Name: Nick Skelton
From: Bedworth, Warwickshire
History: With just under 40 years riding experience, Skelton has a hugely succesful history behind him. His highlights include a Gold medal at the Junior European Championships, three consecutive Gold medals in the team jumping at the European Championships in 1985, 1987 and 1989 while also winning a Bronze in the individual jumping in 1987. In cohesion with this, there have been many silver and bronze medals in different competitions along with victories in the Hickstead Derby and the King George V Star Cup. Skelton currently holds the British Show Jumping High Jump record, at 7 ft 7in 5/16th (2.32m) set at Olympia in 1978 with Lastic.
Qualification for 2012: As host nation, Team GB is automatically allocated a place at the Olympics and will surely send a team to compete. It may be a tough ask for Skelton to be a competitor but he is likely to be involved with Team GB showjumping behind the scenes.
Nick incredibly started riding at just 18 months old when he got his first pony called Oxo, who remained part of the Skelton family until the age of 39. Despite little tuition, Skelton found he had a natural ability for riding and decided to pursue it and took his pony to Ted and Liz Edgar at the age of 14.
He had many early successes of the horse, Maybe, but it went lame just before the Junior European Championships and Skelton had to ride a horse called O.K but he rode it magnificently and won gold at the Championships. The showjumper continued to ride Edgars’ horses and in 1985, set a British record, that still stands today, when he jumped 7ft 7in on the horse, Lastic.
Seven years later and Skelton broke away from the Edgars and his main horse, Apollo, went with him and as a partnership, the nearly won all the top prizes in the sport as well as many Championship medals. Skelton went on to compete at the Barcelona Olympics in ’92, and although it didn’t go to plan, the Warwickshire man did go on to win the World Cup final in Gothenburg in 1995 with the horse, Apollo.
Skelton then suffered a career-threatening injury in 2000 after breaking his neck but despite retiring in 2001, he returned to action in 2002 and with the horse Arko III, he went on to win the British Open title at the British Showjumping Championships in 2004 and did compete in Athens and lead until an unfortunate final round which saw him fall down the order.
1) How did you first get into Showjumping?
Took a pony to Ted Edgar for help when I was 14 and at 16 went to work for him and it all continued from that.
2) You competed at Barcelona in 92 and then lead until the final round in Athens in 2004, how do you rate both yours and the team’s chances in London?
The British team have a good chance in London, we have some great horses in this country for 2012.
3) Do you have any nicknames?
“Skelly” – my assistant calls me “The Boss” but when Bruce Springsteen was on the yard last year visiting his daughter that got a bit confusing!
4) Breaking your neck must have been a horrific injury, how hard was it both physically and mentally to come back from that?
When I broke my neck I didn’t know until months later that the doctors would tell me not to ride again so my focus was on recovering. Eventually, wanting to compete got me back on a horse and of course Arko was on my yard at the time and I knew he could be brilliant so I was very motivated.
5) You’ve ridden a range of different horses over the years, is there a particular favourite that stands out?
Dollar Girl was my favourite horse ever.
6) The Equestrian Jumping will be taking place at Greenwich Park, what are your thoughts on the chosen location?
Greenwich is a good location, the footing has been improved since the Test Event last year, which I competed in, so I think it will go really well for all the riders.
7) Away from showjumping, how much free time do you get and what do you like to do in those free hours?
In my free time I go racing. My eldest son is Assistant Trainer to Paul Nicholls and my youngest son is a jockey.
8) If you had to choose another career path, what would it be?
When I was young I wanted to be a jockey but I grew too big. Nowadays I think I am more suited to being a marriage guidance councillor!
One Word Answers
Favourite Colour: Red for “First” in rosette colours!
Favourite Food: Chinese
Favourite Type of Music: Jazz/Blues/Rock fusion
Favourite TV Program: Only Fools and Horses
Biggest Inspiration: David Broome
Best Memory in Showjumping: Winning the 1995 World Cup with Dollar Girl
Watch Nick Skelton’s record jump here:
I would like to thank Nick and his team for all their cooperation and wish him all the best for the future.