William Funnell: A great mark of a horseman *H&H VIP*

Opinion

We’re flat out at this time of year with the young horses, hopefully seeing some uncut diamonds for the future.

It’s also an excellent time to get some training in myself.  Pippa and I were lucky enough to have a break from it all and enjoyed 10 days in the sun recently with friends. However, Nick Skelton and I both returned from our holiday considerably heavier than when we left, so we decided to have a charity weigh-in.

We videoed ourselves being weighed the day after our return and again two weeks later. I thought I’d done extremely well having lost 10lb, only to discover Nick had lost 15lb! I like to think I put on muscle — or maybe Nick just has more willpower than me.

I’m feeling better prepared for Olympia as a result. Trying to get into some of the better shows in Europe can be a bun fight at this time of year, so I’m heading to Hartpury to get back up to scratch. Then, hopefully, the jumps at Olympia won’t seem too big the week after.

It will be the first big indoor show for a very exciting eight-year-old I have, Billy Diamo, and it will be great to have Angelo back in action to be a bit competitive with.

We always look forward to competing in London, but it will feel a very sombre affair without Tim Stockdale there. He is such a great loss to the sport and as a friend — he was always someone you could ring for honest advice.

We shall also miss him for what he would have put back into the sport for the next 30 years or more. Having served on committees with him for 10 years, I realised that when Tim wanted to do something he made sure it got done. Showjumping was everything to him and so few people with Tim’s immense knowledge are prepared to put in the time to contribute something back.

Another sad loss we’ll notice at this year’s Olympia is the great voice of Mike Tucker. I’m sure the show will be a time to reminisce about the good times we had with two fantastic men.

Recent reflections

I thought Adam Botham made some excellent comments in his recent column — I wish more people had his attitude at shows, setting out to teach a young horse to jump, rather than trying to win back their entry fee. A well-produced horse becomes a much more sellable asset in the long run.

It was also interesting to see a positive look at equestrian viewing figures. We were all very disappointed when the Hickstead Derby lost its national TV coverage, but we now have so much live streaming available. The past couple of Sundays I’ve been able to sit down and watch World Cups and grands prix and the coverage has really improved, making it great way to keep up with the sport.

It was fantastic to see Ursula XII jumping as well as ever with Scott Brash in Geneva last weekend. I know he’s been thinking about her retirement and he came so close to a big win, which would have been the fairytale ending.

You have to hand it to Scott for making the decision when she’s jumping so well and not trying to eek a few more shows out of her. It’s a great mark of a horseman and shows the respect he has. I wish her a very happy retirement.

Ref Horse & Hound; 13 December 2018

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