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The SA Derby rider profiles: Nicole Horwood

By Caroline Malan

What makes Derby so amazing for you?

I think it’s the atmosphere, the vibe, the title and just the fact that it is such a unique type of event.

Your thoughts on this year’s Derby?
It’s going to be a tough one as there is a lot of strong competition this year.

How has Derby changed and what does that mean for:


The Derby seems to grow bigger and bigger every year. The spectators are what make the show so special. It feels like they ride every jump with you and are incredibly supportive of each and every rider.


The competition gets tougher and tougher over the years. In days gone by often just one clear round would win the competition but now you see several riders each year in the jump-off.

The sport:

The sport has grown exponentially. The numbers in the lower grades being close to 100 per class at the big shows is a direct reflection of how popular our sport has become and how much people are prepared to invest in their passion.

Which horses will you be jumping in the show and at what grades?

Mark White Nissan Capital Don Cumarco – 1.50m

Mark White Nissan Hitoshi – 1.50m

Mark White Nissan Look At Me – 1.35m.

Which horse are you most excited to compete on for this show and why?

Obviously it has to be Mark White Nissan Capital Don Cumarco. He has won it four times and just loves the Derby track. He battles to contain himself when we start jumping and practising the Derby obstacles! We have been together since he was five years old so our relationship has spanned over an 11 year period.

Explain your best ever Derby round to us?

Every Derby win has been very special to me. However, I think the first one in 2012 holds a special place in my heart. It was both Don Cumarco and my first Derby. I was just so excited to be part of an event/class that had held so much prestige to me growing up, so to be the only clear on the day was very surreal and definitely a dream realised.

Who are your horse and rider combo favourites for this year and why?
I don’t have favorites. Derby is unique and anything can happen on the day. You need to make sure your horse peaks on the right day, is consistent, and that lady luck is on your side.

What is the one improvement you would like to see made to Derby to make it better/ more appealing?
More marketing and exposure of the event would be great.

What are some of the techniques that you use to calm yourself and your horses down before entering the class?

I like to get to the show early and do a mid-morning warm-up to get an idea of how the stallions are feeling. They can be very unpredictable and I never know if they going to be chilled or all fired-up. Once that is done they are walked around quietly to get them relaxed. In terms of keeping myself calm, I like to spend some time on my own to focus and go through the track.

Do you ride your horse in the parade or a borrowed horse? 

I generally ride Hitoshi in the parade as Don Cumarco gets too excited and loses focus.

Who is your favourite horse on the SA circuit at the moment and why?

I have to say my legend of a horse Mark White Nissan Capital Don Cumarco. He is my hero.

What is your biggest challenge when jumping that Derby championship?
From number one to the very last fence is a challenge. Every jump/obstacle is unique. The length of the track also makes the horses tired towards the end. The jumps seem to just get bigger and bigger towards the end so its important to keep them, as well as yourself, attentive and focused.