William Funnell: Spend this time wisely *H&H Plus*


  • All our horses have finally arrived home safe and sound from the Spanish Sunshine Tour, which the coronavirus brought to a hasty conclusion two weeks earlier than planned.

    We had 19 horses with us, including my wife Pippa’s Burghley winner MGH Grafton Street, whom she wanted to have a bit of jumping practice before Kentucky – another casualty of the pandemic.

    So it was a disappointing end, not least because we usually return with fewer horses than we left with; although we had a lot of people asking about our horses, deals aren’t usually done until the final couple of weeks.

    Competition was also cancelled before the big-money invitational, so business-wise it wasn’t the best trip. But I reckon as soon as people are able to travel again, top riders will be back on the hunt for new young talent.

    Threat hits home

    By the time we left Spain, the restaurants and bars were shut, they were talking about closing flights and police were ordering people off the streets. You’re in a bit of a bubble at the show, so the threat of coronavirus only really hit home when the Spanish government ruled that sporting events had to stop.

    Touch wood, none of us have shown symptoms since we returned, but we’ve been very careful and kept ourselves isolated because we live in such a close-knit village – a lot of us are missing the simple pleasure of going to the pub!

    This time of year is always busy for us as the mares will soon be cycling, the foals start arriving – and none of that stops for coronavirus, we’re bringing in the three-year-olds and starting to loose jump them, and preparing our four- and five-year-olds for our next online auction in May. We must count ourselves lucky that the whole auction process – from seeing videos to the purchase – is able to be done remotely.

    Leaving a hole in our pocket

    As is the case for everyone, this enforced lay-off will be costing us money because the older horses aren’t out winning prize-money and that leaves a hole in the pocket – many of the country’s self-employed will be hard hit.

    Instead, we will devote a lot more time to our youngsters, and now is an opportunity to retrain ourselves and our horses at home – when we’re all busy competing, reinforcing the basics of flatwork is too easily overlooked. All of us with young ones could do a better job than ever of educating and nurturing them – you could be putting huge value on them by doing so.

    At least we’re nearing the time of year when horses can be turned out for a while, if the going gets really tough, but we cannot underestimate the knock-on effect this will have on workers in our industry. We must all keep an eye out for friends and colleagues really struggling through this time.

    Let’s hope we’ll be returning for the latter end of the Nations Cup series with the Royal International in the time-frame. It’s possible and there’s no reason why people shouldn’t hit the ground running when it does if they’ve spent this time wisely. Keep well.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 26 March 2020