EVENTER Andrew Nicholson is optimistic about his chances of success at the Barbury Horse Trials this week onboard promising gelding Swallow Springs.

Nicholson, who earlier this year retired his star horse Nereo following a below-par performance at Badminton, hopes his 10-year-old can fill part of the void left by his outgoing champion.

The pair enter Barbury in good form, having already won at Tweseldown before second-place finishes at Belton Park and Branham International further boosted Marlborough-based Nicholson’s confidence.

The 56-year-old New Zealander said: “Badminton didn’t go how we planned, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

“I’ve got some good horses ready for Barbury. Swallow Springs is in the main class and finished second last year in a three-star section at Barbury.

“He was second a couple of weeks ago in a three-star competition, so he’s been going well.

“I’ve got a young one in the three-star and two young ones in the two-star as well.

“From riding Barbury, it’s very similar to a lot of the other big events.

“For me, the main thing for spectators is they can see pretty much the whole course from one spot. It’s very spectator friendly.”

With a busy weekend ahead, preparation is key to any riders’ success.

However build-up to Barbury has been hindered slightly for all competitors across the country down to the unusually dry weather of late.

Less than one millimetre of rain has fallen in some parts of the country, making the ground hard and providing an additional test to both horse and jockey – something Nicholson is all too aware of.

He said: “The course is perhaps a little more undulating than others. When you’re going fast, it’s harder to keep rhythm and keep things smooth.

“But it’s a very fair course and a nice place to compete.

“We have the opposite problem to Badminton, though, and riders will be complaining now that the ground is too hard.

“It’s hard on the horses’ limbs when the ground is hard, it’s like a human running on the road.

“We might get a bit of rain before, you never know. But ultimately, we’ll have to turn up and see what it’s like when we arrive.

“They will do whatever they can do to make the ground is as good as they can.”

While this season has presented Nicholson with some tough challenges, he has experienced success on four occasions – the latest of those at Borde Hill onboard Babiblonia BT4 in May.

With podium places aplenty, the New Zealander hopes to land what would be Swallow Springs’ biggest prize at his local course.

He said: “I don’t have the range of horses I used to have with Nereo retiring – that left a bit of a hole.

“But my younger ones have stepped up well to do what we’ve asked of them. I’m pleased with how Swallow Springs has come along.

“You’ve just got to keep bringing the young ones up through the grades, and I’m happy with the way they’re going.”