A Changing of the Guard for British Eventing

Changing of the guard

The Blenheim Palace Horse Trials proved to be a changing of the guard for British eventing. Twenty-four year old Yasmin Ingham riding Banzai Du Loir finished on her dressage score at the Blenheim Palace Horse Trials last weekend. Last year, Ingham was called one of the “rising stars” of British eventing, having The 23-year-old holds the honour of having won the British championships at all four “under” levels – 16, 18, 21 and 25. In 2020 she rode Banzai to victory at Burnham Market, and now she’s taken Blenheim!

Banzai Du Loir is a Selle Français that Ingham describes as:

“He’s super athletic, really fast, very scopey, brave – and he’s rideable. Sometimes you have horses who are hot and you have to be careful how much pressure you put on, but the more you ask, the more he gives.

“He was bought with Paris 2024 in mind; obviously there’s a long way to go, but it’s exciting to have that plan and dream in place.”

Yasmin grew up on the Isle of Man, where her mother Lesley was a manager at a large equestrian center, Kennaa. Always a daredevil, she says of her childhood,

“There was a lot of going out in fields and jumping hedges. And we used to play chase me Charlie – one day Mum walked over to find me galloping to a 1.60m (5′ 1/4″) fence on a 14hh pony,” grins Yasmin. “She was like, ‘What am I going to do with this child who can’t stop riding and wanting to gallop at huge fences?’”

I guess it takes a certain personality to want to go at the highest levels of eventing. Even when I was bombing around as a teen on a horse that had competed as a junior jumpers, a 4-foot fence still made me think hard.

While Yasmin Ingham is moving up in the ranks, 60-year old Andrew Nicholson chose Blenheim to announce that he is stepping back from upper level competition. Not retiring, mind you — he says he will still be bringing along young horses to the 2* and 3* levels, but will leave the 4* and 5* competitions to younger riders.

Nicholson’s accomplishments at the 4* and 5* levels are many:

  • Blenheim in 1991 (Park Grove) and 2012 (Quimbo).
  • Burghley a record three times consecutively on Avebury (2012, 2013 and 2014) as well as in 1995 (Buckley Province) and 2000 (Mr. Smiffy)
  • Pau with his Olympic mount Nereo (2012)
  • Kentucky on Quimbo for his 4* debut (2013)
  • Lumuhlen on Mr Cruise Control (2013)
  • Barbury 4* seven times, most recently on Swallow Springs (2021)
  • Perhaps his most emotional win occurred in 2017 when he returned from a serious neck injury to win Badminton on the 17-year-old Nereo, a horse he had broken in as a three-year-old. He had 37 previous completions before securing this prize.

A six-time Olympian, he was a silver medalist in the team event in Barcelona 1992, and won bronze in Atlanta 1996 and London 2012 with the New Zealand team.

Rumors about Nicholson stepping back started this summer when Andrew handed the reins of his 5* ride, Swallow Springs, to Oliver Townend after winning Barbury.

“I think Oliver has done such a good job, I can’t see why I need to go to Badminton again,” he said. “So, I think I’ll step back from these five-stars and four-star big [fixtures] like this one, and maybe just do the smaller level horses that I can get up through the grades and then sell.

“I didn’t want to say too much [at the start of the week] just in case Oliver hopped off and told me ‘I don’t want him’ and then I’m [the one] going to Badminton.

“I haven’t asked [Oliver] yet if he wants to ride him at Badminton, I’m just presuming,” he added, with a smile.

Andrew Nicholson winning Badminton on Nereo in 2017 after 37 completions (and recovering from a broken neck).
Andrew Nicholson and Park Grove’s winning ride at Blenheim in 1991.

Watching Andrew Nicholson ride — especially cross country — is a delight. He always looks incredibly chill and sits so quietly on his horses. He is known for building horses’ confidence over tricky courses.

He also has won the “Mr. Stickability” title, check out this near fall at Burghley in 2020 where he went on to win with Mr. Smiffy.

Andrew Nicholson wins the “Mr. Stickability” award for this near miss on Mr. Smiffy. He went on to win Burghley.

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