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Andrew Nicholson draws a huge crowd to raise money for the Prospect Hospice

L to r: Graham Vallis, Elinor Goodman & Andrew NicholsonL to r: Graham Vallis, Elinor Goodman & Andrew NicholsonPewsey's Bouverie Hall was full to overflowing on Thursday evening (January 18) for 'An Evening with Andrew Nicholson' - the New Zealand eventer who is based in Lockeridge.  It was organised to raise money for the Prospect Hospice.

 

They had sold 168 tickets for the event - at £25 each - raising enough to provide three hundred hours of Prospect's at home care in the Pewsey and Marlborough area.

The evening was arranged by Graham Vallis - the area's 'trucks and tractor king'.  He wanted to do something for the Hospice after his partner Naomi died there from cancer.

There was a massive draw which raised over £500.  And there was entertainment by Damon Scott - aka The Monkey man and Wiltshire-born star of Britain's Got Talent. Andrew Nicholson was interviewed by Elinor Goodman - who lives in the area, is a rider herself and was political editor of Channel 4 News.

Andrew Nicholson is currently ranked fifth in the world in the International Equestrian Federations Eventing Athlete Rankings - issued this month.  Elinor Goodman guided the audience through Nicholson's astonishingly successful career - with illustrations taken from his autobiographical book Focused.

He has represented New Zealand at six Olympics, several World Equestrian Games. He has won Burghley five times and last year won Badminton at the thirty-seventh attempt.

However, he told the audience he was sure Badminton had got that wrong.  It was more like his fiftieth attempt - if you include the times he was eliminated or withdrew.

To begin at the beginning on his parents' farm in New Zealand: "At no stage did I want to be a professional rider - I didn't even really like riding.  Only when I got older I realised I could make money from ponies."   That caught the audience's attention!

An offer of work with racehorses from British trainer Derek Kent, brought him to England:  "I was 18 and I didn't even know where England was!"  He started making money by flying horses from New Zealand to England - where they sold for more money.

Ironically, as it would turn out, his first eventing competition was at Gatcombe: "In those days if you paid your entry you could turn up and ride."  He kept turning up - and winning - and got to represent his home country at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics with Kahlua.

Within two hours of the end of the competition, Nicholson had sold Kahlua to an American family.  He was the only horse to be sold there - the others 'were too expensive'.

Elinor Goodman took Andrew Nicholson through many of his horses - and some hair raising stories about competing with them.  But she paused to ask if he had ever thought of switching to compete for Britain:  "Britain has a lot of good riders - at that time New Zealand didn't have a lot of good ones.  I was quietly working my way up the pile."  A no brainer.

One of his worst times was at the 1990 Stockholm World Equestrian Games with Spinning Rhombus.  The team was in second place after the cross country.  He could have had eight fences down in the show jumping and still won team gold - he had nine fences down: "It wasn't a nice feeling."

And so to the great grey Avebury.  A record breaking winner at Barbury horse trials and a favourite with the crowds, Avebury came about via some careful housekeeping.  If his stables were to be registered as a stud farm, his rates (now council tax) would be halved.  He needed one foal to qualify as a stud farm and that foal was Avebury.

"Avebury was very, very clever - loved performing in front of a crowd - or just in front a dog that was watching.  He was very caring of grooms when they rode him out - he looked after them. Quite a little star."

Elinor Goodman asked if he thought of giving up after his life threatening accident in 2015 - at Gatcombe: "Not really.  My wife would like me to say enough's enough.  But I still enjoy doing it.  I'm very passionate about it."

He has been based at Lockeridge for sixteen years. He does not really like hacking through the woods behind his yard: "I was there for four years till I realised there were bluebells in the woods."  And he is not too keen seeing horses hacking with their heads down: "I don't ride horses for the pleasure of sitting on a horse - I annoy horses while they hack because I want them to do things."

He ended with some advice to the young riders in the audience: "Don't ever listen to anyone who says you can't do that - just do it!"

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