William Funnell swapped his dark jacket for ratcatcher at Surrey County (26 May) to try his hand at a working hunter class for the first time.

Bill Smith’s seven-year-old gelding Judge N Jury is currently jumping Foxhunter second rounds with William. But the strapping grey, who stands around 18hh, won his four-year-old class at Dublin and a middleweight hunter class with David Tatlow, before arriving at the Funnells’ yard.

He is by Armitage, out of a Cruising mare.

“I thought it would be nice for Bill to let him have a go at the workers,” William told H&H. “I think he’ll be grade A by the end of next year, so now is the time to do some showing.”

Although the pair did not make it through to the final judging at Surrey County, William has set his sights on Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualification.

“He’s entered for the class at the [Hickstead] Derby meeting,” said William, who has been taking tips on ringcraft from Hickstead’s showing director Roger Stack.

“Roger also helped me pull his tail,” William revealed, adding: “I think the horse has got a good chance; he’s talented and the right type.”

Asked if he was enjoying this new departure, William joked: “If it had been successful, I’d have enjoyed it more!”

He is not the first showjumper to dip his toe in the world of workers.

The HOYS champion for the past two years, Keep Talking, was ridden by Derek Morton, a familiar face on the jumping circuit. Louise Whitaker competed in the same class in 2004, while Helen Tredwell and Tim Davies have also ridden working hunters.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 June 2013)