Tales from the eventing Euros — Pippa Funnell: ‘I had four missed calls and seven hours to get Majas Hope on the lorry to Germany’

This time last week, Pippa Funnell was focused on preparing Majas Hope for the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (5-8 September). But all that changed on Sunday morning and Pippa and the 12-year-old gelding, owned by herself and Marek Sebestak, now find themselves as part of the British team competing at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen (28 August-1 September).

“I had been at Harry Skelton and Bridget Andrews’ wedding on Saturday and stayed the night up there, which is three hours away from home,” explains Pippa. “The next morning I was saying how lovely it was to have a chilled Sunday. I then looked at my phone, which was still on silent from the wedding ceremony the day before and saw I had four missed calls from Dickie Waygood [performance manager for the British eventing team].”

It was then that Pippa discovered she was now required to travel to the Europeans with Majas Hope following the withdrawal of Tom McEwen’s ride, Toledo De Kerser.

“And that was my relaxed morning gone,” laughs Pippa. “Thankfully I had been at the wedding with Lizzie Bunn, who then drove me home, which meant I could spend the three hours travelling making phone calls to owners.

“I had four horses entered at Wellington Horse Trials on Monday, two of which were having their final runs before Burghley next week, so I not only needed to communicate the new plan with Marek, but also the owners of the Wellington horses too.”

“Dickie said to me halfway through last week that the horses going to the Europeans at that stage all looked really good in training, so although I still had the possibility of a late call-up in the back of my mind, I was focusing on getting Majas Hope ready for Burghley. I tend to leave the final bit of serious work for my horses heading to big competitions to the first half of the week before the event, so Majas Hope, Billy Walk On and MGH Grafton Street [who are all entered for Burghley], were all due to do their big pieces of work Monday to Wednesday this week. Majas Hope has found turning the opposite way at the end of the first centre line quite confusing as the Burghley test requires us to turn left, whereas the test at the Europeans turns right — it little things like that I haven’t had time to get quite where I wanted.”

Pippa credits her team at home for the success of the remarkable turn around.

“The boys and girls at home are top class and have been fantastic — I got the call at 10am on Sunday and by 7pm the same day, the lorry was packed and Majas Hope was on his way to Germany.”

Pippa says that it is great for her to be back at on a senior team, and that it is even more special as it is 20 years since she won her first championship medal, which was at Luhmühlen when she took team and individual gold on Supreme Rock.

“This place holds a lot of special memories for me and it’s such an honour to be here, especially at my age when I know there might not be many more opportunities to represent my country. It’s also lovely to be on a team with Tina Cook — we’re great friends and we have enjoyed long careers together.”

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Pippa is frank about her chances with Majas Hope — they produced a test which earnt them a mark of 35.4 earlier this morning (29 August).

“He’s the most difficult horse I’ve had in my career on the flat and he’s not built to be Valegro,” she explains. “I’m not making excuses for our score as I’ve had horses a long time, but if someone had said to me two years ago that he would have been on a championship team, I would have laughed. I’m so proud he’s here and I know that our job is to contribute on Saturday with a good cross-country round.”

Check back for more updates from the Eventing European Championships in Luhmühlen all week, plus full report in next week’s Horse & Hound magazine (dated 5 September).