheers to Andrew, who thanked Michael Jung for “helping him out”, by having a fence down.
“I was asked to walk the cross-country course with the Germans this week,” said Andrew. “I was surprised and honoured when Michael came along. He said ‘why not? I might learn something’. Then after the cross-country, where I was placed behind Germans, I thought I might look a bit silly if I didn’t win after helping them!”
Andrew also had an interesting conversation with his son, Zac, this morning.
“I told him that the last time I was in third behind Michael Jung was in Pau. Michael went in and faulted and I won — that was the last time I wore the riding boots I was wearing today.”
Second place went to Michael Jung, who finished 2.6 penalties behind Andrew.
“Andrew did a fantastic job in all three phases,” he said. “Everyone is so good and so close — every little mistake changes who wins. At the end of the day I’m happy with last week [where he won in Kentucky], this week and my horses.”
Third went to a delighted Tim Price riding Xavier Faer, owned by Trisha Rickards (who bred this horse), Nigella Hall and Tim, who rose one place.
He jokingly said after his round: “I just need Ingrid to have four down now and I’ll be third.”
“He’s got the goods and I’m looking forward to his future,” said Tim of the 11 year old, who added just one time-fault after he was .52 seconds over the time allowed. “It was like hitting a wall of atmosphere riding into the main arena — it’s a lot for a young horse to take in.”
Ingrid ultimately finished in ninth.
Best of the British riders
Best of the Brits was Ros Canter, riding her own and Caroline Moore’s exciting 11-year-old Allstar B, who finished in fifth place after a clear round.
“It’s very exciting and to be the best Brit isn’t quite what we expected. We’re learning all the time as I’m still quite new to this level,” explained Ros who has two previous four-star completions to her name. “We came here last year with the horse, but after the dressage we found he had a heart fibrillation so we withdrew and went and sorted it out. We’ve been gearing up for a good result for a while.”
The 31-year-old from Lincolnshire said: “It was horrible going into the main arena — it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done, but he deserves to jump a clear round every day of the week and I’m delighted.”
Gemma Tattersall had a meteoric rise from 67th after dressage to seventh today on Arctic Soul following a solid jumping double clear.
“The dressage was frustrating, but he’s amazing and was quite strong today,” Gemma laughed.
A real British hopeful for the future is Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser, a 10-year-old owned by Jane Inns, Ali McEwen and Tom. They finished in 11th.
“He’s some horse and he picked up all the way through his jumping round,” said 25-year-old Tom. “When he was younger, he used to bounce one-stride distances and people said that he was too careful to make it to the top level.”
Don’t miss next week’s H&H (out on Thursday 11 May), which will have a comprehensive 25-page Badminton report, bringing you all of the news, analysis and statistics.