Tag Archives: Nick Skelton

Inside the Rolex Grand Slam, Legend Edition: Nick Skelton

What was the first Major you competed in? How did you do?

Well, I first won the Grand Prix in Geneva in 1978; before it was a Rolex class [ndlr: Skelton won 9 Majors in total].

How did it feel to win your first Major?

As anybody would, it was incredibly exciting. I was very pleased and incredibly happy to be winning them. I had some very good horses in those days. Apollo won two Grands Prix at CHIO Aachen, and then I won the Aachen Grand Prix in 1982 with a horse called Everest If Ever. Lastly, Big Star won the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen in 2013 when it was part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, so I became the Rolex live contender.

Is there a difference in feeling when you enter the arena of a Rolex Grand Prix at a Major, compared to other Shows?

CHIO Aachen was always a great place to ride; even back in the ’80s it was always packed with crowd; there was always a great atmosphere. Winning the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen is an incredible feat for any rider to win. It’s probably one of the hardest ones to win, along with Calgary.

Which was your favourite Major to compete in?

I think probably every rider would agree with me in saying that CHIO Aachen is the best Major to compete in; it is like the Wimbledon of Show Jumping or like the Masters in golf; it is the pinnacle of the sport. I think most riders would say this.

Do you think it takes a special and unique type of horse to win one of the Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?

Of course, they are big courses and there’s a lot of pressure with the big crowds of spectators that they attract. Riders also put a lot of pressure on themselves, as they are the most important Grands Prix to win.

How has the sport of Show Jumping changed throughout your career?

It’s changed a huge amount; one of the main things I notice now is the time allowed. Nowadays you have to jump the courses a lot quicker than you used to. I watched the video back recently, I think from 1987 when I won a Grand Prix with Apollo: the time allowed was 102 seconds; nowadays you’re in the same field with the same amount of fences, but the time allowed now ranges from 82 and 84 seconds. So, you need to be roughly twenty seconds quicker than what you needed to be all those years ago. The fences come at you quicker nowadays. There are often more fences in a modern course, despite the rings being so small; they now fit around 13 jumps into even the smallest rings. That is added pressure on the horses as they have to jump quicker and more obstacles than they did back in those days.

Would you say that it’s now more important to have a bigger string of horses, rather than one top horse?

Absolutely, there’s a lot more shows now, with a big Grand Prix happening every week somewhere in Europe. So, you need a lot more horses and the high-quality ones are difficult to find, and that’s why they’re expensive.

How did the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhance the sport?

It’s a very good concept; it’s incredibly difficult to win. I suppose back in the day I would have done it; I think I won those Grands Prix, some of them all in the same year. Scott Brash is the only rider to have done it; it is difficult to win two of those in a season, let alone three or four, so it’s an amazing accomplishment. I think overall, it’s made the sport more competitive, with riders striving to get to the pinnacle of Show Jumping, which is the Rolex Grand Slam.

You competed for so many years, did you still get nervous ahead of big competitions towards the end?

I don’t think I got nervous; all riders get a little bit apprehensive before an important ride because you want to do well. If somebody said that they didn’t feel anything, I’d say they were lying. Riders feel emotions because they want to do well. It’s more adrenaline than nervousness I’d say. I can only speak for myself, but once you start the course, I never noticed anything going on in the ring or anything going on around me. I suppose that’s synonymous with most athletes. I imagine when playing at Wimbledon, tennis players concentrate on what they’re doing and so can’t hear the crowd; it was the same for me.

You had some tough moments in your career – what gave you the drive to keep going?

I always had some young horses that were coming through, so during my injuries, it made me look forward to producing and developing that young horse, which made me want to come back stronger. I had Arko and then Big star, so I always had a couple of good young horses coming along that I thought were going to be good enough, which gave me the drive to come back. But I knew that after Big Star, that I was never going to find any horse that was going to be as good as him again, and also I was getting on a bit in terms of my age, and considering what I’d won up to that point, I knew it was the right time to hang my boots up, especially considering my back was playing up a bit and Big Star wasn’t as sound as he once was. The time was right.

I think we know the answer to this, but which horse was your horse of a lifetime?

Big Star, no doubt. I’ve been very lucky; I’ve had some great horses. It’s very difficult to decide which of them was better, but he was the outstanding one. I’ve had some incredible ones over my time, horses like Dollar Girl, St James, Apollo, Tinka’s boy, Top Gun, Carlo. Some of the best horses in the world at that time, but Big Star was an incredibly special horse, and I’m incredibly grateful to have ridden him.

When you first started riding Big Star, did you know that he was something special?

I knew; he was different gravy. There was something about him from the first ride. I knew he was different, that he was special.

What is Big Star up to now? Do you still jump him at home?

He goes to stud breeding, then he comes home; we try to keep him as fit as we can. We do a bit of jumping and hacking. He is spoilt and enjoying his retirement.

What parts of competing do you miss the most and least?

Winning is what I miss the most! I miss travelling the least, although I am still doing a fair amount of it with our students and Laura. I do miss taking part. Sometimes I’m watching, thinking to myself, “This is a big Grand Prix; wouldn’t it be nice to be out there competing?” But I was and am satisfied with what I accomplished throughout my career. I’m not the kind of person that looks back and has any regrets.

With new generations starting to climb the ranks in professional Show Jumping, e.g. Peter Charles’ son Harry – what is your advice to them?

