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7 tips from Pippa Funnell for planning your season and managing your event horse

H&H recently spent a day at Pippa Funnell’s yard watching her train six young riders who are on The Windrush Young Eventers’ Programme, part of the Windrush Equestrian Foundation.

Here are seven horse management and season planning tips we picked up from the 2019 Burghley winner:

1. When making a season plan, work backwards from your main goal and don’t be distracted from it. If your goal is Burghley, you might have to pass up the chance to run fast and win the British open championships at Gatcombe, even if it’s against your own competitive instinct.

2. Keep your options open on the prep runs. Burghley winner MGH Grafton Street is likely to go to Spain on a showjumping tour with Pippa this spring — “I don’t want to be away from him and it’ll be good for him to jump in the ring with no pressure” — and then he may only run at Thoresby Park before a spring five-star. “If he has a cracking round, I might not risk him again, but if I feel he lacks match practice, he would need to run again,” she says.

3. If a horse goes green, you may need to take a step back — confidence is key to a good partnership.

4. Riders mustn’t be so competitive and driven to get to the next level or event that they miss the early physical or mental signs that a horse is not ready for that competition.

5. Pippa likes to see her horses trot up when they come off the lorry the evening after an event. “It’s important because one might be a bit off but be ok by the next morning, but if you hadn’t trotted them off the evening before, you wouldn’t know they had been a bit off.”

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6. She believes riders should be familiar with how their horse usually looks on the lunge, on a hard and soft surface. That way you have a comparison to his baseline “normal” gait if he ever needs to be lunged as part of a lameness investigation. Similarly riders should be familiar with how their horses’ backs feel and whether tightness in certain places is normal for them.

7. Pippa hates to see riders using herbal calmers. “The horses’ brains are good from the approach we take, because they know where they stand. We get their brains from discipline, structure and attention to detail — repeat, repeat, repeat.”

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