I had a great love of eventing since I was a child. I used to compete in pony eventing – riding for Sue Bunn (Dougie Bunn’s wife; their daughter Lizzie Bunn is now the show secretary for Hickstead.) So I guess some might say I have been lucky enough to know equestrian ‘royalty’ since I was in ponies. I rode for Sue through my teenage years – and through her love of eventing my love of the sport was able to feed and grow.
My parents didn’t have a lot of money so when I was 16 and was out of the pony eventing classes, my competitive riding ended for a bit, until I went into the next working phase of my life with eventing and showing.
I was hugely fortunate in that I got to work for Pippa Funnell, and learnt an incredible amount with her. When I left her yard with all that experience under my belt, I worked as the showing secretary at Hickstead, which I loved! I worked in polo yards as well – working for Jack Kidd and John Bunn and two low goal patrons; I loved my ponies and the people I worked for but polo was never my passion.
Soon after that Pippa’s hubby William Funnell nicked me and I worked for him in his show jumping yard his groom Sarah, and did the Sunshine tour with them. I also got to meet the legendary Viceroy – Pippa’s little bay stallion who she won Blenheim on in 2004.
I’m now working for a private family that owns three hunters. We hunt with the Crawley and Horsham. I’ve been with the family for five years. It works very well, as I get to bring on Billy as well as having the opportunity to compete for the people I work for. The wife has a very smart coloured cob called Raymond – Raymondo to his friends – I swear he could have his own Instagram account with the amount of photos we post of him. He does really well in working hunters – to the point that my boyfriend says I’m pot hunting when I go out with him. He’s won at Cranleigh for the last 3 years, plus he’s been the working hunter Champion each year. He really is a bit of a dude. The husband has a hunter and I’m planning to show him too.
I’ve only had Billy for six months. I’ve had a few horses and some of them don’t work out, but my relationship with Billy so far seems promising. I normally go for younger horses, but now I want something to have some fun on rather than start from scratch. When you don’t have pots of money you might take something that’s quite green and try and bring them on. And sometimes, unfortunately, if the pair of you don’t ‘click’ you have to move them on and start again. I sympathise with people that will keep going with one particular horse, either because they want to prove a point to themselves or they have no choice financially. Sometimes it’s better to call it a day with that partnership. Sometimes it really is all about chemistry.
Billy was jumping 1.10m show jumping tracks but he hasn’t been eventing properly yet. We had a pop around Tweseldown at the end of the season on the BE80 course, and he did well – apart from a bit of a Bambi moment at the water when he goggled at it, put the brakes on a bit and slid straight into it, but bless him, when I re-presented him at it, he jumped straight over. I’m aiming to start on the BE80 then get straight into 90s and hope to get to BE100 by the end of the season at least. Obviously with the new BE rules I have to qualify him first by completing two BE90 classes, with no more than fifty dressage penalties, with sixteen faults or less in the show jumping, and jump clear cross-country (with no more than 30 XC time penalties), in order to move up. I actually think the new rulings are great, especially for the health and safety element, at least it means young horses and riders aren’t going to get hurt trying to tackle something well outside their comfort zone and capability.
Growing up my eventing heroes were Pippa Funnell, who I was then delighted to be able to work for; also Tina Cook – who I now hunt with – she comes out a lot with her daughter. Gemma Tattersall is based nearby – and I even had a lesson with her the other day as a birthday present from my bosses, so I’m really quite spoilt with who I know – as Lizzie Bunn always used to say to me ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. Through my close associations with the Bunn family, I’ve also met the legendary Mark ‘Toddy’ Todd a few times as he’s very good friends with the Bunns.
Other heroes who I’m fortunate enough to say I know include John Ledingham – the international showjumper and coach, who won the Hickstead Derby two years in a row; I loved his horse Kilbaha. He is a class rider and a true gentleman.
I also admire and know Shane Breen – I grew up with Chloe Breen; we were in pony classes together. I had dinner with Scott Brash the other night, as he’s a good friend of my best friend’s husband, Brian ‘Cass’ Cassidy, the Irish showjumper, who has helped me so much over the years, and I can never thank him enough for his endless patience with some very naughty ponies. Whilst it may appear I am dropping in a lot of names, I do appreciate how lucky I am to mix in such elite equestrian circles!
My plans for this year haven’t yet been set in stone. So far I’ve not entered anything due to this weather. So my eventing schedule is yet to be laid out. Tweseldown have been saying they’re really wet, and for them to say that is really something considering they’ve got their sandy ground. All the early events get balloted anyway so I’m going to wait awhile before entering anything.
Out of all the Animalife products Vetroflex is my favourite – Billy seems to go really well on it. We started off on a trial of Vetroflex Intense – he hates syringes, so it was the sachet version we used – and he was fab on that. He felt fantastic almost immediately.
Once again connections worked well in my favour getting partnered with Animalife. I met Ross (founder of Animalife) at the Hunt Ball at Butterstocks. I was very late getting there, having put three horses to bed after a day of hunting and I sat next to Ross, and here we are!
I use Vetroflex every day. I only use the Vetrofen Intense powder before a competition or if he needs a bit of a boost, as it really does the trick. As I used to be part of Horsehealth in Sussex and Surrey and have memories of decanting garlic in the garage, and trying different things to see what works I’m wary of over-using something like that as I don’t want his system to become ‘immune’ to its effects. Touch wood, so far it’s working.