The art of the game is picking the right horses, the ones that can take you to the top. You do have to be able to ride them though, but getting the best ones is the most important thing.

Which rider inspired you the most?

There are lots that have ridden and are still riding. I would say currently you could look at Scott Brash, Steve Guerdat, and the Philippaerts boys, but there are so many good riders out there nowadays that are all inspiring.

How have you kept the horses in training during lockdown?

We’ve just been doing it at home; we’ve built courses at home for the students and once a week we’ll pick a course and practice; it’s been quite entertaining and I’ve enjoyed it because I’ve never spent this much time at home, so the lockdown hasn’t been too big of a problem for me.

© 2020 Rolex – Rolex Grand Slam

Emotions Run High for Nick Skelton Retirement at Royal Windsor Horse Show

It was an emotional final day at Royal Windsor Horse Show as the crowds took to their feet to witness Show Jumping legend, Nick Skelton and his gold medal winning horse, Big Star, stand together in the arena for the last time. In front of Her Majesty The Queen and packed out grandstands, Skelton was joined by his family, owners, fellow Team GB riders and loyal groom, Mark Beaver, to say his final goodbye.

Skelton’s youngest son, professional jockey Harry Skelton, was unable to attend due to racing commitments but left a message for his father that was read out to the crowd:

“Dad, I’m so sorry I’m not there, but when I asked you if I should go racing today or come down to Windsor, you said, go and do your job and try and ride some winners. I thought, that is what has got you to where you are, your hard work, dedication and determination. My first great memory of you in the ring was when Dollar Girl won the World Cup Final in 95. You went through so much from then to Rio 2016, and when you finally reached your childhood dream to take individual gold, was the best day of my life. I am the proudest son alive and so glad you’ve stopped at the top. I hope I will make you as proud as I am of you one day. See you later, love you, Harry.”

There was not a dry eye in the house as Skelton dismounted Big Star, took the saddle off his back – a long standing tradition when a horse is retired – and walked a final lap of honour in-hand to a standing ovation, with the crowd cheering to mark their respect and admiration for Skelton, whose career spanned five decades. With a final wave to the adoring crowd, the Olympic gold medal winning duo exited the arena to start their well-deserved retirement.

The pinnacle of Royal Windsor Horse Show, the much-anticipated Rolex Grand Prix, did not fail to disappoint. With 30 World class riders lining up to win over £254,000, the competition was hot, and Bob Ellis’ 1.60m course reflected the high standard. Four-time European gold medalist, Michael Whitaker was the first to jump clear aboard JB’s Hot Stuff, with whom he won the Antwerp Grand Prix last month. He was in good company as the likes of World No. 1 Kent Farrington, last night’s winner Jessica Springsteen and Olympic gold medalists Scott Brash, Laura Kraut and Eric Lamaze followed suit.

The jump-off had the packed crowds on the edge of their seats as 12 riders came forward to compete for the £63,000 first prize. When Britain’s Guy Williams came in to the famous Castle Arena as second to go, jumping clear in a time of 43.45, it looked like his time would be hard to catch; however, with the best riders in the world to come nothing was certain.

Jessica Springsteen rode a fantastic round, taking a flyer to the up-to-height Bahrain oxer in front of the Members Enclosure to make up valuable time and momentarily took the lead; however, with Kent Farrington next into the arena, her lead did not last long. The defending champion made the tightest of turns to the tricky Tower Bridge water tray and pushed on throughout to knock over three seconds off the previous leader’s time and lay down the gauntlet to his competitors.

World No. 4 Eric Lamaze flew round; however, he took one too many risks and paid the price finishing with four faults, albeit in the fastest time of the day. Home favourite Scott Brash, riding his talented mare Ursula XII, put up a good challenge much to the crowd’s delight, to finish in third, and Lorenzo de Luca and Halifax van het Kluizebos secured second as last to go, but it was only Kent who managed to break the elusive 40 second barrier, proving why he’s the best in the world.

Speaking at the Rolex Grand Prix press conference, Kent said, “I was really thrilled with my horse; he is just stepping up to this level and he was unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked for more. This is one of my favourite shows and I’m not just saying that because I won here today. There’s a combination of an amazing setting, an unbelievable crowd, top course designing and great footing. That is the best of the best, and now with Rolex stepping up and making this a 5* event, it’s on par with the best in the world.”

Kent went on to discuss the impending retirement of childhood hero Nick Skelton and his double Olympic gold medal winning partner Big Star. “I have always looked up to him my whole career and getting to ride with him at high level has been unbelievable… Our sport is about that great connection with a horse and Nick and that horse [Big Star] became a real team; they had a tremendous comradery, they know each other so well and that showed at the Olympics at the highest level of the sport, with them being able to deliver on the big day.”

Earlier in the day, the Palm Speed Stakes saw competitors jumping one round against the clock for a total prize fund of £23,300.

The twelve-fence course proved tricky, with a double of verticals down the last line catching many of the riders out. The first clear came from Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer, who jumped a deceptively quick round to set the pace for those that followed. The always competitive Schwizer, riding Leonard de la Ferme CH, posted a time of 61.47 seconds, which proved hard to match.

