Having discarded his now trademark glasses at the start, Andrew Nicholson rode Avebury to a forth win in the CIC*** at the St. James’s Place Barbury Horse Trials 2015, sealing what must now be legendary status for this little grey horse. These 4 wins added to his 3 wins at Burghley and multitude of other international wins singles this horse out as ‘the horse of a generation’, and one we may never see the likes of again for sometime to come.
Andrew has always been one of the most economical riders across country. If he can get round the course in fewer strides he will, and maintain high cruising speed. What’s interesting about Avebury is he is also very economical too. Watching him today going around Barbury I noticed, perhaps for the first time, that he doesn’t over jump fences at this level like a number of other horses will. It’s well know by now that Andrew rides Avebury “like he stole him” to keep him focussed, switched on, and to let him know he [Andrew] is also focussed. So I it found interesting just how economical Avebury was with his jumping effort too.
I’ve watched Andrew countless times cross country schooling at my yard, and it’s fascinating to see him take a relatively green horse round all manner of fences like a seasoned novice. If you study Andrew’s technique too you’ll notice he’s very still and firm with his hands, keeping the horse on the bridle. Perhaps it’s this technique but I’d say Avebury is pretty accurate himself needing very little fussing to get ‘set-up’ for a fence.
I’ve loved watching this horse from the very beginning with his cheeky run-outs in his early career, including a classic one at Badminton a few years ago now. Few horses will come close to matching Avebury in character & performance, and how thrilling for Andrew to have bred and produced him.
With such a buzz around Avebury you almost forget there were over a hundred other horses in this class, and a couple of handfuls of them with serious talent at this level. When the rain kicked in shortly after lunch it drove most of the spectators running to tradestands for cover. I have to confess to seeking refuge in my car having been soaked to the skin within minutes, but the conditions on course didn’t deteriorate that much and looking at the results it didn’t affect too many – more riders withdrew than walked off course early due to elimination or retirement. I did feel for Jonty Evans who came rushing down the Quarry fence complex in the pouring rain with a little brake and had to perform an elaborate wiggle to avoid crossing his tracks and racking up penalties.
An hour later and the weather had all but passed by leaving the last 10 runners with little or no rain to contend with. Oliver Townend was making good time and looked in good shape for a top 10 placing before demolishing the first element of the Quarry fence breaking a frangible pin, and scoring penalties which he unsuccessfully contested. This left Tim Price & Ringwood Skyboy hanging around just before the Quarry with plenty of time to catch their breath. They made it home clean to snap up 5th place.
Nicola Wilson was the only one in top 5 (Beltane Queen) not from New Zealand, so after yesterday’s clean sweep of the CIC** classes this year’s Barbury was well and truly owned by the Kiwis with Andrew Nicholson holding first and second (Nereo), and Sir Mark Todd bringing home third on Leonidas II.
Inspite of the minor hitch with the weather this was truly a Barbury to savour. A huge thank you to all those involved in putting on the show at Barbury, especially the volunteers and in particular the fence judges who generously poured me tea to warm me up during the rain. I hope you managed to make it there, if you didn’t I’ve uploaded more photos so you can see what you missed!