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‘Terrifying - I tried not to hear how high it was’: puissance first-timer is thrilled to jump 7ft wall

Royal Windsor Horse Show puissance -Nici Wilson and Guaranteed Quality in the puissance at Royal Windsor Horse Show
Nici Wilson riding Guaranteed Quality during the Martin Collins Enterprises Puissance Jumping Competition during the Royal Windsor Horse Show, held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle in Windsor in Berkshire in the UK between 10 - 14th May 2023

Thursday afternoon’s Martin Collins Enterprises puissance competition at Royal Windsor Horse Show was won by Derek Morton (KBS High Quality) and Commandant Geoff Curran (Bishops Quarter) over a fifth-round height of 2.12m (7ft).

But giving these high-jump experts a terrific run for their money was puissance first-timer Nici Wilson, who was only given the green light to compete in the class last week and practised over a wall for the first time only three days before their debut.

But Nici and her multi-talented 12-year-old gelding Guaranteed Quality, who evented to four-star level and contested last year’s Hickstead Derby, cleared Royal Windsor’s big red wall with great gusto through the first four rounds, clearing 2m (6ft 7in) with ease. It was only in the fifth and final round that they toppled the bricks to share equal third with Joe Stockdale on Dublon.

“It’s amazing and I’m so pleased to have done it but it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done,” said Nici. “Guaranteed Quality did the Derby last year and we know he’s very scopey, so I emailled the organisers and said I might be interested in doing the puissance, let’s see what happens. Then last week we got an email saying you’re in! So I said ‘OK let’s go for it’.”

Royal Windsor Horse Show puissance: ‘If you don’t know how big it is, it won’t bother you!’

Nici and the Dutch-bred chestnut gelding practised over a wall for the first time on Monday, all set for their big ring debut on Thursday afternoon, where the imposing Windsor Castle acts as an impressive backdrop.

“He’s jumped the big wall in the Derby but that’s a viaduct so you can see through it,” explained Nici. “We didn’t jump anything massive over the practice wall, but enough that I knew we could get through the first round, and if he did that I could say ‘Yes, he’s a good boy’.

“But on the night he was just amazing. I thought maybe I should quit while I’m ahead but he was brilliant, it was such good fun.

“I was trying to keep him relaxed and say – you’ve got your job to do, I’ll try to stay out the way. I was in my own little zone but I was slightly aware that around me people were getting more and more excited about it.

“All I kept thinking in the warm-up was ‘Don’t listen what height they make the next round’ – I just thought if you don’t know how big it is, it won’t bother you!”

‘I think he could have cleared it if I hadn’t panicked’

With the wall towering to 2.12m in the fifth and final round, Nici said: “It was big for me and two strides away I didn’t let go and allow him to do it – I just put too much leg on and gave him a kick. I think he could have cleared it if I hadn’t panicked.

“But to be competing in that kind of field – all of those riders have done the puissance numerous times before, whereas it was my first go and his first go. So I was just so delighted that a) he enjoyed it and b) that he did so well. The owners, Barry and Karen Carter, loved it too and they couldn’t have been more thrilled – although they couldn’t even admit they owned him during the class, they were so terrified.”

Nici says that to compete in the puissance at Olympia would be “the big dream”, but their first target is another tilt at the Hickstead Derby.

“He doesn’t owe us anything – we’ve had him since he was three years old, so he’s done a lot and given us a lot of fun,” Nici said. “I started him as a five-year-old and actually we didn’t get on as a duo. He evented with my sister Helen, then I found myself back on him jumping and actually we’ve bonded as we’ve gone on. He’s very cool – he has his own opinion about life, but he’s fun.”

Nici was also in action in the Foxhunter and 1.40m class, won by Sally Goding and Spring Willow, earlier in the day at Royal Windsor.

“It’s our favourite show, we try to go every year,” she said. “We took a lorry load of horses who have all come home having done really well – the youngsters did the Foxhunter, the older ones in the 1.40m and then the puissance has just been the icing on the cake.”

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