Several riders came close, including Tiffany Foster with the eleven-year-old gelding Brighton and Laura Kraut with Whitney, already winners in the Castle Arena this week; however, their rounds were only good enough for third and fourth positions respectively. However, it was Billy Twomey, towards the end of the draw, who managed to clinch victory aboard Sue Davies’ grey gelding Tin Tin, shaving 0.65 seconds off Schwizer’s time. The Irishman took advantage of Tin Tin’s big stride to make up time between fences and made all the turns required to top the leader board.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Billy after the class. “The horses had to be really careful out there today, but the course worked in our favour as I was able to miss out a few strides here and there!” The Cheshire-based rider continued, “It’s great to be competing at 5* level here at Windsor; it’s a great show and it’s nice to be on home soil with the family around, as we’re abroad so often.”

Boyd Exell scored his eighth win in the Land Rover International Driving Grand Prix, having taken his first title in 2004. After a good win in the dressage phase with his team of four mixed Dutch and Swedish-bred horses, the reigning World Champion from Australia drove a steady round, mindful of a young horse in the wheel competing in his first marathon. Second in this phase, by less than one penalty point to his pupil Edouard Simonet from Belgium, he nevertheless retained the top slot overall.

A long technical cones course set by Johan Jacobs from the Netherlands, that was challenging yet fair in the final phase, saw few drivers manage double clear rounds. Exell was one to have a cone down, but he secured the title 13-penalty points ahead of his closest challenger. Simonet, driving a team of impressive Arab cross Friesian black horses, moved up from third into second place in the final ratings, while Koos de Ronde from the Netherlands, seldom out of the top scoring teams, finished third.

Horse Pairs found the cones course no less of a test, and again, fortunes behind the leader changed. Germany’s Lars Schwitte led through the first two phases, even though he scored fourth place in the marathon, and with just one cone down in the final phase, he retained his overall first place. A driver who pursues the sport purely for pleasure – he manages his own construction company – and who was competing for the first time here, he was understandably delighted with his result. Behind him Michael Sellier from France, competing for the first time at Royal Windsor, moved up to second place from third, while Gerald Rossler from Austria jumped two places to clinch third.

There were numerous changes in the final standings in the Pony Four-In-Hands section. Jacqueline Walter from Germany had squeezed into first place after the marathon by the narrowest of margins, but the overall win went to the only competitor to post a double clear in the cones, Tinne Bax from Belgium. Bax has competed at Royal Windsor for the last half a dozen years, but this is her first win. Her smile showed just how pleased she was. Walter, smiling equally as broadly, pronounced herself completely satisfied to have come second at her third time competing here – she has improved her position each time – while six times Royal Windsor winner, Jan de Boer from the Netherlands, dropped to third place.

In a team competition among Horse Fours competitors – the Netherlands took first place with Ijsbrand Chardon, Theo Timmerman and Koos de Ronde. Belgium was second with Edouard Simonet, Dries Degrieck and Glen Geerts, and Germany third with Georg von Stein, Mareike Harm and Rainer Duen.

Fourteen high-class contenders of all sizes and types, from an 18hh heavyweight hunter, down to a diminutive Dartmoor lead-reign, entered the Castle Arena for the judging of the Royal Windsor Supreme Ridden Showing Championship sponsored by Dodson & Horrell.

Judged by Olympic Dressage supremo, Richard Davison, and international Show Jumper, William Funnell, tension mounted as competitors entered the arena for the last time, with some horses clearly over-awed by the building atmosphere.

It was HM The Queen’s homebred former racehorse Barbers Shop, ridden by Katie Jerram-Hunnable, who took home the prestigious title, the first Supreme Champion to be crowned at Royal Windsor since 2002. Jerram-Hunnable said, “This is his last year at Royal Windsor Horse Show, so to do this today is just fantastic.”

Annabelle Jewks’ Diamonds Are Forever, ridden by Allister Hood to be crowned Champion Riding Horse earlier in the week, followed close in second to take the Reserve Champion title.

Elsewhere, the Final of the DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games saw victory go to the young England team, with the Shetland Pony Grand National sponsored by Sandra and Martin Wood was won by Harry Barker, the grandson of legendary commentator Mike Tucker.

Gayle Telford
Revolution Sports + Entertainment
E: gayle@revolutionsports.co.uk T: +44 (0)207 592 1207

Nick Skelton and Gold Medal Partner, Big Star, to Retire at Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show is honoured to announce that 2016 Olympic Individual Gold Medallist, Nick Skelton, has chosen to officially retire, along with his Olympic horse Big Star, at Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday 14 May 2017.

A true legend of the sport, Nick Skelton’s show jumping career has spanned four decades and includes seven Olympic Games and 20 championship medals. Since his first international championship in 1973, Skelton has consistently remained at the top of his game with the ultimate highlight being his most recent success at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where he secured an Individual Gold Medal with his stallion Big Star.

Skelton has also been credited with one of the greatest comebacks of all time after a fall in 2000 left him with serious injuries, including a broken neck, and forced him into early retirement. However, Skelton defied the odds to recover and made a courageous decision to start competing again. Skelton’s story captured the hearts of those who witnessed his victory at the Olympics, with the tear-jerking gold medal podium moment voted one of the highlights of the Games. The British public showed their support and respect for Skelton’s achievement by voting for him to take third place in the 2016 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Big Star, owned by Gary & Beverley Widdowson, has been partnered by Skelton since he was bought as a five-year-old. Big Star has helped Skelton to win two Olympic Gold Medals, numerous major Grand Prix titles and consistently delivered clear rounds for Great Britain in Nations Cup competitions. The fourteen-year-old stallion will be officially retired on the Sunday of Royal Windsor Horse Show in the Castle Arena in front of HM The Queen.

