William Funnell: We simply weren’t good enough at WEG *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Obviously everybody is very disappointed with the result from the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon as we came hoping to qualify for the Olympics. It was frustrating because if William Whitaker or I had jumped clear on Friday we’d have achieved that — we were so nearly there.

It’s easy to make excuses but at the end of the day we simply weren’t good enough.

We could have had a bit more luck the first day — we knew Billy Buckingham wasn’t going to be the quickest, so the first leg was never going to be my strong point. If I’d cleared the water and completed on that one time-fault on Thursday I’d have been happy.

Amanda Derbyshire was unlucky that first day, too — the mare just picked up out of her hands at the water and it cost her the next fence as well. Without those she’d have been top three, if not in the lead. And the same with William, just nicking that rail — we could actually have had two riders in the top 10 and wouldn’t have had such a mountain to climb.

As it was, it made Friday very tough indeed. We had to jump three clears and neither William nor I could come up with it.

This year, he and Utamaro have jumped on three Nations Cup teams and were a large part of ensuring that Great Britain stayed up in the “super league”. We must thank his owners, Ludwig and Yasmine Criel, who were totally focused on bringing him to this championship. William is a world-class rider and will have taken a lot away from the experience.

Gutsy rider

It was great to see Holly Smith and her nine-year-old Hearts Destiny grow in stature through these championships. And Amanda Derbyshire is such a gutsy, strong rider and did a sterling job, earning a fantastic result in 17th. She’s been a real find this year and has proved her strength as part of the team; she’s real class. Both she and Holly have been blooded in Tryon and proved they’re more than up to the job.

The USA were worthy winners, though — in a team situation you need strong riders who dig deep, but you only get that from having championship experience.

Organisers made a mistake in not taking the heat and humidity into consideration, though. They should have installed lights and run the jumping early or late as the heat was a huge factor and favoured the younger, more blood horses.

I was lucky to go first for the team and avoided the worst of the heat, but the second round of the team was run at 1.30pm. Why?

Super support

But hats off to Great Britain’s excellent support team — our owners were well looked after and the horses received five-star treatment from the vets, physios and blacksmiths. Win or lose, they don’t receive enough praise.

Di Lampard did everything she could and Nick Skelton was a hugely positive influence in Tryon — he gave the whole team his full support, not just Amanda who he trains, both in and out of the ring.

We now have a big job to get qualified for the Olympics at next year’s Europeans, but there’s no point looking back at the what-ifs. Top 10 in the world isn’t what we went to Tryon for, but we weren’t too far away.

It’s very easy for armchair showjumpers and pundits to slate people and be negative, but we each did the absolute best we could. We can hold our heads high and take out plenty of positives for the future.

Ref Horse & Hound; 27 September 2018