"Art and Eventing" - A Festive Interview with Pippa Funnell

We love face-to-face time with our customers, and with the cancellation of the shows this year, it’s meant we’ve been unable to meet with many of them in person

However, one person we did managed to catch up with was Pippa Funnell, regular visitor to our stand at the 'Ultimate Christmas Party'- the Olympia Horse Show (this year also being held virtually), and champion British show jumper.

We wanted to see how she has fared with a difficult year, and how she feels about the change in proceedings to eventing this holiday season.

To paint a picture for those of you not familiar her, Olympic medallist and International sportsperson, Pippa, has been in competing for over 37 years. A keen member of The Pony Club, she left school at 16 and served an 8 year apprenticeship with Ruth McMullen, securing her route in equestrian eventing and later becoming the first female eventing World Number One.


Hi Pippa, how are you finding the current pandemic has affected you?

I would say at first it was a little bit of a novelty suddenly being able to have so much time at home, after so many years, week in week out, throughout the season being away at competitions. But as always we have a large set up at home so work very much continued. I actually feel it helped the training, we very much concentrated on perfecting the basics without having the pressure of a major competition around the corner.


What do you think the future looks like for events like Olympia, Badminton and Burghley? Do you think this will be the beginning of the future for events like these, or are you saddened by the 'closed doors' policies?

I am rather a traditionalist so I hope that these unique events will be able to go back to how they were. Sport becomes magical with the lift from the many spectators. It is this enthusiasm that creates the electric atmosphere. Yes, it means as competitors we suffer more nerves and greater pressure, but it is this that makes many athletes perform at the top of their game. Personally, I have been saddened by the cancellation of Badminton and Burghley as for the first time in many many years I have three horses at that level so I was really looking forward to taking them there. I also will really miss Olympia - having never missed a year. It always signals the start of Christmas - it has top sport and brilliant shopping. Having said all this we are incredibly lucky compared to most that we are able continue our way of life working day in day out with the horses.


Both you and your husband are in the horse circuits, and are now involved with the Billy Stud Auction. With bidders from across the globe tuned in for the Elite Auction back in October, you must have been thrilled to have reached a record breaking evening?

We have been delighted with how The Billy Stud online auctions have gone this year. William and I have spent our whole careers producing young horses to compete at the top levels in both Eventing and Show Jumping, and it is very important to us that our horses are given the time they need, treated as individuals and are correctly produced at the start of their careers so they have every chance of fulfilling their ability. So, yes, we obviously get huge pleasure in the whole process of breeding and producing along with the joint partner in The Billy Stud, Donal Barnwell. Even more exciting that our horses are now being sold globally.


Has the pandemic and change in regulations made any aspect of the Auction, or competing easier?

For sure. I think there are a few good things that have worked well due to the pandemic. To start with, it is so much easier in the warm ups as there is a limit to 6 horses at any one time - this means the collecting rings are much less frantic, so much easier to warm up. Another bonus is that everyone has to stick to their times, which is excellent! We had done big viewing days in the past with auctions, but this year a large percentage were bought through us continually updating the video footage online, due to lockdown.


We've met you many times at our stand, and at multiple shows. Are the stands something that you look forward to at the events?

I am one of those people that never gets the time to go shopping, so the only retail therapy I get is if I have time to look round the trade stands. So, often, it is something that just catches my eye as I walk past a stand - especially at Olympia with Christmas just around the corner.


We're very appreciative of your support over the years, both in recommending us, and in purchasing various pieces of art - including work by Debbie Boon and Jake Winkle. Is there a particular theme that you are drawn to?

Funnily enough I am not drawn to horse pictures! We have some wonderful portraits of some of our past stars but we live, sleep, and breathe horses so I actually love animal pictures. I love some of the different styles in which animals can be drawn or painted. I have always appreciated good pictures - I am certainly no expert - but I am drawn to and fall in love with certain pictures. I have bought several wedding presents from you and the pictures I have are always admired by friends. I think you have a wonderful variety, but for me, the animal theme and how their characters seem to be captured in the artwork [is what makes me recommend you to others]. I absolutely love the style in which Josie Appleby paints little garden birds.


Thank you for taking time out to catch up with us. Before you go, is there a particular piece of artwork you've bought from us that stands out?

I love the picture of the fawn by Debbie Boon, wherever you stand in the room she is inquisitively watching you. I also have the most wonderful turtle by Bev Horsley, with fabulous colours, which hangs above my dressing table.

- Interview by Belle Simmonds

Visit our website for a little Christmas shopping, and to see some of the wide range of animal and equestrian inspired limited edition prints, original artwork, and sculpture of which Pippa has become a firm fan.

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