Daniel Neilson is one of Great Britain’s biggest talents, and in February he made his World Cup debut in Gothenburg. WoSJ sat down to find out more about the recently turned 22 year old, who rides incredibly well and picked up prizes in every class he rode in the Les Talents Hermès classes in Paris in March!
Despite of not coming from a ‘horsey’ family, Daniel has been one of Britain’s most successful riders as a pony, junior and young rider. His mother rode a little – but just as a hobby, and his father was more into football. “I’ve played football myself and I also did boxing up to county level until I was 16 – as well as show jumping at pony level. When I reached 16 it was time to make a decision,” Daniel explains on how he ended up going professional. “I got offered a job with Jason and Katarina Moore in Essex, and decided on doing show jumping full time!”
Before Daniel ended up with such a job offer, he had a great record of results showing his promise for the future. “As a pony rider I won individual and team gold at the European Championships on Micklow Madnes,” Daniel says. His success continued when he moved on to ride horses. In 2007 he went home from the European Championships for juniors with a team bronze and an individual silver medal riding High Tone Z. In 2008 they won team gold. “I’ve also ridden the European Championships as a young rider on Chauvenist, and last year we got a team bronze medal in Comporta. All in all I think I just missed out on the Europeans one year,” Daniel explains.
Daniel’s debut in the senior classes came in 2008, and in 2009 he took his first victories at senior level. In 2011 he closed the competition year off in the best possible way when he won the Olympia U23 Great Britain Championship.
Varo M – the lovely ten year old chestnut gelding that Daniel made his World Cup debut on – is a horse that Daniel has ridden since it was four years old. “Varo is a really nice horse. He really fights for his rider, and is sensitive and sharp. You need those qualities in a horse! We are taking it slow with him as he is new to this level, and Gothenburg was his first World Cup show. But Varo is definably capable of doing the top sport,” Daniel says of his partner on whom he ended third in the Bremen Grand Prix.
Daniel also has some other exciting horses; Attack II and Murka’s Rupert R are two of them. “Attack I’ve had since he was eight, but he had done nearly nothing in the sport before I took him on. He is now 12, and hopefully he’ll be as good as Varo! Murka’s Rupert R is a horse that Peter Charles used to ride. Peter is a friend of mine, and as he is concentrating on the Olympics at the moment he spoke with Rupert’s owner Olga White about me taking on the ride. So, that’s how Rupert and I ended up together! Rupert came to me just three days ahead of Gothenburg, so we’re a bit new to each other – but he’s a really nice horse. It also takes a bit of pressure off that he’s not for sale unlike my other horses, who all are,” Daniel smiles while telling us that he has about seven horses at home in total.
On the question of how it feels to see good horses go to new owners, Daniel has a positive approach. “Of course you’re waiting for that special one that you could keep on, but the reality is that we produce horses to sell. And I mostly enjoy this; it’s a great feeling to produce horses to a high level and see them succeed!”
Being young and extremely talented brings you a long way in most countries, but in Britain it’s hard – the younger riders fight against veterans like Nick Skelton and John and Michael Whitaker for a place on the team. How hard is it to break through we ask Daniel? “It’s tough with so many good and experienced riders to get high enough up on the national ranking. But, there might be more opportunities this year with the more experienced riders focusing on the Olympics,” he smiles.
Hard or not, Daniel has been considered such a talent that he has become a part of the World Class Program in Britain. “It’s a funded program, so as an example I get economic support for training. Every year they select a number of young riders for it. Being part of the program has made it possible for me to start training with Billy Twomey, which has worked really well. I try to go to Billy for a few days at the time. Billy says it is more fine-tuning than training, but I really wanted to train with him as he is such as stylish rider and you really need somebody on the ground,” Daniel tells us about the co-operation with Twomey who himself once worked for Jason and Katarina Moore.
And what are Daniel’s plans for the future? “I’ll keep going on the stepping stones. Last year I did the Promotional League shows in Copenhagen and Drammen. This year I hope to do some bigger shows. If all goes well I will hopefully get a chance to ride the Top League,” Daniel closes off.