Royal Windsor Horse Show Show Director, Simon Brooks-Ward, spoke of the decision. “Nick Skelton is not only a legend of equestrian sport but of the whole sporting world. What he has achieved in his career is remarkable and we are honoured he has chosen Royal Windsor Horse Show as the place to officially retire along with Big Star.

We are delighted that our ticket holders will have the opportunity to be there for this special occasion and we will make sure that both Nick Skelton and Big Star get the send-off they truly deserve.”

Tickets can be purchased at www.rwhs.co.uk or by telephoning the box office on 0844 581 4960 from the UK and +44 (0) 121 796 6290 internationally. Tickets also available locally at Windsor Information Centre either over the counter or by telephoning +44 (0) 1753 743907.

For more information, please contact Gayle Telford, Revolution Sports + Entertainment
E: gayle@revolutionsports.co.uk T: +44 203 176 0355

Auction Winners Collect on Winning Bid for Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton Clinic

Barbara Borg and Quinn, Nick Skelton, Laura Kraut and Mary K Schaughnessy and Java. Photo by Sue Weakley.

Wellington, FL – March 9, 2017 – Barbara Borg and Mary K. Shaughnessy looked like they were having the time of their lives. They were all smiles as Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut led them through a series of exercises including flat work, ground poles and jumps. But more important, the three equestrians were doing it for a good cause: The Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center located in Loxahatchee, Florida.

Kraut and seven-time Olympic athlete Nick Skelton offered up a clinic, including a barn tour and lunch, as a fundraiser for the 30th Annual Vinceremos Benefit Dinner and Auction in February. As the bidding heated up during the live auction, Kraut and Skelton graciously offered TWO clinics and Borg and Shaughnessy were the winning bidders for one day while Angi Holtgers won the other day, netting $40,000 in donations for the two clinics to the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center. Vinceremos serves children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities in Palm Beach County through unique equine partnerships and Borg and Shaughnessy are fans of the non-profit.

“Mary K. and I are good friends and we did this three years ago,” Borg said. “We were at the benefit and it was available again and we looked at each other and said, ‘Can we do it again?’ I love Vinceremos and they do so many wonderful things. What better way to contribute to it? I just had a tour of Vinceremos last week, so this was perfect.”

She and her 10-year-old Brandenburg gelding Quinn took the jumps in stride in the South Florida humidity. “It was fabulous and so much fun,” she said.

“It was great,” Shaughnessy echoed. “Working with horses is a benefit for children and adults and this combines everything: caring about people and caring about horses.” She loves that the charity is local, allowing visits and volunteering opportunities. She and Borg used to ride together until they branched off into different disciplines but they have remained friends. Borg is competing in the hunter ring while Shaughnessy concentrates on flatwork and jumping exercises on her Hanoverian, Java.

“I was lucky enough to have been in a clinic with these two a few years ago,” Kraut said, laughing that she counts on them as her faithful buyers who won’t leave her standing on a stage at a charity auction without “purchasing” her. “It was really fun. Both of them are on different horses this time and they’re both wonderful riders. They’ve really got great eyes and they see the distances well. We just tried to work on some of the fine points of strength and concentration.”

In fact, Kraut schooled both riders on getting more energy out of their horses. “One of the hardest things to learn in riding is getting a reaction,” she said. She also had them work on asking for accuracy and establishing straightness. “A very important thing is to feel the horse is straight before you ask him to move laterally. In hunters, a correct straight approach is everything. If your horse is crooked or off balance, you also have a better chance of getting a rub.”

Kraut was as equally enthusiastic about helping Vinceremos as she was the riders. “It’s an honor to get to do something for such a great cause,” she said. “It’s the least we can do.”

Susan Guinan, Director of Development for Vinceremos, was on hand to watch the clinic. “I’m thrilled that Laura and Nick and so many are willing to support the efforts we make at Vinceremos, because it absolutely does enrich the lives of all those children and all those adults. For these kids and adults, holding the rein translates into holding a spoon or a crayon. It makes a difference in their everyday lives.”

For information about how you can help, call (561) 792-9900 or email Vinceremos at info@vinceremos.org.

Olympic Champion Nick Skelton to Compete at Olympia

Organisers of Olympia, the London International Horse Show, are delighted to announce that double Olympic gold medal winning duo, Nick Skelton OBE and Big Star, will be competing at the Show this December.

The combination, part of the gold medal winning Show Jumping team in London, 2012, and individual gold medallists in Rio, will be making a rare UK competitive appearance, giving home fans the opportunity to witness their brilliance first-hand.

Earlier this year, at the age of 58, Nick became Britain’s second-oldest Olympic gold medallist, in what was his seventh Olympic Games.

On Thursday afternoon 15 December, the audience will be treated to a live Q&A session with the Olympic star which will take place in the arena. Members of the public will have the opportunity to submit their questions ahead of the event by filling in an application form on the Show website.

The news comes on the back of the announcement that triple gold medallist Valegro, the superstar of the Dressage world, will also be present at Olympia, as he bows out of the sport on a high in an official retirement ceremony, on Wednesday 14 December.

Nick Skelton OBE said, “It’s been a fairy tale year and to compete Big Star in front of the home fans at Olympia is really important to me, so I can give something back to the people who have supported us. Olympia is always one of my favourite shows of the year and will be a fantastic finale to 2016.”

