William Funnell: Heading to Rio with mixed emotions *H&H VIP*

  • It was with mixed emotions that we received the news that my wife Pippa had made the eventing team for Rio. On the one hand, it was a great thing for her to be selected for an Olympics on a home-bred horse. On the other, a great sadness that Billy The Biz’s owner Carol Toliver passed away shortly before the team was announced.

    Carol was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago, having been a great owner and supporter of Pippa and me for 15 years. She loved the horses, win or lose, and while winning was always a bonus, she never expected it.

    Carol bought Billy The Biz — whom she also enjoyed jumping in amateur classes — at the same time as Billy Balou. Balou went on to be the only horse ever to win both the newcomers and Foxhunter finals and we later sold him on to Brazil.

    Carol will be missed, but her spirit will definitely be with us in Rio.

    Despite the bittersweet run-up, I’m looking forward to an exciting few weeks. Japanese rider Reiko Takeda, who has been training with us for the past year and a half, has also been selected, so it’s quite an event to have two horses from the yard heading out to Brazil.

    I would also like to wish good luck to the junior, young rider and children’s teams who will be competing at the European Championships at Millstreet, Ireland, this week. It looks like we’re fielding strong squads in all divisions.

    Five out of 15 selected riders are the sons and daughters of past and present international riders. It shows that experience of international training and management is definitely an advantage, but it doesn’t mean that it’s necessary to come from this background to succeed. Our current two most successful riders — Scott Brash and Ben Maher — aren’t from that pedigree. They are the sons of a builder and a surgeon respectively — although both learnt their trade serving apprenticeships with showjumping professionals.

    Missing the Irish

    Dublin was a very exciting Nations Cup with Ireland definitely rising to the occasion. An unlucky jump-off round just denied them the win. The Irish crowd was unbelievable in its appreciation, even with a second place.

    With the strength of the horse and rider combinations in Ireland at the moment, it’s a shame they couldn’t take a team to the Olympics. They would have had a great chance.

    Let’s hope we can produce the same atmosphere at Hickstead this week for our Nations Cup. It’s a great opportunity to go and support our team and try to send them off to Rio with a win on home soil.

    Three of the selected riders are on it, so it would be good to get behind them.

    Parking nightmare

    Last week I was competing in Germany, where I made the great mistake of letting Geir Gulliksen park my car.

    Trying to keep costs down, I opted for the cheapest possible rental for the hire car I picked up at Hamburg airport. This meant I had a €950 (£800) excess, so I was being especially careful where I left it.

    After days of parking well away from where anyone could hit me, I asked Geir to move my car down nearer the rings.

    I came back to find he’d parked it next to a sign that had fallen over in the wind and smashed my windscreen. Despite picking up a third place in a rankings class, it looks like I’ll be out of pocket.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 28 July 2016