I could say very similar things about his base on the edge of West Woods, as I arrive for a morning coffee with one of the most exciting cross country riders of our times. With stunning views across the hills of 'white horse country' near Marlborough in Wiltshire, his horses enjoy one of the most stunning vistas I've ever seen. As you enter the driveway horses poke their heads out of the windows of the American style barns - bright, alert and interested, yet relaxed and happy. This one of the busiest event yards on the circuit, with all the facilities an event rider needs. Like Andrew says 'you need good facilities to get the results'.
This New Zealander is as synonymous with eventing as Mark Todd is. He's been a member of the senior team as far back as 1984, just four short years after seeing his first British 3-Day Event at Badminton, when grooming for Mark Todd. Since then he has probably walked the Badminton course more times than anyone other than course designer, Hugh Thomas, and completed a record 29 times.
|Favourite Year: 2004 - Lord Killinghurst|
Many riders only dream of having this many proven 4* horses in their barn, but for Andrew this list does not stop at these three. With 10 or 11 running at advanced level, at least five of which have some 4 star experience, he has one of the choicest strings on the planet. The majority of his horses Andrew has produced himself, some as a by-product of producing "National Hunt stores" to sell onto racehorse trainers, but all as a result of hard work.
That hard work is paying off and over the last 25 years or so Andrew has collected numerous medals, of all colours, at either World Equestrian Games or Olympics (see Andrew's profile), and he recently picked up an Individual Bronze at the 2010 WEG in Kentucky aboard Nereo, a horse he thinks is currently a live contender for taking home The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Trophy.
It would seem everyone, including Andrew, has their sights set firmly on the London 2012 Olympics as the next life changing goal. A key part of reaching that goal lies with a top performance at Badminton this week. Although his quiet yet confident demeanour gives little away, you can see the excitement in Andrew's eyes as he talks about each of his horses, the progress they are making, and his hopes heading towards London.
|Avebury | 2011 Could Be His Year|
And what does Andrew think of Badminton and his chances of turning the tables on history by winning the event this year? Watch this video to find out, there's a little more to the answer than the title above might suggest:
With the New Zealand team growing in strength and depth, despite having such a high quality string to choose from, Andrew is far from complacent about his slot on the team for London, especially with Blyth Tait making a return and a number of young riders he respects, like Jonathan Paget and Clarke Johnstone, snapping at his heels. It is, however, difficult to imagine the New Zealand team back at the top without such a talented rider as their key striker, and he clearly enjoys the big championships, "I got as much pleasure out of winning the team bronze at WEG as I did winning the individual bronze. Even before the event started there was a real buzz within the team, everyone was pleased to help each other, and some of the individual performances in the run up to WEG really lifted everyone's belief - like Caroline winning Burghley, just gave her a boost, and that rubs off"
His love of National Hunt racing is no secret, and 20 years ago Andrew may have told you he wanted to eventually train racehorses, but the sheer number of horses you need, and the amount of work that can generate, I sense has put him off the idea now. Andrew does, however, help Nigel Twiston-Davies out occasionally with a little schooling over fences and clearly enjoys galloping over the hurdle and steeplchase fences. Therapy perhaps for missing the long format? Not really, here's some thoughtful insight into his preference of the short format:
Will he follow in the foot steps of his compatriots, Mark Todd & Blyth Tait, by taking a 'career break'? I think not! There's clearly no slow down in the Nicholson camp, or any sign of a loss of appetite for the sport, and with such a high performance string of horses, who can blame him? On the subject of future career paths, by his own admission he'd make a terrible course designer, "I'd make things too hard or too easy, too easy probably", but he does seem to have an interest in coaching. Andrew is incredibly patient, and as you can see from these videos happy to spend time explaining things in detail. Qualities that will no doubt prove useful as a coach in years to come. I'm sure the lucky few, young foreign riders that get to work for him would agree, that would be an excellent second career, but for now we can enjoy watching Andrew tackle the 2011 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.