Show Director, Simon Brooks-Ward, commented, “We are honoured that Nick is bringing his gold medal winning horse to Olympia and can’t wait to see him in action. To have the current Olympic Champion, Big Star, competing whilst at the pinnacle of his career is an exciting prospect and will add to the anticipation of what is certain to be a top-class week of competition.”

For more information, please contact:
Olympia, The London International Horse Show:
Gayle Telford, gayle@revolutionsports.co.uk 0203 176 0355

Rio Olympic Champion Nick Skelton Takes Top FEI Award

(Left to right): Juan-Carlos Capelli, Longines’ Vice President and Head of International Marketing, Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA), FEI Honorary President, HRH Princess Haya, FEI President Ingmar De Vos, Sönke Rothenberger (GER), Moroccan Secretary General, Badr Fakir accompanied by traditional Japanese Taiko drummers. (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

Tokyo (JPN), 22 November 2016 – Rio 2016 Olympic Jumping champion Nick Skelton (GBR) added another major accolade to his collection when he was declared the winner of the top prize at the prestigious 2016 FEI Awards gala dinner in Tokyo (JPN), in the presence of guest of honour, FEI Honorary President, HRH Princess Haya.

Nick Skelton won the coveted FEI Best Athlete honour at the “Oscars of the equestrian world” presented in association with the FEI’s top partner Longines, at the Park Tower Hotel. The FEI Awards celebrate the excellence, commitment, dedication and courage of those in equestrian sport, and the glittering ceremony also saw Nick’s groom Mark Beever (GBR) declared winner of the FEI Best Groom award.

In recognition of outstanding efforts in what has been another exceptional sporting year, the ceremony kick-started with the presentation of the Longines Rising Star award going to Sönke Rothenberger (GER), an award honouring the pursuit of excellence and rising talent for a person aged 14 to 21. Along with his FEI award, Sönke Rothenberger was also presented with a Longines Conquest Classic watch.

Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla took home the Against All Odds award, while the FEI Solidarity award went to the Morocco National Federation/SA Charif Moulay Abdellah Alaoui, President of the Royal Moroccan Federation for Equestrian Sports.  This award was accepted on behalf of the Federation by the Moroccan Secretary General, Badr Fakir.

Hosted by joint Master of Ceremonies Liz Price (GBR) and the Athens 2004 Olympic hammer champion Koji Murofushi (JPN), now Sports Director for Tokyo 2020, the FEI Awards gala ceremony was watched by more than 300 distinguished guests, National Federation representatives, FEI partners, VIPs and international media.

“The FEI Awards are an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding work of those who deserve the recognition, not just of our community but of the wider sports industry, and we’ve had five fantastic award winners tonight,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “These talented and dedicated athletes and individuals constantly inspire future generations of athletes, and not just equestrian athletes, and can literally change lives and communities. The FEI is very proud to honour and acknowledge these achievements.”

Longines’ Vice President and Head of International Marketing Juan-Carlos Capelli, who presented the Longines Rising Star award during the ceremony, said: “It is my great pleasure to be here this evening and to be a part of the FEI Awards’ celebration of these great equestrian heroes. As we have seen here tonight, all of the winners have shown what hard work and dedication are all about. They are champions that we can be very proud of.

“On behalf of Longines, I extend my warmest congratulations to tonight’s winners, and in particular our Longines Rising Star, Sönke Rothenberger. It’s very exciting to see all these incredible people pursue their dreams and continue to be great ambassadors for their sport.”

The five categories in the FEI Awards 2016 attracted a record number of nominations from the public, giving the judging panel an extremely hard task to select the final winners. Chaired by Japanese Olympic Committee President and FEI Honorary Vice-President Tsunekazu Takeda, the judging panel also included the FEI President Ingmar de Vos (BEL), Longines Vice President, Head of International Marketing Juan-Carlos Capelli (SUI), last year’s best athlete Boyd Exell (AUS), President of the Swaziland National Federation Glenda Warburton (SWZ), FEI Awards Against All Odds winner in 2010 Angelika Trabert (GER) and British television presenter Liz Price.

The evening’s celebrations had opened with a presentation made by Juan-Carlos Capelli to the FEI President Ingmar De Vos of a limited series timepiece from the Longines equestrian collection, the Longines Equestrian Pocket Watch Horses Trio 1911. This special presentation was made on behalf of the Swiss watchmaker to celebrate their 105-year commitment to the discipline of Jumping. The exclusive 18 carat rose gold timepiece will be permanently showcased in the state-of-the-art interactive gallery at FEI Headquarters in Lausanne (SUI).

Find out more about the five FEI Award winners below:

LONGINES RISING STAR – Sönke Rothenberger (GER)

Sönke Rothenberger and his mount Cosmo were the youngest combination competing in the Olympic Dressage at Rio 2016, with a combined age of just 30, but they claimed team gold for Germany on their Olympic debut! Rothenberger’s other major achievements include: member of the winning German team at CDIO5* Aachen 2016, German Young Riders champion 2014, European Young Riders team gold and individual bronze 2014, European Ponies team gold and individual silver 2009, European Ponies double gold 2008 in Avenches, European Ponies team gold and individual bronze 2007.

“To receive this award is a great honour for me,” he said. “There are so many other people who would deserve this, but to be the one who receives it – well it’s just amazing and the icing on the cake for everything we have experienced this year. I am really surprised and thankful and never expected that the FEI would honour me with this prize. Thank you again very much.”

