William Funnell’s top ride, Kepi d’Elle, has died from colic.

Grooms at the Funnells’ Dorking yard found the 13-year-old selle Français stallion in distress at 7am on Thursday (1 September).

“It happened so quickly — while the vet was on the phone, he collapsed. By 7.15am he was dead,” said stable jockey Daniel Moseley, who shares the ride with William. It is thought the horse suffered an internal rupture.

“Kepi’s been on great form. He’s won two area trials and been in the top three of every Stairway he’s been in,” he added.

The horse is currently at the top of the points table in the International Stairway Series, which is run at county shows.

“He was the horse that took me to the next level,” said Daniel. “He’d always give his best — he was a real trier.”

William said the horse had been having his “best year” to date and it was a “sad loss”.

“He was solid right across the board,” he said. He added it was “strange” coming home to an empty stable: “I’ve been here 20-odd years and never lost one before.”

Carol Toliver, who bought Kepi as an unbroken three-year-old said: “He had the most amazing temperament. Anyone could ride him — yet he was jumping at the highest level.”

Five foals — the stallion’s first crop — are due next year.

“He was so sweet-natured. I hope his offspring turn out the same,” she added.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (8 September, 2011)