The special relationship between a horse and it’s rider can make, what seems impossible and out of reach, really happen.
Look at Nick Skelton and Big Star.
In the world of show jumping, over the years Nick Skelton has become a household name. During his career, which begun in the mid seventies, he’s had numerous successes on horses such as Apollo, Dollar Girl, Arko and most recent, Big Star.
Nick has always been a regular member of the British team, and was rewarded with an abundance of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at all major championships, as well as top individual results.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Nick’s riding ambitions looked like they had come to an end, when he sustained a broken neck in an accident and things looked really bleak for him. In 2001 retirement from his beloved sport seemed inevitable, and he made the heart breaking decision to stop. Against all odds, he made a remarkable recovery and in 2002 came out of retirement, and found himself back in the saddle.
Slowly but surely, he returned to his winning ways and once again was a part of the British show jumping scene. In 2004, with Arko, he won the British Open Show jumping Championship together with other top prizes, and at the 2004 Olympics the combination was leading in the Individual Gold Medal class up until the final round when mistakes they made were costly, and the gold medal out of reach.
Following the retirement of Arko, Nick was offered the ride on talented horses from Gary and Beverly Widdowson, one of which was a Dutch bred stallion called Big Star.
In 2012, Nick and Big Star were chosen together with Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles for the British team to compete at the Olympic Games in London. The team was amazing and won the Team Gold medal on home soil, against the very best horses and riders in the world.
Although Nick was able to keep himself fit and without major health scares, Big Star was less fortunate and incurred ailments that kept him out of action for nearly 2 years, looking like he’d reached the end of his formidable career.
With very professional and sincere love and care from his groom, Big Star was re-introduced to the show ring at the beginning of 2016, and made a remarkable comeback. Although Nick was reaching quite a mature age of 58 and Big Star 13 years old they were chosen for the show jumping squad to represent GB in Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Together with Ben Maher, John and Michael Whitaker the team was not lacking in age and experience. The Individual title was finally fought out between 5 of the best and Nick with Big Star were the first to go. He rode a skilful round going clear in a fast time so made it very difficult for the following riders to beat his incredible performance. End result – Nick Skelton and Big Star win Individual Olympic Gold medal in Rio !
The win for this very special combination aroused emotions all around, not least by Nick himself but for the team that were right behind this amazing horse.
Quotes from Nick Skelton:
“You always dream about it but when it actually happens it is real life,” he said, fighting back the tears. “To be in the sport all this time and win this caps it.”
“Big Star was amazing, justice has been done for him today.”
“It has been a hard road. The last competition he won was in 2013 so today was a good day to win.”
“It has been tough but the last three years I knew if we got him right he was capable of doing it.”
“He is the best horse I have ever seen. He’s an incredible horse, he knows what’s going on and knows when it is important.”
An amazing story, so remember, in whatever circumstances, follow your dreams.
They often do come true.