An interview with Nicole Horwood

Interview by Caroline Malan

You’re currently ranked number 1 in SA. Tell us about your 2018 – what has gone so right?

Ranking at number 1 position is normally about consistency. We have won a couple of big classes and been placed in many. Don Cumarco is feeling very fit and strong at the moment. He may not be young anymore but he is still a fighter and just loves what he does.

How old is Don Cumarco now and how long have you ridden him for?

He is 15 years old.  I started riding him when he was a 5 year old so we have been partners for a good 10 years.

Nicole and Don Cumarco tackling the wall at Derby

Tell us about his work routine – does anyone else ride him? What does he enjoying doing the most?

I ride him every day. He just loves to work. He has such an amazing work ethic and looks forward to his daily routine. Even if he has had a hard schooling session and I give him a pat to reward him he puts his head down and plays no matter how tired he is. He absolutely loves to jump, and when he goes through the finish posts even after jumping a long track like the Derby he will put his head between his legs and play.

Don Cumarco playing after completing his round

What are his weak points (if he has any 😊)?

He doesn’t have weak points but he is extremely sensitive. You have to sit very still on him and always reassure him. I think his sensitivity is what makes him so careful.

How do you prepare fitness-wise for Derby?

Mostly just big cantering at the moment and fitness work. I do a Derby practice session just once with him as he is familiar with all the obstacles. The bank I might do 2 or 3 times because it’s so unique and requires precision riding.

It’s now time to train for Derby: explain the next 3 weeks ahead for Don Cumarco?

He is very fit anyway – they have to be to compete at the top level. I also do lots of big cantering and interval training. I monitor his food intake and make sure the program I follow allows him to peak at the right time.

Nicole and Don Cumarco soar over the water

Who would you like to thank for their support thus far?

Wow I have such a great team by my side. Of course I must thank Capital Stud who have given me the best horse power I could ever have dreamed of. Henning Pretorius has supported me for over 10 years now, and we have enjoyed success both locally and internationally with the horses we have produced. My long time coach Gonda Betrix who has taught me everything I know about riding as well as the importance of dedication and a strong work ethic. Mark White Nissan who have been such great supporters of our established string of horses as well as the up and coming young string of horses. Western Shoppe who have kitted myself as well as my horses out immaculately and of course my family, without their support I could not put the time into the sport that is required to be successful. Of course I could not do it without my grooms especially my head groom Elikhana who is my right hand man and literally does everything before I even think of it.

What is the biggest thing you struggle with / need to work on during the 4 days at Derby?

I have to remember to eat. It’s the one show where I do feel a little more stressed than usual and lose my appetite.  You also have to qualify for the final day so you have to bring your A game from day one with no margin for error.

Do you ever get nervous about anything?

Yes, for Derby!  I wouldn’t say I get nervous but I do get a bit of anxiety, but its good anxiety – it’s what drives me to focus. When I hear those bagpipes my stomach gets in a knot and the adrenaline kicks in.

The event is almost sold out…. That must excite you hugely 😊

I love the electric atmosphere at Derby. The crowds are so big and it’s almost like they ride every jump with you. The event seems to be getting bigger and better every year which is so exciting for our sport.

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