While missing out on going to a seventh Olympics might mean a lot to many of us, Andrew Nicholson is just getting on what he does best – preparing his team for the next event.
Andrew withdrew from Badminton because he didn’t think he was fit enough, after incurring such major injuries in a fall the previous season. He assured us that he felt fine at Luhmühlen. “I felt very good all the way to the finish. I’ve done quite a lot more events in the last six weeks but I also think the weather warming up has made a big difference.”
One of the lingering effects of his injuries is lack of full movement and strength in his thumb. That hasn’t slowed him down, however. “I just strap it down and then bend it back again. I just have to make sure I tape it up.”
Qwanza and Perfect Stranger are now resting up after their top efforts at Luhmühlen in the weekend. Andrew has plans for both of them, and will be talking to their owners to decide which four-star to tackle next. Both Burghley (in September) and Pau (October) are options.
Perfect Stranger (‘Orange’) certainly demonstrated he was up to four-star competition with an exceptional jumping display. It was his first attempt at this level, so finishing in seventh place was very positive, although his dressage was disappointing for his connections, as he normally produces far better tests. For some reason his test at Luhmühlen was lacklustre. No doubt some fine-tuning is being planned.
Orange is owned by Orange Eventing, aka Alex Philllips. The arrangement with Andrew is unique but works well. Orange is not based in his yard, but lives with Alex and comes to Andrew just the week of the event. Alex does all the fitness work on the horse. The 14-year-old Dutch-bred warmblood, by Hors La Loi II out of Olien R (Amaretto I), was originally ridden by Owen Moore. Owen is now the resident trainer at Lyneham Heath Equestrian in Oxfordshire and has a great reputation as a coach. He rode Orange up to three-star level until 2014 and gave the horse the great base that every top eventer needs. Neil Spratt then had the ride on Orange at a few events, before Andrew took over with their first appearance at Withington Manor in May 2015 for a sixth placing. He went on to win an Advanced class at Chatsworth just a few weeks later and many other wins and top placings have been added.
This weekend Andrew is off to Farley Hall where he has eight horses entered over the two days, from novice through to the top class. He has Swallow Springs in the very competitive Advanced-Intermediate class, and will be competing against other New Zealanders including Clarke Johnstone (Balmoral Sensation), Sir Mark Todd (Landslide, Muggle, NZB Land Vision and Leonidas) and Jock Paget (Clifton Signature).
The weekend after that is Andrew’s local event, Barbury, and again he has a big team entered, including the very talented young Jet Set IV in the CIC3*. He also has Nereo entered in the Event Rider Masters CIC3*, the first time his top horse has competed for a while. There is a good amount of prize money up for grabs in this prestigious class but Andrew isn’t sure yet whether he will be gunning for the win. “Whether I should be going at the speed you need to go at to win, we will see when we get there. I haven’t been riding at that sort of speed all year. A lot of people wouldn’t quite understand, they think it is the same speed as a CCI or four-star. It may be a little too early for me to start doing that speed, but we will see.”
Barbury is a good hunting ground for Andrew, and on his fabulous grey, Avebury, he won the three-star class four years running. Avebury’s retirement was announced just prior to Badminton, and Andrew hinted that there may be a retirement ceremony for ‘Buddy’ at Burghley, which he won three years in a row. If it does happen, we are sure it will be a very fitting and touching occasion, so those heading to Burghley best pack some extra tissues.