Her appointment is great news for the sport and, according to the overwhelming majority of riders I’ve spoken to, an inspired decision by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF).
Di is the veteran of 50 Nations Cups, she’s won two Queen’s Cups and been to two World and European championships. She’s also been chef d’equipe for the pony and young rider teams, helping riders like Robert and William Whitaker from the beginning. She understands what it takes to bridge the gap so she’ll be a great champion for our up-and-coming riders, which is what a large part of the job entails — it’s not just about what we see at the top of the sport.
Since London she’s been the number two chef behind Rob. She actually helped pick the gold medal-winning Olympic and European teams — so she’s already been part of Great Britain’s success. But above all, she loves the sport and nobody could question her integrity.
All this has ensured she’s already earned huge respect from the riders. This is a crunch year for showjumping. It’s our last chance for Olympic 2016 qualification, making the European championships in August a tough, yet critical result — so we needed someone able to hit the ground running. She ticks all the right boxes.
She didn’t want to take the job unless she had the full support of the riders. I believe she will have that from the start — if we’d been able to pick the new manager ourselves, she’d have been the riders’ choice. She’ll be fair to everyone, give young riders ample opportunities and will be great for owners, too. We can all fight for this together.
New championship is a step in the right direction
The new national showjumping championships to be held in mid-August are a great bonus for the domestic circuit and come at a good point in the calendar towards the end of the county shows.
Besides providing a final for the valued International Stairway series, there will be three legs with decent money and the winner will be crowned the national champion.
Congratulations to those who’ve made this happen. Of course, they will need a bit of tweaking as we go but, clashes permitting, most national riders will want to be there and it’s great to see Stoneleigh being used as a show venue once again.
There will be three wild-cards on offer for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) from this show and two invitations to the top riders of the new national gold league. Of course, this means that it makes it more difficult for us international riders to get a place at HOYS but we saw last year the benefits this could have.
At the time, we all asked if these national riders should be qualified? Did they deserve a place at HOYS? But Kerry Brennan, who qualified via the gold league, showed she could thoroughly hold her own and jumped brilliantly. She then went on to win the young riders’ final at Olympia. It really was the making of her.
A different Funnell rising up the rankings
Pippa and I have headed down to Spain this week with 13 horses for the start of the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour at Oliva Nova. It’s been a bit windy but, judging by the snow and ice back home, we’ve been lucky to be able to keep working our horses with some consistency. Pippa finished seventh in her first ever showjumping grand prix on Sunday, riding Billy Grand, picking up her first world ranking points.
At this rate, she’ll soon officially be a better showjumper than me. Perhaps I should try eventing.
H&H 5 February 2014