William Funnell on the World Showjumping Championships: ‘Anything worth winning is tough’


  • Top British showjumper and trainer William Funnell on the team spirit which contributed to Britain’s bronze

    FRIDAY night’s World Showjumping Championships medal decider was one of the most exciting team competitions I’ve ever seen. With only 10 teams, in a great time slot for people to sit down and watch, plenty of twists and turns and it all coming down to the final team riders, it made for great viewing; it was a great shot in the arm for Nations Cup team competition.

    When it works so well, you have to ask, “Why don’t we have that format at the Olympics? Why do we need to tinker with something so successful?”

    Course-builder Louis Konickx did a fantastic job all week, but it also showed just how much strength in depth nations need to be competitive in a championship. Sweden’s gold was thoroughly deserved and what a fantastic horse family the Fredricsons are, but it was great to see Jens, who has been slightly overshadowed by his brother Peder, do so well – he is a class rider.

    Exceptional team spirit

    THE last time I was in Herning, I was part of the gold medal-winning British team at the European Championships in 2013, whereas this time I was supporting Joe Stockdale, whom I train. With all that pressure, I’d much rather be riding than watching!

    The atmosphere in the British camp, from the back-room staff to the front-line riders, was the best I’ve ever known – everyone was helping one another. Stanny van Paesschen has become an invaluable support for performance manager Di Lampard and we’re so lucky to have such a high-level and well-used infrastructure of support from British Equestrian, the National Lottery funding and UK Sport. It’s a huge team that pulls together to win these medals.

    It was a great opportunity for the younger generation, Joe and Harry Charles, to draw from the experience of such high-calibre riders as Ben Maher and Scott Brash. They are two of the most professional riders in the world and were a huge help.

    Feeling the pressure

    LET’S not forget how short of experience Joe is, having missed out on the junior ranks completely. He benefited hugely from riding at last year’s Europeans and he’s worked really hard to come up to the next level.

    It’s not until you put yourself on the line at a championship that you realise just how big and tough they are, but anything worth winning is tough. The horses need to be exceptionally fit – the first three rounds come in quick succession, with 14 jumps on both Thursday and Friday in Herning, but even the opening speed leg was tough.

    Joe made one mistake in the first round of the team competition, which unfortunately came at the combination and cost him three fences – that fell heavily on him, because he didn’t go there to have a round that didn’t count or to feel like he’d let the team down.

    After pathfinder Ben’s faults at the first fence in the team final, there was real pressure on Joe and Harry and it takes great strength when you’re down to believe in yourself. So for them both to broaden their shoulders, come back out and jump so well – and for Harry to produce a clear when we really needed one – showed that the future is in great hands.

    Hopefully Joe’s father Tim Stockdale is looking down and thinking what a great purchase he made with Cacharel, who he bought as a three-year-old, and what a great job Joe is doing. He would be very proud.

    Great Britain had been in contention after day one, then dropped away after the first leg of the Nations Cup, so it’s always special to come back into a medal position after rallying back like that. Every rider produced a counting score towards that bronze medal.

    To have got the Olympic qualification so early in the cycle is a huge benefit – I’m not saying we don’t need to field a top team for next year’s Europeans, but it allows riders who may be on the periphery of earning a slot at the Games to gain some championships experience, in the same way that Joe did last year.

    That can only be a positive as we head towards Paris.

    • This exclusive column can also be read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 18 August

    You may also be interested in…

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...