William Funnell discusses heading to the Olympics in a new role, and an exciting new showcase of British-produced horses going under the hammer at London International
With the completion of the Olympic qualification process at the recent Pan American Games, we are now all systems go for Paris 2024. I will be heading to next year’s Games in my new role as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) showjumping team’s trainer and we’re currently in the process of building a new team of horses ahead of the 15 January deadline.
I’ve been training some of the UAE riders for a while and been involved with Al Shira’aa, but I don’t know if that’s going to make it easier or more stressful when making team decisions! Either way, it’s been a pleasure seeing the progression in equestrianism in the UAE.
The riders qualified for Paris at the start of this year and had a very successful Asian Games last month, coming home with team bronze, while Omar Abdul Aziz Al Marzooqi (Dalida Van De Zuuthoeve) and Abdulla Mohd Al Marri (James VD Oude Heihoef) went on to win individual silver and bronze respectively – a great achievement in the run-up to an Olympics.
They have been based with me in Surrey since then and we fly to the UAE at the end of this month for a series of shows, a four-star Nations Cup and then the opening qualifier for the new five-star Longines League of Nations.
As well as finding new horses, we’re building a better team environment and planning a campaign for each horse and rider right through to Paris. We have a lot of work to do, but I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think we had a really good chance of winning a medal, so that’s the goal.
As Di Lampard has experienced with Stanny van Paesschen, it’s invaluable to have a wingman and mine will come in the form of one of my oldest friends, Duncan Inglis. We both sing from the same hymn sheet and it will be great to have someone to run ideas by – I’m nearly always right, but not always!
So it’s a fantastic opportunity and will be my new focus until August. It will involve a huge change for me though, as riding is going to take a bit of a back seat for a while. Hopefully, though, I’ll have enough time to keep my eye in and have another crack at the Hickstead Derby.
But I couldn’t manage any of this without the huge support of my wife Pippa, Donal Barnwell, our manager Roger McCrea and the whole team at home who will be keeping us full steam ahead.
Showcasing British horses
I will be flying back from the UAE for the London International, but it will be the first time in many years that I won’t be competing there. Instead, I will be hosting the inaugural British Horse Sport Auction alongside Shane Breen.
He, his wife Chloe, and my wife Pippa and I put our heads together and decided this was a fantastic opportunity to showcase a dozen of the most outstanding British-produced horses and bring as many top-of-the-range buyers to our shores to buy them.
It’s taken a lot of work and time, but as well as the cream of our home-breds, Shane and I have taken the time to source some supremely talented horses and we believe we’ve assembled a collection of really top-quality horses.
We’re offering packages that include flights, hotel and a concierge service and supporters can come to the auction, watch the World Cup and do their Christmas shopping at the same time.
Hopefully, going forward this auction will give British producers something to aim for to try to showcase the top-quality horses we produce so well in this country.
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- This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 16 November, 2023
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