When Badminton winner Andrew Nicholson finally took home the top spot in this year’s competition aboard the 17-year-old Spanish-bred gelding, Nereo, his longtime groom Johanna Wård summed up the moment perfectly. “I’m at a loss for words,” Johanna said on her Facebook page, “That horse and that man! We all knew they could do it, but that it actually happened is like a dream come true.”

Though Nicholson is considered one of eventing’s most prolific competitors (he’s ridden in six Olympic Games and has won Burghley five times), a Badminton trophy remained elusive for the New Zealand native. This year marked his 36th (!) completion of the event, and his triumphant win was made even sweeter considering his return to the sport following a serious fall in 2015. What’s more, Nicholson also finished in 12th place with his second ride, the 14-year-old Spanish-bred mare, Qwanza.

For Johanna, who hails from Sweden but is based at Nicholson’s farm in Wiltshire, UK, caring for her world-class string is all about putting the horses first—and clearly, her results speak for themselves. Here, Johanna shares her Tricks of the Trade with NF Style.

NF Style: What is a common horse care mistake you see that you would like corrected?

Johanna Wård: Recklessness. A lot of people are too complacent when dealing with horses. It’s one thing to do it with your own horse, that you know inside and out, but it really frustrates me when people come [to an event], for example, and just leave the horse untied while picking feet out, putting hind boots on, etc. It’s when you get too comfortable that accidents happen!

What is your claim to fame as a groom?

Haha, I don’t think I have one. Organized chaos perhaps.

If you were stuck on an island and you could only take five things with Nereo, what would you take and why?

1. A head collar, because otherwise, I’ll never be able to get him to where I want him.

2. Lead rope, as above.

3. Carrots or feed, because otherwise, I’ll never be able to catch him.

4. A thin sheet to keep flies off him.

5. Coffee for me so that I won’t be too grumpy.

What is your biggest splurge item for horse care?

Not necessarily for horse care, but for yard work. I buy brooms from Sweden and get them sent here. It might sound ridiculous, but they make my everyday routine so much easier.

What are your top five favorite horse care products?

  • Veredus Blue Snow. We have A LOT of grey horses—and all of them love sleeping in shit. Without this shampoo, I’d come to shows with yellow horses.
  • Veredus Super Sheen. A little of this goes a long way! I only put it in the tails so that they’re easy to brush and it gives them shine. It’s a bonus that it smells nice too.
  • Veredus Easy White, because even though I’ve washed the horses, they seem to come off the lorry with new stains. Using this, I don’t have to use water—I just spray some of this on and then rub it off with a cloth.
  • Veredus Raptor. When the flies start to come out, it’s essential to have some of this so that the horses can focus on their job without being disturbed by insects.
  • Kevin Bacon’s Hoof Dressing keeps our horses’ feet in good condition.

What is your personal motto for horse care?

Might sound cliché, but horses first!

What is your ideal morning routine with your horses?

At home, we feed and muck out at 6:30 a.m., and then leave them to eat in peace while we go in for breakfast as well. We also bring horses in from fields if we have any staying out at night.

At shows, I try to keep our routine, but obviously, I have to feed earlier quite often depending on when Andrew wants to ride.

What is your ideal evening routine with your horses?

We check the horses at 8 p.m. – 9 p.m., make sure they’ve all eaten properly and look okay, maybe put some rugs on, and then shut the barns up.

How do you deal with a difficult horse with poor ground manners?

Patience and boundaries! It also depends on why the horse is difficult—is it nervous or is it just a bulldozer? I won’t growl or make a fuss if the horse is nervous, with those horses, it’s better to just pretend like it’s raining and keep doing what you’re doing. In general, I try to avoid putting them in situations where they can be “naughty”.

Do you have any tricks for sensitive skin?

I try not to use any products unless I have to. Washing with shampoo is only done before competitions so that the skin and coat can rest in between. I think it’s better for the horse to be slightly dirty rather than being washed too often. They’re obviously washed off with water when they’re sweaty and brushed every day, but other than that, I just leave them as they are.

What is your favorite treat to give the horses?

Carrots! I give them polos at competitions because they’re easy to keep in your pocket, but I’d much rather give them something “natural” if I can!

-Photo credit: Sheerlove Photography, courtesy of Johanna Wård. Andrew Nicholson photo by Ben Clark.