Nick Brooks-Ward: Commentator

By: Horse Deals


Nick Brooks-Ward: Commentator
Nick Brooks-Ward: Commentator

Horse Deals goes behind the scenes and meets the people who make equestrianism tick

Anyone who listens to Nick Brooks-Ward’s commentaries cannot fail to miss the enthusiasm for whatever discipline — human, canine or equine — is in front of him.

Nick’s first experience of working full-time was with Peden’s, who transported horses throughout the UK and worldwide. After three years, he joined a communications company, and, as he puts it, "slipped into commentating".
His first claim to fame was with the popular Pedigree Chum Agility competitions that ran throughout the day at horse trials. It was a baptism of fire. Anyone who can talk non-stop while up to 100 dogs of all shapes and sizes compete over an obstacle course must surely have an aptitude for the job.

Established commentators were sorely tested, but Nick took it all in his stride and breezed through around 20 major fixtures a season.

"We couldn’t fail to have fun," he remembers.
Even police dogs and handlers and the Queen’s gundogs along with their keepers at Sandringham braved the competition and Nick’s quickfire commentary.

Nick’s first major appearance behind the microphone was at Thame Show. From there, he quickly progressed to the second ring at Royal Windsor, but his first big break came at the Pavarotti Show at the Italian home of the great opera singer.

A clash of dates took out three of the most established commentators and Nick seized his chance.

"I knew nothing of the rules of show jumping, so I had to do a lot of reading up beforehand. The atmosphere was fantastic and I thought: ‘Yes, I’d like to do a lot more of this’," he remembers.

The rest, as they say, is history, and Nick’s voice can now be heard at almost every major show, including Royal Windsor, the British Open, HOYS, Hickstead and his favourite venue, Olympia.

A victim of his own success, Nick has a difficult juggling act as he endeavours to fit commentating around his full-time job as operations director of the CLA Game Fair.

Early in the year, Nick’s diary revolves around the show circuit, starting with Addington Manor and moving on to Bath and West, Royal Cornwall, Royal Berks and so on. Added to his equestrian duties, he is arena director and in charge of all production at Crufts. Naturally, at the "dog of the year show", where he first met his wife, Diana, Nick is also senior commentator.

Whether it’s showing, show jumping or horse trials, Nick is a mine of information and the hours he spends on preparation are key to his success.

"Doing your homework and researching the riders are the two most important things. David Dimbleby once said that for every hour of broadcast, there’s been at least four hours of research. I’d certainly agree with that," says Nick.

To give spectators as much information as he can, Nick walks the cross-country course at major horse trials and in show jumping pays full attentions to short-cuts and special fences.
In addition to trawling through websites and printing rider biographies, Nick also spends time with course-designers, competitors and their connections. Like many seasoned journalists, he finds the collecting ring the ideal place to talk to riders, owners and grooms and find out what’s really going on.

"It’s the perfect way to find out information such as how long they’ve had their horses and about the horse’s breeding and character," says Nick. "If there’s a break in a class for any reason, it’s easy to wax lyrical about John Whitaker and reel off a long list of wins. But if you have to talk about an 18-year-old on his first visit to the show, you need to be prepared."

But even this smoothest of frontmen wasn’t quite ready for the Pony Club ostrich race at last year’s HOYS. As ponies refused to go near the feathered demons, wings flapped, riders fell off and ostrich eggs rolled around the arena, Nick lost it completely. What followed has gone down in commentating history as he tried to keep going but succumbed to hysterics.
"I thought I was going to die laughing," he admits.

Nick’s car clocks up about 50,000 miles per year and the boot is packed with everything from sun cream to waterproofs and waxed hat to Panama. Hard work his job may be, but Nick wouldn’t change a thing.

"I consider myself very lucky to make a living out of working with a group of likeminded people who love their sport. What Father taught us was true. He told us to do our homework, be prepared and never take anything for granted."

CV

Nick Brooks-Ward is a chip off the old block. The son of legendary TV commentator and show organiser Raymond Brooks-Ward has taken up the mike and is now one of the world’s top commentators. With his brothers Simon and James, Nick grew up in Hertfordshire, and enjoyed Pony Club with the Enfield Chace branch. His father was a master of the hunt and Nick’s greatest love was following the hounds. He soon became a whipper-in, field master and chairman of the hunt supporters’ club. He now lives in Hampshire with wife Diana, son Oliver, 15, an England hockey player, and "pony mad" daughter Georgie, six.

Nick’s dulcet tones are in evidence at everything from Crufts to the Olympics and the Windsor European Championships, organised by his brother, Simon.