Avebury and Andrew | An Eventful Life

Avebury and Andrew

       Andrew and Avebury on their way to a third win at Barbury in 2014

 

This week Andrew Nicholson and the 15 year grey horse Avebury head to their ‘local’ event at the Barbury International Horse Trials. The Barbury Castle estate, located close to Marlborough in Wiltshire, has become a special venue for Andrew and Avebury, having won here three times in a row in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and this year the event has commemorated their achievement by naming its most iconic fences after Avebury

When the event first started at Barbury Castle the organisers wanted to create something that had a particular feel of Wiltshire, prompting David Green, the then event director and Nigel Bunter, Chairman of the event to choose a local feature for an extraordinary fence concept - after all, what could be more Wiltshire than Stonehenge?

The fence, which is built of wood despite looking like stone by the famous Willis brothers, has been a distinctive element of the event for several years but from now on it will be named after Avebury, who was bred in the area and is certainly at home on the Barbury Castle estate

“He goes on the gallops here, it just seems natural to him to be here and there is a sense that he just takes over the place. I could see him winning a fourth time and I hope so, it would be such a wonderful achievement” says Nigel of the big ‘white’ horse

White horses are also another signature of this area, with many of the famous chalk hill figures carved into the hillsides in Britain being located on its chalk downs. But while the most famous of these white horses, the Uffington White Horse, dates back to the Bronze Age, the new white horse celebrity of the area was born much more recently.

 

      Their first win at Barbury in 2012 (above) and the second in 2013 (below)

 

Avebury was born in 2000, bred by Andrew at the yard he was then living in near Devizes in Wilshire. He was by the Irish Draught/thoroughbred Jumbo out of a thoroughbred mare, Memento and, after breaking him in, Andrew sold him to Nicola Smith, a friend of his wife Wiggy’s, to be a show jumper.

Nicola jumped him as a five year old but she then decided that Avebury’s future probably wasn’t in this discipline so Wiggy offered to buy him back. The pair did well together in 2006, winning the Novice at Gatcombe International when Avebury was six years old but Andrew had other plans for the young horse. The couple remember it slightly differently; Wiggy says that when the Barlows (Rosemary and Mark, who had owned other horses with Andrew including Spinning Rhombus) were looking for another horse for Andrew to ride for them, she reluctantly suggested that Avebury would be a good horse while Andrew in his book Focused says that “Wiggy went away for a few days so I sneaked up to the gallops to see what he could do. I was quite impressed so I suggested that Rosemary bought him for me to ride” The rest as they say, is history

Andrew soon discovered that there were some very definite quirks which needed to be addressed when riding Avebury as he had a habit of shying and running out at fences at the last moment. Over the years he worked out that he could not approach the big fences casually on this horse but needed to ride him a little more aggressively, resulting in the famous phrase “He likes it when I ride him like I stole him”

But, despite feeling ‘ordinary’ at home and often even in the warm-up at big events, Avebury certainly knows how to rise to the occasion once he enters the arena or heads out on cross country.

 

       Owners Rosemary and Mark Barlow celebrate the historic third win at Burghley in 2014

 

“He’s always looking around to see whether the crowds are clapping for him or clapping for someone else” says owner Rosemary Barlow “The crowds do spur him on there’s no doubt about that, especially when the course is tightly roped you can just see him looking”

After the disappointment of missing out on a medal at the 2012 London Olympics, Avebury gave Andrew his first CCI4* win for 12 years at Burghley, starting a winning streak for his team of horses that included five 4* wins and five 3* wins – a great achievement. It was also the start of the Avebury trifectas with three wins at Barbury and the historic three wins in a row at Burghley, also in 2012, 2013 and 2014

 

 

For Andrew and Wiggy Avebury is not just a champion but also a favourite of the stable

 “He loves work, he loves attention, he’s just a really easy horse to have around” says Andrew while Wiggy, who named Avebury when she was driving past the Wilshire stone circle one day as she was trying to think of a name for him, says “He’d come in the house if he could”

Andrew is confident about the preparation for Barbury 2015 “He feels very good. If he can get there the way he has the last three years, I’ll be looking for a repeat” he says with a grin but Wiggy adds “He doesn’t owe any of us anything. Everything is a bonus – he feels great at home and there’s no reason he can’t deliver it for a fourth time but we’re also realistic in our expectations that it’s a big ask”