BEST ATHLETE – Nick Skelton (GBR)

Individual Olympic Jumping gold medallist at Rio 2016 with the great horse Big Star, Nick Skelton began riding at the age of 18 months. In 1975 he took team silver and individual gold at the FEI European Jumping Championships for Juniors. At senior European level, he has won three gold, three silver and three bronze medals with the British team over a 26-year time period. In 1980 he competed in the Alternative Olympics in Rotterdam (NED) where he was a member of the British silver medal team. At the age of 54, Skelton was part of Britain’s gold medal team at the London 2012 Olympic Games and finally claimed individual gold in Rio, at his seventh Olympic Games.

Skelton broke his neck in September 2000 which could have ended his career, but after retiring in 2001 he recovered and began competing again in 2002. He has also had a hip replacement and two knee operations.

“I would like to thank the FEI for this most fabulous award,” he said. “I’ve had an incredible year and this award makes it even better. I would like to thank the team that is behind me and Big Star for all their hard work and patience.”

BEST GROOM – Mark Beever (GBR)

Nick Skelton’s loyal groom Mark Beever received multiple nominations (the most in this category) from other grooms, riders and the larger equestrian community. His loyalty and dedication to his boss is clearly evident as he’s worked for him for 31 years! Beever has groomed at numerous Championships and Olympic Games, and knows how to keep both horse and rider relaxed. His skill, knowledge and incredible work ethic means his horses always look outstanding, and he was instrumental in ensuring Big Star was fit and in prime condition for the Olympic Games in Rio. Beever is very well respected by his peers and his dedication to Big Star is beyond question, as he caters to his every need, ensuring the horse is happy and settled down before he looks after himself. Most importantly, Skelton has full confidence in Beever’s ability to care for his horses.

“I would just like to say thanks to everybody that voted for me,” he said. “It’s not just all about me. It’s a big team, a lot of hard work, but it all paid off in the end. Thank you to everybody and the FEI for doing this for me.”

FEI SOLIDARITY – Moroccan National Federation / SA Charif Moulay Abdellah Alaoui, President of the Royal Moroccan Federation for Equestrian Sports

The Moroccan Equestrian Federation were popular nominees in this category and even received full endorsement from the FEI Solidarity team at FEI Headquarters complimenting them on their proactive stance on development and their successes in 2016. They represent a concrete example of development in equestrian sport with all the necessary ingredients – development of the National Federation structures, Coach education, Athletes training, values, and particularly horse welfare. They have developed a state-of-the-art national training and competition centre – the Institut National du Cheval. They were hosts of the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final 2016, which was a tremendous success, and hailed as the best-ever Challenge Final, from both an organisational and sporting standpoint. This year they had their first-ever participation of a Moroccan athlete at the equestrian events of the Olympic Games when Abdelkebir Ouaddar competed at Rio 2016. The Federation has created solid foundations for the development of the sport and related employment in the sport in Morocco, as well as increasing awareness and promotion of the sport nationally and regionally. Education and knowledge transfer, and assistance to local breeders is also a priority.

“My Federation is very honoured to have received the FEI Solidarity award this evening,” Prince Moulay Abdellah Alaoui said. “Thank you very much; we are very touched and very humbled by the award we are receiving today.”

AGAINST ALL ODDS – Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA)

Multiple nominations were received for Rodolpho Riskalla, winner of the Against All Odds award. The 31-year-old competed for his home country of Brazil in Rio 2016, but in the Para-Equestrian Dressage events at the Paralympic Games and not in the Olympic Dressage events, which was his original plan. Riskalla contracted meningitis in 2015 which resulted in the loss of both his feet and most of his fingers. Nevertheless, barely out of hospital following life-saving amputations, he was back in the saddle with his sights set firmly on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, with less than a year to achieve his new goal! He had to learn how to ride again using prosthetic legs and few fingers, and his determination, passion, resilience and dedication have made him a national hero. Riskalla pursued his dream of representing his country at his home Games despite what life threw at him and had to work tremendously hard to overcome adversity.

“To win the FEI Awards, it’s like the Oscars; it’s like being a superstar,” he said. “But also, to win Against All Odds represents exactly what happened to me this last year. Before this I never believed a human being could be so strong and adapt so quickly; it’s something that’s come from inside; it’s like the Olympic spirit. It’s something that is inside you and I am really proud to be a para dressage rider, a Paralympian and to be a representative of our discipline.”

FEI Awards 2016 hashtag:  #FEIAwards

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Comeback King Skelton Scoops Britain’s First Olympic Individual Jumping Gold

Nick Skelton. (Dirk Caremans/FEI)

Rio de Janeiro (BRA), 19 August 2016 – He broke his neck in a fall 16 years ago, he has a replacement hip, he’s 58 years old, competing at his seventh Olympic Games, and he was riding a horse that has been struggling with injury for over two years, but Nick Skelton made Olympic history when becoming the first ever British rider to win individual Jumping gold at Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro.

In a thrilling finale to an extraordinary two weeks of equestrian sport, the man who helped claim his country’s first Olympic team Jumping medals – and golden ones at that – for 60 years in London (GBR) four years ago, simply galloped the rest into the ground when pace-setter in a third-round jump-off against the clock with Big Star.

Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and the brilliant All In claimed silver when producing the only other fault-free performance in the closing stages, while Canada’s Eric Lamaze took the bronze when posting the fastest time but leaving a fence on the floor with Fine Lady.


Skelton is not a man known for displays of emotion, but he couldn’t hold back the tears when he climbed onto the podium to receive the ultimate sporting accolade. And the response of his fellow-riders showed just how respected he is, 2008 Olympic champion Lamaze grinning as though he was taking the gold himself as he congratulated the British rider with an enormous hug.

“I’ve been in this sport a long, long time and to win this at my age makes me so happy, I always wanted to do it and nearly did it in London,” Skelton said, referring to his fifth-place finish in 2012.

He wasn’t the only tearful athlete – world and European double-champion Jeroen Dubbeldam from The Netherlands was distraught after picking up a time fault in the second round when clearing the line 0.02 seconds over the time with Zenith.

Reflecting the extraordinary quality of the horse-and-rider combinations at these Games, a total of 13 went clear over the Brazilian course designer Guilherme Jorge’s first-round track and six managed to keep a clean sheet second time out.

And the passionate fans roared their approval from the stands, joined by plenty of VIPs who flocked to see equestrian sport at its very best, including the Dutch royal family, the King and Queen of Sweden, members of the Qatari royal household, former IOC President Jacques Rogge, IOC members Gerardo Werthein and Denis Oswald, and IOC Director General Christophe de Kepper.

First to go in jump-off for the medals, the equestrian equivalent of a penalty shoot-out, Skelton decided “to go as fast as I could but be safe and not take risks; he’s a quick horse anyway. I wanted to put pressure on everyone else and I had luck on my side,” he explained afterwards. As it happened, his target time of 42.82 seconds would prove unbeatable.

Final course

This final course began with a wall topped by a pole, and Steve Guerdat’s dream of a back-to-back Olympic double with his gelding Nino des Buissonnets was shattered when this toppled. He raced on to break the beam in 43.08 seconds, and when Qatar’s Sheikh Ali Al Thani (First Division) and America’s Kent Farrington (Voyeur) both faulted twice it seemed a medal might still be within the Swiss star’s grasp. But then Sweden’s Peder Fredricson steered All In home and clear in 43.35 seconds to up the stakes and definitely slot into a medal position with just one left to go.

Canada’s Eric Lamaze is one of the most feared opponents in the sport, and with his mare Fine Lady in spectacular form from the outset last Sunday, he was leading the individual standings until all 35 qualified riders reverted to zero status. Setting off at a blistering pace he was clearly in the lead coming to the second-last, but a tiny slip as he made a tight turn to angle this vertical left his mare off-balance and she clipped the top rail to gallop on home in 42.09 seconds with four faults on her scoresheet.

“My biggest nerves of the Games was waiting for the others to go in the jump-off,” Skelton admitted. “I didn’t look too hard; I walked around and took an odd look but I had to watch Eric and he made me sweat for a minute!”


He can hardly believe that the horse that carried him to that glorious team victory on home turf four years ago has managed to overcome adversity and injury to do it all again for the individual title.

“Today was amazing,” Skelton said. “Big Star has been a bit rusty. The last time he won was in Aachen (GER) in 2013 and it’s taken two years to get him back on track again. A lot of people put a lot of time into bringing him back. He’s always been amazing; he wants to do it all and he has all the right attributes – he’s the best horse I’ve ever had and the best I’m ever likely to have. I’m so pleased for him. On his way back we nursed him and nursed him and today he came good for me.”

Skelton is a pretty tough cookie himself. The courage and tenacity he showed in his own recovery after breaking his neck in a fall in 2000, retiring in 2001 and then changing his mind the following year, and the pain he battles with on an ongoing basis might be enough to put a stop to most competitive careers. He needed a set of steps to climb back into the saddle after the medal ceremony. “I’ve got chronic back pain so getting legged up is painful and I have a metal hip on my left side so I only get on like this.” But the tearful smile said it all.

Lamaze put it into perspective. “The Olympics is the most difficult challenge in our sport; we try our hardest to do our best. Anybody in that jump-off deserved a medal. Most of us go to shows every week and you can win a big Grand Prix, but an Olympic medal – well that stays with you forever!”

Result here


Nick Skelton GBR, gold: “It’s pretty emotional for all my team. My groom Mark has been in my team for 30 years; he works with this horse nine hours a day. My two boys (his sons) are at homel they’re both very busy but I spoke with them on the phone and they’re really happy. I have to thank Laura (his partner, American rider Laura Kraut) too; she’s been a great help.”

Eric Lamaze CAN, silver: “So many things have to go right; a lot of great riders and horses here had misfortune this week; you need good luck and your horse to stay healthy. I always thought Nick would be on the podium, or just off it anyway.”

Nick Skelton GBR, gold: “I was surprised there were so many clears in the first round. 13 is a lot and six in the jump-off is a lot – you’ve got to feel for the riders that finished fourth, fifth and sixth.”

Peder Fredricson SWE, silver: “I knew I was sitting on a very good horse coming to the Games – maybe I wasn’t expecting a medal but I was hoping for it! I saw Nick (in the jump-off) and I tried to ride faster but I couldn’t – there were so many riders going for gold in the jump-off!

“I bought this horse as a seven-year-old; Nicola Phiippaerts was riding it. I went to buy him, and after the first jump I knew he was the horse I was looking for. I have him three years now.”

