ANDREW Nicholson enter this week’s Badminton Horse Trials full of confidence following a pair of successful build-up events on board defending champion Nereo.

The 56-year-old will be hoping to replicate his efforts of last year after partnering his 18-year-old chestnut gelding to a first Badminton victory 12 months ago.

It was Nicholson’s maiden triumph at the world’s premier eventing competition in 36 attempts and the Marlborough-based rider believes there’s no reason why he cannot add to his medal tally, with work building up to Badminton having gone well.

He said: “I feel as though Nereo is very well prepared. He’s been going very well and will be one of the oldest horses in the field.

“He’s 18 now, but he feels good. He doesn’t know he’s 18. He’s gone well in the two build-up competitions so I’m going there feeling as prepared as I was last year.

“You need a very good horse to get around Badminton. Dressage, cross country and show jumping – you’ve got to put all three phases together in a smart way to be able to win it.”

Since moving to this country from New Zealand in the 1980s to expand on his equestrian career, Nicholson has bagged three World Championship medals and three Olympic medals – his latest at the London 2012 Games.

The New Zealander explained being based at the heart of horses in Wiltshire has helped him to allow them to reach their full potential, but believes dealing with Badminton’s large crowd will be the biggest challenge over the three days.

He said: “Each event has its own unique element to it. But things are easier when you’ve got a horse that’s used to big crowds.

“At an event like Badminton there are lots of people watching just for the dressage alone.

“Then you do the cross-country where there are a lot more people than horses will normally see than at other events.

“Nereo has been to all of them and done it more than once, that’s a big positive.

“I’ve been in the UK for a long time. Wiltshire is a great place for equestrian sports, whether that’s eventing, racing or otherwise.

“It’s a great country to be based in and in Wiltshire we have a lot of racing trainers – which is good for my job.

“I need to be able to use the gallops that national hunt trainers use. Luckily I have Barbury Castle’s gallops at my disposal. That’s an important part regarding a horse’s fitness in eventing.

“It’s nice to be able to travel to the biggest event in the world in just 45 minutes too.”

Regarding competition, Nicholson will remain focussed on his controllables as he targets another major championship.

“I don’t get hooked up with the other riders,” said Nicholson.

“All I can do is the best I can do with the horse I’ve got.

“It’s a high-class field, it always is at Badminton.

“There are some high-class combinations of riders and horses. There are some very good young riders doing Badminton for the first time as well.

“It will be competitive and entertaining for those watching.”