Andrew Nicholson was the star of the show for the Kiwis competing at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany today but he still finished just off the podium.
Nicholson and Nereo were fifth individually in the CICO3*, and the New Zealand team fourth in the Nations Cup.
But it wasn’t entirely a podium without New Zealand involvement – Christine Weal’s former horse Underdiscussion won the CICO3* class in the hands of Australian Christopher Burton.
Weal was on hand to watch the 14-year-old Hanoverian horse, who she still part owns, sweep aside some quality combinations to take victory.
Before he was sold two years ago, Underdiscussion was on the New Zealand dressage squad with Weal and was also evented by former Kiwi representative Donna Smith.
“He was pretty useful but I knew he wasn’t going to be a grand prix dressage horse,” said Weal. “He’s done a lot of mileage on the flat and while he used to be difficult in big atmospheres, now he just loves it!”
Weal got a call from Burton last week and scrambled to find a ticket from New Zealand in time to see them go.
“It’s just amazing to have such belief in the horse and see it come through.”
Meanwhile, Nicholson finished on his dressage score of 43.6 penalty points. He was 13th after the dressage phase, moving up to eighth after going clear and inside time in the showjumping, and then up to fifth after again finishing the cross country hoof perfect.
Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris said Nicholson’s efforts were “just magic”.
“Nereo made the (cross country) track look easy and looks fit and ready to go for London. Andrew just loved it,” she said.
Olympic reserve Lucy Jackson and Kilcoltrim Ambassador were the next best-performed Kiwis with their 22nd place finish. They too pulled themselves slowly but carefully through the field throughout the event.
They were in 36th spot after a 57.6 in the dressage, moved up two places after adding four faults to their score after dropping a rail in the showjumping and then finished on 70 thanks to adding just 8.4 time faults from the cross country.
Harris was over the moon with Jackson.
“It was text book stuff, remembering this horse is still quite new to the big three star scene.”
Jonathan Paget, who will head to the London Olympics with Nicholson, Mark Todd and Caroline Powell, would be a little disappointed with Bullet Proof’s run-out in the cross country but again, this is a fairly young horse and overall, his efforts bode well for the future, according to Harris.
“The horse went brilliantly,” she said. “This was a big test for him.”
Paget was 30th after his dressage and picked up two time faults in the showjumping but 20 faults and 31.6 time faults meant a final placing of 32nd.
Todd withdrew both his horses before starting the cross country. He was riding Olympic team-mate Jonelle Richards’ Flintstar to give him the big atmosphere experience of Aachen, as well as his own NZB Grass Valley.
Harris says it was never the plan to start Flintstar in the cross country.
“It is too much of a high risk for a catch ride over such a large cross country,” she says.
NZB Grass Valley picked up an uncharacteristic 16 faults in the showjumping phase, and was sitting in 41st spot when the decision was made not to start him in the final phase of the competition.
Individual CICO3*: Christopher Burton (AUS) Underdiscussion 38.8 penalty points 1, Michael Jung (GER) La Biosthetique-Sam FBW 40.6 2, Laura Collett (GBR) Rayef 40.6 3, Sandra Auffarth (GER) Opgun Louvo 41.6 4, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) Nereo (owned by Deborah Sellar) 43.6 5, Lucy Jackson (NZL) Kilcoltrim Ambassador (owned by the Sprout Syndicate and Jackson) 70 22, Jonathan Paget (NZL) Bullet Proof 104 32, Mark Todd (NZL) Flintstar (owned by Darnelle Hubbard, Tim Price and K. Gray) withdrawn before cross country. Mark Todd (NZL) NZB Grass Valley (owned by New Zealand Bloodstock and Todd) withdrawn before cross country.
Nations Cup: Germany 136.40 1, Great Britain 141 2, Sweden 176.8 3, New Zealand (Andrew Nicholson, Nereo 43.6; Lucy Jackson, Kilcoltrim Ambassador 70; Jonathan Paget, Bullet Proof 104; drop off score Mark Todd, NZB Grass Valley 1000) 217.6 4, France 233.6 5, Netherlands 304.6 6, Australia 1,126.6 7.