Nicole Horwood talks Cell C Derby excitement

Nicole Horwood and Mark White Nissan Capital Don Cumarco are four-time winners of the Derby

The SA Derby is rich in history, the highlight of the equestrian calendar and the ‘must-win’ event of every rider’s career. Culminating in the Cell C South African Derby at 2pm on 1 October 2017 at the Kyalami Equestrian Park, this event is not to be missed.

Nicole Horwood

We caught up with four-time SA Derby champion and mother of two, Nicole Horwood, as she prepares for the 52nd edition of SA’s toughest show jumping event.
“My Fitness training has started but not the actual training over the Derby obstacles, however I will start that shortly now that the Revil World Cup show is completed. I normally do two proper sessions before the event as the horses are familiar with all the “funnies” and only need a refresher just before the show. I have three horses that I’ll be competing on namely Mark White Nissan Capital Hitoshi in the 1m50 classes; Mark White Nissan Capital Don Cumarco (also 1m50) and Mark White Nissan Capital Look At Me in 1m40.”

Fan favourite

Superstar stallion Capital Don Cumarco is admired by the horse-passionate public, many of whom come to the show to watch him specifically.
“He just seems to love the Bob Charter Grass Arena. In Derby specifically I think he finds the different obstacles fun. As soon as I start Derby practice he gets so excited and almost can’t contain himself: he bucks and squeals constantly. He loves the atmosphere and vibe on Derby day I think the crowds make him try just that little bit harder,” smiles the Kyalami resident.

Tricky obstacles

The bank is most riders’ greatest fear as there is a very small margin for error

In terms of what fences scare her the most, she says that she believes that most competitors fear the bank the most.
“It can be so unpredictable. No matter how hard you practice, one wrong step can ruin the outcome. If you don’t land in the correct position at the bottom of the bank the plank is almost impossible to jump as the margin of error is so small. You have to approach the fence with enough pace to give your horse the confidence to go down but at the same time not too fast that they jump off too early and get the distance to the plank wrong. In terms of before the show, I don’t do any extra fitness training other than interval training with my horses.  I try to eat healthy prior to the show as I have a very healthy appetite for food in general but over the show I completely lose my appetite and have to force myself to eat, not because of nerves but more from anxiety. I don’t find it easy to control my nerves on competition day and even though I have done it 4 times I still feel like it’s my first time every time. On the day I spend a lot of time by myself which sometimes can come across as rude but it’s my way of focusing and getting into the zone. I love derby: The atmosphere and crowds. It draws so many people from all walks of life and there is such a festive feel on the last day. The crowds really get involved and it makes a big difference to the riders it’s like they carry us around the course and want us to all do well and succeed.”

Anyone’s game

Make sure you’re part of the action on 1 October at Kyalami Park Club

When asked who she thinks stands a good chance of winning, the petit blond says that anyone who qualifies has a chance of winning;
“Derby is so unpredictable that I feel anyone who qualifies has a chance of winning it. Because of the nature of the obstacles things can turn out very differently to how you actually plan it. There are a lot of good horses out there: the field seems to get stronger and stronger each year. Our level and strength of competition has risen over the years. In days gone by you could win on 4 faults or just being the only clear round, now you have to gallop your heart out to be the fastest in the jump off. I also believe on the day you need to have lady luck on your side!”

Text: The PR Machine