He has won two Olympic golds and countless international titles, but showjumping legend Nick Skelton insists watching his sons Dan and Harry win for the first time at the Cheltenham Festival is the “proudest day of my life”.
Skelton Snr retired in April aged 59, just months after achieving a lifetime’s ambition – individual jumping gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics. But he is adamant his own glittering career in the ring does not compare to the day his trainer son Dan and jockey son Harry celebrated victory with Superb Story in the County Handicap Hurdle at lthe 2016 Festival.
In an interview with The British Jockey Club’s Love The Jumps podcast Skelton recalls: “Harry said that when I won the gold medal that was the proudest day of his life, but for me when they won there [at Cheltenham] that was the proudest day of my life.
“It’s really good for them and we’re a really close family. It’s great what they’re doing.”
Skelton Snr works with Dan at his yard to offer expertise on a range of disciplines, but insists most of the hard work is down to his son.
“Dan grew up and did his training and his apprenticeship with Paul Nicholls, the best there is. So he got all that knowledge from training and doing what they did with those horses in terms of getting them fit and what races to put them in and this, that and the other.
“Myself, I’m there if I’m needed with the jumping skills … they jump them a lot and if they have a difficult one or we watch them schooling or if there’s something I think we should do then I suggest it and we’ll try it.”
Skelton is also instrumental in getting horses at his son Dan’s yard to not only school over traditional fences but also showjumping poles. He says they even try dressage.
He explained: “With a racehorse when they go out and put everything in, it takes them more recovery time than a showjumper. They’re galloping for five, six minutes and flat to the boards and a lot of stress and strain. The [show]jumpers, they’ll be doing it over 85-90 seconds and the recovery rate is probably quicker and it’s not so stressful.
“So it’s a whole different thing really but schooling wise, we do school them a lot. Not only over chase fences or hurdles. We do a lot of schooling over poles and jumps and things like that. We try and get them rideable, that’s the thing.
“It’s no good galloping down to a fence at 40 miles an hour. You have no control. We try and do a bit of dressage with them and get control. It’s all about control.”