Nick Skelton GBR, gold: “I’m not going to stop riding now; the only horse I ride is Big Star and when he stops I’ll stop.”

Equestrian in the Olympics

Equestrian sport has been part of the Olympic Games since 1912. Team and individual medals are awarded in three disciplines – Dressage, Eventing and Jumping. Uniquely across the Olympic Movement, men and women compete against each other for all the medals in equestrian sport.

By Louise Parkes

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Nick Skelton Wins Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen and First Stage of Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

Nick Skelton (GBR) riding Big Star, Rolex Grand Prix, CHIO Aachen 2013 © Rolex/Kit Houghton.

30 June 2013 – Aachen, Germany – Nick Skelton (GBR) today proved that things really do get better with age when he won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen and thereby becomes the first ‘live’ contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2013.

Riding his favourite horse Big Star, Skelton was one of only three riders who went double clear in the first two rounds, and he then topped off a stunning afternoon of Show Jumping with a clear, quick round in the jump-off, beating the 26-year-old Swiss rider Janika Sprunger riding Palloubet d’Halong into second place, and Patrice Delaveau (FRA) on Orient Express HDC into third. Daniel Deusser, riding Cornet d’Amour, was the leading German rider in fourth place, and unlucky to have a time fault in the first round, his only penalty over two rounds of jumping.

This is Skelton’s fourth victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen and makes him the most successful rider to compete in the highlight of the famous World Equestrian Festival. His first title was over 30 years ago in 1982 when riding Everest If Ever, and he has had subsequent victories in 1987 and 1988 riding Raffles Apollo.

Commenting on his win today, Skelton said, “My first win here was a long time ago; Janika probably wasn’t even born then, but although I am getting on a bit it’s all about your horse and how good a horse you have. I’m lucky that I’ve got a good horse and can keep going.”

Forty horse and rider combinations qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix, and the first round saw eight go clear. The format of the competition dictates that numbers reduce to 18 for the second round, and faults are carried forward.

The second round saw eight of the eighteen go clear including successful rounds from Rolex Testimonees Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) on Bella Donna and Steve Guerdat (SUI) on Nino des Buissonnets, but only three went through to the jump off which was won so emphatically by Nick Skelton.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping features three of the world’s greatest equestrian shows – the CHIO Aachen, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament and CHI Geneva – and is the first global initiative to reward the outstanding rider who wins the Grand Prix at each show in succession. The winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will be rewarded with a €1 million bonus prize.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – The Rules

The rules of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping are simple: any rider that wins the Grand Prix at each of the three shows consecutively will receive €1m on top of the prize-money for each show’s Grand Prix. Moreover, any rider that wins two out of the three shows’ Grands Prix will also receive a bonus.

If the Grands Prix at two shows are won in succession, the bonus will be €500,000. If a rider is successful in qualifying for the “two out of three mode”, but doesn’t claim the victories at two consecutive shows’ Grands Prix, the bonus will be €250,000. It is only the rider that counts, not the horse, i.e. it is possible to claim the bonus riding different horses. This system is infinite; it is not limited to a calendar year.

Three wins in a row – €1,000,000
Two wins in a row – €500,000
Two wins out of three (not consecutively) – €250,000



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Nick Skelton and Heracross Triumph in $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers

Nick Skelton and Heracross. Photo © Sportfot

Wellington, FL – January 30, 2013 – The fourth week of competition at the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) began on Wednesday, January 30, with a win for Olympic gold medalist Nick Skelton (GBR) and his mount Heracross in the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m speed class.

Week four, sponsored by Fidelity Investments, will run January 30 – February 3. The week will feature the $33,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 4 on Thursday afternoon, the $100,000 Fidelity Investments CSI 2* Grand Prix on Saturday evening, and the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic on Sunday afternoon. The 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival features 12 weeks of competition running from January 9 – March 31, 2013, and will be awarding almost $7 million in prize money throughout the circuit.

Nick Skelton earned his first victory of the 2013 winter circuit in Wednesday’s $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m class jumping a speed track set by Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios (VEN). Twenty-four entries started the class and 15 completed the course without fault. The fastest time of 58.655 seconds laid down by Skelton and Heracross earned top honors.

Continue reading Nick Skelton and Heracross Triumph in $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers

Special Chance to Ride with Nick Skelton at the Great Charity Challenge!

Two Open Spots for Amateur or Junior Riders

Nick Skelton and Big Star. Photo © Sportfot

Wellington, FL – January 23, 2013 – Be a part of Olympic Gold Medalist Nick Skelton’s newly added team for the FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments (FTI GCC) on Saturday, January 26, 2013. This is a chance to ride in an historic event with the highest purse in show jumping. Two amateurs or juniors have the opportunity to join in the spirit of giving and compete on behalf of one of 34 Palm Beach County charities to win part of $1.5 million dollars. Two spots are open on Nick Skelton’s team – one rider to compete at the 1.10m level and a second rider to compete at the 1.20m level in a relay race on Saturday evening.

For a tax deductible donation of $10,000 to the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, the new team member will have the thrilling opportunity to ride side by side with one of show jumping’s greatest riders while contributing to a worthy cause in one of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival’s proudest moments.

Riders will have this chance on a first come, first served basis at each level of 1.10m and 1.20m. Please contact Anne Caroline Valtin at 561-784-1133 to sign up for this team!

Continue reading Special Chance to Ride with Nick Skelton at the Great Charity Challenge!