My life as Pippa Funnell’s head groom

  • Zanie Tanswell talks about her life working as Pippa Funnell’s head girl

    Zanie Tanswell has been Pippa Funnell’s head girl for two years. Her parents showed part-bred Arabs and mountain and moorland ponies at county level.

    “I used to do lead-rein and mountain and moorland classes until I was about 10 years old,” she says. “Then I joined the Wilton branch of the Pony Club and lost interest in showing.”

    When she was 12, Zanie “stole” her father’s 15.1hh gelding, on whom she competed in horse trials.

    “My interest in eventing started there, and I became hooked” she says.

    Zanie studied for an HND at Hartpury College and during her year outspent six months with Karen Dixon and six months with Leslie Law.

    Having completed the course, Zanie went back to Leslie’s yard, where she worked for a year, followed by 18 months as head girl for Nick Burton.

    After leaving Nick’s yard, Zanie used her parents’ yard to run her own business.

    “I was producing youngsters, schooling for people and competing at events for two years, as well as freelance event grooming.”

    The gentleman who supplied Zanie with shavings introduced her to Pippa Funnell and an interview was set up for the position of head girl and she has been with her ever since.

    Zanie travels to most of the major events with Pippa, including this year’s World Equestrian Games.

    “We had to make some preparations to acclimatise ‘Rocky’ (Supreme Rock),” she says. “All the team members were given special rugs for the horses to be worked in, so that their bodies were used to a hotter environment. We used thesame three-day training format, only using this rug.”

    Back at home, Zanie has a team of grooms to work with.

    “It really is all about teamwork. We’re really lucky to have such a good bunch of people and Pippa is really great to work for,” she says.

    The yard is split into two separate operations, Pippa’s eventers and her husband William’s show jumpers.

    “We really are two different businesses; even the stables are split. All our horses are in an American barn, but we can ask each other for help and advice and we get on well.”

    Zanie lives on site, but has ambitions to run her own yard with her eventer boyfriend Chris King.

    “It’s my ultimate goal. I’d love to bring on youngsters, deal with owners and run a yard, I’m a real people person, so I’d be good at that. Chris would have to be the main jockey, though. I don’t have the nerve for the big-time stuff!”

    Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (19 September), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound deliveredto your door every week.

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