Queen's Honours: Andrew Nicholson owes equestrian success to unsung heroes

Andrew Nicholson
Kiwi equestrian rider Andrew Nicholson. Photo credit: Photosport

World-class horseman Andrew Nicholson has picked up a Queen's Birthday gong, but you get the feeling he'd gladly hand it over to the real heroes of his career - his mounts.

At 56, the Kiwi has fashioned a body of work that any of his peers would die for, including seven Olympics Games over 28 years, three Olympic medals and a 1990 team world championship title.

He's a five-time winner at Burghley, one of the world's top equestrian events, and proved his enduring ability with a maiden victory at Badminton just last year.

"I'm very, very proud and very honoured," Nicholson told Newshub, after he was named an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit on Monday.

"To be given that is quite something, isn't it? I'm very satisfied and I realise how lucky I am to have a job that most people spend a fortune on, just to call it their hobby."

But he knows none of this would be possible without a lot of help from his four-legged teammates.

"Without the horse, I'm nothing in my job," he said. "I appreciate them, I respect them.

"They're far more intelligent than a lot of people give them credit for. Even a lot of horse people don't realise how intelligent they are, they're very trainable."

Two have stood out for him - Avebury carried him to three of those Burghley victories, while Nereo was his successful ride at Badminton.

"Nereo has always stood out for me," said Nicholson. "Avebury was a pretty grey and always looked very happy with life, and he was a pleasure to work with.

"Nereo is a bit more raw and rangier, possibly not as handsome, but he always felt like he was giving you 110 percent.

"Whether I took him to the Olympics Games or world championships, Badminton or Burleigh, he felt like he would just give you his mind and his body. To do that year after year is quite something."

Nereo was retired after last month's 2018 Badminton event, but can still be found giving loyal service, now to Nicholson's teeange daughter.

"He looks as happy as can be and she's just beaming," said Nicholson. "It's great to see.

"He probably thinks he's getting ready for Burleigh, but he'll just be used at home and treated like the star he is."

Other sporting recipients of Queen's Birthday Honours were:

Officer of NZ Order of Merit

  • Fiona Allan, services to Paralympic sport
  • Fiao'o Fa'amausili, services to rugby
  • Tracey Fear, services to netball
  • Kirsten Hellier, services to athletics

Member of NZ Order of Merit

  • Andrea Hewitt, services to triathlon
  • Laura Mariu, services to rugby league
  • Rochelle Martin, services to rugby and fire & emergency
  • Darryl Suasua. Services to rugby