New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson is one of the most natural horsemen to have ever graced the equestrian sporting world. With a serene exterior that belies an intensely competitive core, Nicholson has had an incredibly successful career so far, collecting no less than three Olympic medals and three World Championship medals.
Ever the gentlemen, Andrew was kind enough to answer a few of our questions on how he prepares for a big competition before he set off for Badminton…
H&R: How do you prepare yourself and your horses mentally before a competition? Do you have a ritual or routine you stick to?
Andrew: “I don’t really have any rituals, but I have routines which are important.”
“In the run up to an event, I’ll do some jump exercises with the horses two days before and probably jump a course if the horse is a novice. The day before an event, I’ll do some dressage schooling and run through the test.”
“At events such as Badminton, I obviously have fewer horses competing, but then the course needs to be walked several times and the horses need to be schooled and well-prepared, so I’ll still have a routine I work to.”
H&R: If you have a day when you’re ‘not really feeling it’, how do you get yourself pumped up?
Andrew: “It’s my living – I don’t have days when I don’t feel like doing anything other than getting out and riding. I think that self-motivation is probably the reason a lot of people make it in sport. The top equestrians that I know don’t need someone else to motivate them. I never did my homework when I was at school, but I’ve always been very happy to ride and do what I need to at home to achieve my goals with horses.”
H&R: Do you get nervous before a big occasion? How do you deal with the nerves?
Andrew: “I think that nerves – a bit of apprehension and excitement – are a very important part of competing. The adrenalin kicks in and it’s what makes you alert and competitive.”
“Knowing my game plan is important. I spend a few minutes concentrating on the horse when I get on it, thinking about its quirks and how it needs riding. That’s usually what’s going through my head when I’m walking down to the dressage, waiting to go in to the showjumping or warming up for cross-country.”
H&R: Do you have a person you typically rely on for support at shows? If so, who and why are they the person you turn to?
Andrew: “That would be my better half, Wiggy, especially at the bigger events. She knows me well and she knows the horses and is not afraid to make constructive comments or question something I’ve done if she thinks I need it.”