10 Unforgettable Olympians: Spinning Rhombus

In our countdown to Rio, we take a look at 10 of New Zealand's most memorable Olympic horses

Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and Spinning Rhombus
Andrew Nicholson and Spinning Rhombus (NZHP library)

Rider: Andrew Nicholson

Barcelona 1992

Andrew Nicholson was number-one event rider in Britain in 1992 and in splendid form; Spinning Rhombus was one of 14 horses he’d competed that season. The 15.3hh gelding was bay with a white blaze and a reputation for cross-country speed. Bred in England and co-owned by Rosemary Barlow, ‘Piggy’ was by US-bred racing sire, Magic Circle, from a mare called Saving Grace II and had been deemed almost unrideable. He was given to Andrew as a last resort; by late 1987 he had a win and two seconds from four starts.

More wins followed and the pair played a leading role in New Zealand’s gold-medal performance at the Stockholm WEG in 1990, where they finished fourth individually and Piggy won ‘best conditioned’. They also won Punchestown that year.

spinning rhombusj
Andrew and Spinning Rhombus blazed around the cross-country in the searing heat to pull up to third place (NZHP library)

Before the Barcelona Games, Andrew worked hard to improve the horse’s dressage and show jumping; the dressage work paid off and his Barcelona score was a decent one, with a scattering of 7s. At that stage, they were 27th in a field of 82. They were bang on time with the steeplechase and stunning across country in blazing heat, taking all but two of the direct routes and finishing third at that stage behind Matt Ryan of Australia and Blyth Tait on Messiah.

But, on show jumping day, Piggy suffered a case of extreme pig-headedness. As one eye-witness remarked, he was ‘hell-bent on stopping’. He hit the third obstacle hard and spent the rest of his round trying to refuse, jumping lower and lower, fence by fence. ‘By the time he’d hit six, I was wishing I was somewhere else,’ said Andrew. Nine rails fell altogether, and Andrew did extremely well to persuade him to finish the course: elimination would have cost the team any chance of a medal. As it was, we won silver.

That never-to-be-forgotten round
That never-to-be-forgotten round

What became of Spinning Rhombus? He and Andrew were third at Burghley the following year with just 0.8 time penalty show jumping, and a respectable seventh there in 1994. In 1995, after a nine-year career, the never-to-be-forgotten Piggy retired.spinning rhombus