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Pippa Funnell cemented her slot as one of the all-time greats when she became the first – and so far, only – person to win the Rolex Grand Slam.
This is a bonus given to any rider who can win the world’s three premiere four-stars (Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley) in succession and was worth $250,000 when Pippa won it in 2003. The prize-pot has now increased to $350,000.
Born in 1968 in Surrey, Pippa (n ©e Nolan) first experienced major success with the pony-like blue roan Sir Barnaby who took her from Pony Club to Badminton. During their years together they collected four young rider medals, including individual gold in 1987, finished fifth at Badminton in 1990 and won the British open in 1992.
Pippa was successful throughout the 1990s, with numerous wins up to three-star level, but she struggled with nerves and confidence. She famously enlisted the help of sports psychologist Nicky Heath in 1998, which brought about a miraculous transformation in her attitude and allowed her to propel herself into the elite ranks.
In 1999 Pippa won her first of two back-to-back European titles with Supreme Rock. With the same horse she won Badminton in 2002 and 2003, took a team silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a team bronze at the 2002 Jerez de la Frontera World Equestrian Games. In 2003 she added to her medal haul with team gold and individual bronze at the Punchestown Europeans with Walk On Star.
The rising star who secured Pippa two legs of the Grand Slam (Kentucky and Burghley) in 2003 was Primmore’s Pride, then a 10-year-old. But he only got one championship chance, taking team silver and individual bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004. In 2005 Primmore’s Pride became the first horse to win three different four-stars when he took Badminton, but since then, injury has curtailed his career.
In 2005, Pippa rode the inexperienced Ensign as an individual at the European Championships, but after that she suffered from a lack of horsepower and was absent from British squads until getting the call-up to the 2010 World Equestrian Games squad with Redesigned, with whom she had won Bramham a few months earlier. Competing as an individual, she finished fifth.
She is also competing a host of talented young home-bred horses, the result of a successful collaboration between her show jumper husband William and Irish dealer Donal Barnwell. Many of these horses carry the Billy prefix as the venture is called The Billy Stud.
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