Walk on Star, Pippa Funnell’s partner at the 2003 European Championships, was voted the top British-bred horse of 2003 by a huge margin earlier this month.
The 11-year-old gelding jumped a double clear in Punchestown on his championship debut to take individual bronze and team gold, as well as winning Saumur last year and Bramham in 2002. His campaign for 2004 includes his first four-star at Badminton in May.
Owned and home-bred by Barbara Walkinshaw, Walk on Star was the final foal out of her 7/8th Thoroughbred mare and “horse of a lifetime” Mystery Spirit, by the outstanding event stallion Ben Faerie.
Ben Faerie has been a hugely influential in eventing circles, with his progeny including Ginny Elliot’s legendary horses Priceless and Night Cap, as well as the top class stallions Hot Rumour and Bens Affaere. Another of Pippa Funnell’s top horses, Primmore’s Pride, is out of a Ben Faerie mare.
Barbara said she chose Ben Faerie because of his incredible reputation, and because she hoped to breed a slightly smaller horse for herself.
“Ben Faerie has been an absolutely amazing sire of both broodmares, stallions and competition horses. His influence is exceptionally. I like him so much that I have just bought a new broodmare by him.”
While Ben Faerie’s influence is undisputed, Walk on Star’s dam, Mystery Spirit, who was by Master Spiritus, has an impressive record as a broodmare with all of her progeny who reached maturity going on to compete at advanced level.
Barbara bought Mystery Spirit, with her first foal at foot, with plans to event, as well as breed from her.
“Her first foal was a colt by Welton Louis, who we named Walk On Cloud,” explains Barbara. “He was ridden by Andrew Nicholson and his best result was third at Bramham.
“Then I evented Mystery Spirit for a couple of seasons. I was a late starter in the eventing game and she was so generous and looked after me. If I got it wrong on the cross-country, she would simply say ‘sorry mum we can’t do it from here’ but would always jump second time. And she hardly ever touched a pole in the show jumping.”
Described by Barbara as “a lovely person with a kind eye”, Mystery Spirit lost her mother at birth but was accepted by another broodmare who successfully raised her as well as her own foal.
“The first foal I bred from her, Walk on Top, was also by Welton Louis and was ridden by Pippa. He went to Burghley but did a leg on the steeplechase, which ended his career. Mystery Spirit then had her first foal by Ben Faerie, but he had an accident in the field as a three-year-old and had to be put down.
“Walk on Star was Mystery Spirit’s last foal and when he arrived he had such a pretty head that I thought she had finally had a filly, who could carry on her line, but it wasn’t to be. I sent her back to Ben Faerie one last time but she was in her late teens and didn’t become pregnant so I decided to retire her. She was put down aged 24.
“Walk on Star is such a laid back horse and has a fantastic bond with Pippa. I often graze him in hand at the big events and as soon as he hears Pippa’s voice he always raises his head and looks round for her. He is lucky to have the most brilliant rider. Pippa loves her horses and they love running for her in return.”