Astier Nicolas

Astier Nicolas
Eventing combines dressage and cross-country, together with show jumping. Astier Nicolas and his horse Piaf de B’Neville won team gold and individual silver at the Rio Olympics.

Meet the French horse rider, 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalist in team and individual eventing, as he talks about his career and shares his most special place, in images and words.

Like his brothers and sisters, Astier learned to ride at a young age. He wasn’t a very talkative boy, but loved animals and wanted to understand each one. He had a competitive streak, though. Weekends were spent competing in riding events, and cross-country was the discipline he enjoyed most. Successes came in quick succession: four-star events, agronomic studies in Purpan (Toulouse) and an Equine Management degree in England. In 2009 he met the horse Piaf de B’Neville, his future partner at the Rio Games. Horse riding is a way of life and choosing a horse is much like falling in love. Today, at the age of 27, Astier is ranked sixth in the world. He rides and trains about ten horses for their owners, all hoping their investment will pay off. Like a virtuoso violinist entrusted with a Stradivarius, he does not own all of his mounts, but forges a close, complementary relationship with each, so as to form the best team on the day. He admires Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson and William Fox-Pitt, but he owes much to Marie-Reine Périé, his first instructor, who told him, “Dressage is not about forcing, but about persuading.”

“The place where I feel most at home … is my grand parents’ house near Alençon [in Normandy]. It’s an old hunting lodge called Les Noyers, and it’s been in my mother’s family for about a hundred years. Sometimes we take a boat out on the moat, and there are fine big trees growing in the five- or six-hectare garden. It’s where the whole family meets up.” [Astier is the youngest of five children, and has twelve nieces and nephews.]

Merci à Ronan et Sixtine, ses neveu et nièce, pour ce dessin.

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Pierre Guibert