William Funnell: ‘A great advert for how British breeding has moved on’


  • The recent Al Shira’aa-sponsored British Young Horse Championships at Bolesworth showcased the best of British-bred and British-produced horses in a fantastic setting. But it was sad to hear from organiser Nina Barbour that, as a stand-alone show with high set-up costs, it is no longer financially viable to run.

    Having chaired the committee that established and spearheaded these championships 15 years ago, we wanted to ensure we had a qualifier in this country for the World Breeding Championship for Young Horses in Lanaken. We set up bonuses for breeders as well as for jumping clear rounds, to encourage people to jump clear all week rather than racing their horses round, and it works really well.

    The championships started life at Addington before Nina took over at her fantastic venue, where it’s so well organised. With classes running from 8am till last thing at night, I don’t think we could have jumped any more horses this year, and past champions include Argento and Billy Congo, who went on to become top grand prix horses.

    So it will be very sad to see the show move. My original concept was to have these championships as a stand-alone show, so I’d love to see whoever takes it over making the sole focus our young horses and British breeding. Or perhaps we could follow Belgium’s example, where they run their national championships alongside the young horse finals. Reinstating our national championships as a proper event, with the chance for riders to qualify for the UK’s five-star shows, would surely make the event an appealing proposition to sponsors and competitors.

    The other concept I’d like to see reinstated is splitting each age group into British-bred and non-British-bred horses, to draw a comparison as to how we were doing between breeding and importing them.

    Having an auction championing our youngstock and encouraging our breeders is another great addition to the show, because professional breeding is a growing industry in the UK and, especially since Brexit, we need to encourage it.

    We’re lucky to have Al Shira’aa – founded by HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Bin Zayad Al Nahyan – as such a great supporter of our young horses, breeding and production in this country.

    The British Young Horse Championships is a great advert for how much we’ve moved on with British breeding – we just need someone now to champion it.

    A wake-up call

    The European Showjumping Championships will have started by now and Great Britain has every chance of being there in the shake-up for a team medal.

    Off the back of the euphoria of that fantastic Nations Cup win at Hickstead, the eighth-place finish in Dublin brought everyone back down to earth. But sometimes a wake-up call like that is a good thing to bounce back from.

    Olympic year is fast approaching and that will be the goal for many, so these Europeans are an opportunity for chef d’équipe Di Lampard to cut the teeth of two first-time championship riders and widen the availability for potential partnerships for next year.

    We already talk about 24-year-old Harry Charles as a seasoned campaigner, but it just shows how important it is to get young talent on the teams as early as possible. I wish them all the best.

    ● Do you agree with William? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 31 August, 2023

    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...