Three-time Olympic medallist and Surrey Hills resident Pippa Funnell launched a series of new hacking trails in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as part of its 60th birthday celebrations.
She said: "We are so lucky to live and work in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a wonderful asset and so close to London.
"The hills are perfect for keeping our horses fit and the variety of terrain keeps them mentally alert, which is important on the eventing circuit. I feel proud to live in such a beautiful part of the country."
Two years ago the Surrey Hills Board established an equestrian working group to promote horse riding opportunities in the Surrey Hills, and also to educate every user on the importance of sharing the landscape with care... READ MORE
A number of Olympic event riders will be contesting this year’s MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge at Hickstead.
Taking place on Thursday of the Longines Royal International Horse Show (26-30 July), this invitational class sees top eventers galloping around the International Arena over cross-country fences.
Pippa Funnell and Billy Cuckoo
This year’s line-up includes British Olympic team regular Pippa Funnell, riding the homebred Billy Cuckoo. Pippa has won three Olympic team silvers and an individual bronze, and was the first rider to claim the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, a bonus prize for any rider who can win Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky in succession.
Other Olympians taking part include Australia’s Christopher Burton and Shane Rose, Irish riders Joseph Murphy and Austin O’Connor, Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Britain’s Jeanette Brakewell. Another top name to look out for is Badminton 2010 winner Paul Tapner, who will be riding Bonza King of Rouges.
They are joined by a cast of talented British riders, many of whom are making their Hickstead debut.
This is the third year the MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge has been held at Hickstead. Previously known as the Eventing Grand Prix, when it was open to both showjumpers and event riders, with a course going out into the grounds of Hickstead Place, it is now exclusively for eventers and takes place within the International Arena.
A number of the showground’s iconic fences are included in the course, including the Road Crossing, Derby Bank and Irish Bank. Some of the jumps on the course are fixed while others can be knocked down, with any poles falling adding four seconds to a rider’s time.
Esib Power on the Derby Bank
This year’s field will all be aiming for a first win in the new format class, following the victory of Andrew Nicholson in 2015 and Ireland’s Esib Power 12 months ago. Only Pippa Funnell won the previous incarnation of the class, winning the first ever Eventing Grand Prix in 1998 and going on to win two further times in 2000 and 2001.
David Ashby, Managing Director of MS Amlin, said: “It is wonderful to see again such a great line up of international competitors for the MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge. The International Arena at Hickstead is truly unique and I look forward to seeing how the riders tackle this year’s course. The best of luck to all competing.”
British eventers William Fox-Pitt and Pippa Funnell have more in common than a collection of Olympic medals, with the veteran athletes having recovered from scary cross country falls in order to compete in Rio de Janeiro.
Less than a year ago the now five-time Olympian Fox-Pitt was in a medically induced coma after enduring a head injury falling from a young horse in an October competition.
"It's been hard work – I lost all my fitness... all my strength, all my judgement, all my sight," Fox-Pitt told Reuters on Tuesday, saying gym work, therapy, and cutting riding time back from his normal eight to 12 hours a day aided recovery.
William sharing a moment with his wife, Alice Plunkett
"I always thought I was going to come to Rio. I don’t think my family thought that. My family thought I was mad," he added.
Funnell, who like Fox-Pitt is 47, has also had a roller coaster year involving rehabilitation from a May fall that left her hospitalized for four days, a result of competing in one of the summer Games' most risky sports.
In addition to jumping a stadium course and completing a dressage test, eventers face a more dangerous element: an outdoor cross-country course requiring horses and riders to clear giant obstacles that do not fall down.
"It is a sport you really have to be in top form and brave for and I started to battle, thinking do I really want this?" Funnell said in an interview. She won team silver in Sydney in 2000 and at Athens 2004 as well as an individual bronze in 2004.
Four years ago Funnell, who also coaches and writes children's books, thought her Olympic days were over. She was the British team's travelling reserve until July, when Izzy Taylor withdrew due to an injured horse.
Pippa and Billy The Bizz, Houghton 2015
Unlike Fox-Pitt, who comes to Rio with 2000 stallion Chille Morning, the horse that carried him to a second win at Badminton in 2015, Funnell will ride a younger horse she transitioned from show jumping to eventing just three years ago.
Three-day eventing kicks off the equestrian events at Rio's Deodoro area on Aug. 6 with individual dressage tests.
Team Great Britain was the most successful nation in equestrian events in 2012. The country finished second to Germany in team eventing.
Kitty King and Gemma Tattersall round out Team GB's eventing team in Rio, making their Olympic debuts.
A down-hearted Izzy Taylor has had to pull out of the British Eventing team after her horse Allercombe Ellie sustained a slight injury in training that will prevent the combination from competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
As first reserve, triple Olympic medalist Pippa Funnell and Billy The Biz will now compete, while Tina Cook with Billy The Red have been called up as travelling reserve.
Izzy said: “I’m really gutted and sorry for the owners and my support team. I wish Pip and all the team the best of luck out in Rio.”
This is the third time in as many years that Izzy and owners Frances Carter and Susan Holroyd have suffered disappointment with Ellie, as she was also selected for the 2014 World Equestrian Games and the 2015 Blair European Championships, but was pulled out both times because of injuries.
Equestrian Team Leader Dan Hughes said: "We are extremely disappointed for Izzy and her whole support team, including the horse's owners Susan and Frances. Whilst Rio was going to be Izzy's first Olympics, as one of the most talented British riders in the world, I am confident that it will not be her last opportunity to represent Great Britain on the world stage. In Pippa Funnell we have an extremely strong replacement, and we are confident this team has every chance of achieving medal success in Rio.
Pippa said: "Firstly I’m absolutely devastated for Izzy, I know how much work it takes for everyone involved to get the horse to this level. From a personal point of view, I just feel so very privileged and honoured to be part of the team and I’m just delighted for all my connections who have helped me to get to this stage.
"It’s our first home-bred horse to be going to a Games, and whilst that’s so special for us all, it’s so tragic that Carol isn’t with us to share this moment as I know she would have been so very proud. We’ll be going there to give it our absolute all."
William Fox-Pitt, Kitty King and Gemma Tattersall complete the team for Rio.
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The International Horse Trials at beautiful Barbury was this year an important pre cursor to the Olympics.
Here are some of our pics taken last weekend of riders named as representing their nation at Rio.
Gemma Tattersall (GBR). CHILLIS GEM, CIC**
Alex Hua Tian (CHN). DON GENIRO, CIC***
Sir Mark Todd (NZL). LEONIDAS II, CIC***
William Fox-Pitt (GBR). LITTLE FIRE, CIC**
Sam Griffiths (AUS). HAPPY TIMES, CIC***
Vittoria Panizzon (ITA). ONE NIGHT LOVE, CIC**
Izzy Taylor (GBR). OBOS COOLEY, CIC**
Jonty Evans (IRL) COOLEY RORKES DRIFT, CIC**
Marcio Jorge (BRA). LISSY MAC WAYER, CIC***
Pippa Funnell (GBR). BILLY WALK ON, CIC**
Kitty King (GBR). VENDREDI BAITS, CIC**
Jonelle Price (NZL). CLASSIC MOET, CIC***
Padraig McCarthy (IRL). FIVEBERRY, CIC**
More photos from Barbury - *VIDEO* - Trot On quick-pics