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Equine America Billy Diamo: a loveable gentle giant with a playful streak *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s showjumping editor Jennifer Donald speaks to British team rider William Funnell, Billy Stud rider Lucy Townley and groom Zoe Herbert about the Olympic shortlisted 18.2hh Billy Stud home-bred who William describes as “the best I ever had”...

    Equine America Billy Diamo

    Age: 11
    Breeding: Cevin Z x Andiamo
    Rider: William Funnell
    Owner/breeder: The Billy Stud
    Greatest achievements: represented Great Britain in Nations Cup of Drammen (2020) and St Gallen (2019); third in the 1.60m CSI5* grand prix at Windsor (2019); double clear in the World Cup qualifier at Sharjah (2020); runner-up in the CSI3* grand prix at Abu Dhabi (2020); third in the CSI4* grand prix at Liverpool (2018).

    Rider William Funnell on Billy Diamo

    “I took over from our Billy Stud rider Lucy Townley at the end of Diamo’s seven-year-old year and he did some nice things as an eight-year-old. Then at nine, he jumped his first five-star Nations Cup at St Gallen and was third in the Rolex grand prix at Windsor. That made a big statement that he was a five-star horse.

    “He’s surprisingly blood for a big horse and more sensitive to ride than you’d imagine, but completely different from the likes of Billy Congo and Billy Angelo. For scope and carefulness, he’s the best horse I ever had and he takes everything in his stride.

    “I have to think about time-faults just for the fact he has so much scope and I’ve been working on his strength, balance and control – which has taken a bit longer with him – so missing most of last year has probably done him no harm.

    “He feels very good this year. We just have to hope the Olympics will happen because he’s the perfect team horse.”

    Billy Stud rider Lucy Townley

    “Usually big horses like him take a long time to be able to balance themselves around a course and down a distance, but because Billy Diamo’s so active with his hindlegs he always found it easy. It was actually nearly easier to get him back than to ride him forwards, so you could always sit well on him. He was so powerful and he always had a serious canter.

    “He and his year-younger full brother Billy Tudor were probably the best of each of their year groups, but they are the complete opposite of each other – one is 18.2hh and the other is barely 16.2hh.

    “Diamo and I did a few shows together, then he jumped the talent seekers at Hickstead and it was a tough class. There weren’t too many clears, but he popped round and gave everything a foot. Will was on holiday, so I sent him the video and that was the last time I jumped him in the ring! But I’m very proud of what he’s become.”

    Billy Diamo’s groom Zoe Herbert

    “Diamo’s just lovely, a gentle giant. He’s 18.2hh but nobody appreciates how big he is. Clipping him is like tackling two horses and to plait him I need a ladder. When we had Buckingham, who was big too, people said it was like I had a herd of elephants, and with Billy McCain being a big one as well, everyone still laughs at my ‘zoo animals’.

    “Diamo watches all day out of his stable to see where everyone is. He’s funny to deal with and does tricks, so if I tilt my head one way he’ll copy me then change it at the same time.

    “I prefer to keep my feet on the ground but the times I do ride him, he’s lovely – sharper than you think because in the ring he looks a bit dopey but he’s a sensitive one.

    “I’m with them every day, so Will always says they’re like my horses rather than his, and Diamo and McCain are real favourites. I just play with them all day.”

    This feature is also available in H&H, 25 February 2021

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