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Pippa Funnell Facts, Stats, FAQs, Career, Horses & Personal Life

Pippa Funnell Facts, Stats, FAQs, Career, Horses & Personal Life

An equestrian who hasn’t heard of the legendary British eventer Pippa Funnel is a rare find. Still competing into her fifties, Funnell continues to inspire millions of riders across the world.

Philippa Rachel “Pippa” Funnell MBE is an English professional eventing rider, horse breeder, and author. She was born in 1968 in Crowborough, East Sussex to George and Jenny Nolan.

Pippa Funnel entered the history books of the equestrian sport when she became the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of eventing. During her professional career, she’s also won three Olympic medals and secured consecutive European Championship titles and Badminton wins.

Overview of Pippa Funnell’s stats:

Keep reading to learn about Pippa’s career, personal life, her horses, and other interesting facts.

Pippa Funnell Left School at 16 to Follow Her Passion

Funnel has always known she wanted to be a horse rider. Growing up, she attended Mark Cross CE primary school before enrolling in Wadhurst College.

At the age of 16, Funnell left the boarding school to work for Ruth McMullin, with whom she was based for the next 8 years. To this day, she lives by the words said to her by McMullin in the early days of her employment: “90% of horses’ problems are caused by the rider on top”.

One of Pippa Funnell’s early achievements was becoming European Young Rider Champion in 1987, following a successful ride at Bialy Bor, Poland on her horse Sir Barnaby. Funnell was very successful as a junior rider, however she struggled with terrible nerves that put her professional career in danger. She eventually sought out help from sports psychologist Nicky Heath.

Over the years, Pippa Funnell has learnt to cope with nerves in her own way. When preparing for a tough cross-country course, she uses visualization techniques and rides through the entire course in her head with a positive attitude. She analyses all her options in case things take a turn for the worse. She then rides the course from the heart and deals with issues as they arise.

Where Does Pippa Funnell Live?

Pippa Funnell currently lives in a village called Ockley in south Surrey, United Kingdom. She lives with her husband, international show jumper William Funnell.

The two equestrian athletes got married in Uckfield, December 1993. William Funnell won team gold at the European Showjumping Championships in 2013 and is one of 5 riders to win the Hickstead Derby 4 times. He also won the prestigious La Baule derby in 2011.

Pippa Funnell’s Eventing Career and Highlights

Between 1999 and 2003, Pippa Funnel won two individual and three team gold medals at the European Championships. She is a three-time Olympic medallist, having won team silver in Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004), where she also won an individual bronze riding Primmore’s Pride.

In 2003, Pippa Funnell became the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of eventing, after securing consecutive wins at Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley. This win is by far her proudest achievement and the most memorable moment of her professional career. For winning the Grand Slam, she received a $250,000 bonus from Rolex, a prize given to any rider who can consecutively win the three biggest five-star events in the world.

Pippa Funnell eventing horse riding in 2013
Photo by L.E Daniel Larsson (Flickr)

The eventing equivalent of the Triple Crown began in 1999, and since then it has only been won by two riders: Pippa Funnel and Michael Jung. Michael Jung is a German eventer and show jumper who won the Grand Slam in 2016.

For her achievements in 2003, Pippa Funnel was voted Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year. She also made it into the top five of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards. By the end of 2003, Pippa Funnel ranked as the number one rider in the world.

Funnell has won the Badminton Horse Trials three times and is the only rider ever to win both the Blenheim venue and Windsor Horse Trials four times. Together with her horse Ensign, she was shortlisted for the 2008 Olympics but ended up left behind due to a fall at Badminton.

Pippa’s Successful Return to Eventing

In 2010, Pippa Funnell won the CCI3* at Bramham International horse trials riding Redesigned, which was her first international win in 5 years. Funnell and her upcoming horse Billy Beware were picked for the 2014 World Equestrian Games, following their win at Tattersalls CCI3*. The pair placed 6th on the horse’s first 4 star event at Badminton Horse Trials in 2014 and were getting ready for the WEG, when once again injury intervened.

For the first time in 12 years, Pippa Funnell won her 1st European team medal riding Sandman 7 at Blair Castle (September 2015), helping the British team achieve 2nd place. She was riding for Great Britain at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, where the team placed among the top five. Funnell also won the 2019 Burghley Horse Trials aboard MGH Grafton Street.

Pippa Funnell’s Greatest Achievements

Included in our list of the most famous equestrians, Pippa Funnell is not called an eventing legend for no reason. With numerous big and small victories under her belt, she stands out from the crowd as one of the greatest riders ever to walk the face of the Earth.

Overview of Pippa Funnell’s Eventing Career Achievements:

Pippa Funnell co-founded the Billy Stud

Together with Donal Barnwell and her husband William Funnell, Pippa Funnell founded the Billy Stud. Based in Surrey, the establishment is committed to breeding and developing British show jumping horses. Pippa Funnell has won a record number of Burghley Young Event Horses shows and is currently competing with young showjumpers up to two-star Grand Prix level.

Pippa Funnell stroking a foal at The Billy Stud
Credit: thebillystud.co.uk

Funnell is also coaching young event riders between the ages of 21 and 25 at the Windrush Equestrian Foundation. The foundation was left behind by Christina Knudsen following her premature death to help young event riders.

Pippa Funnell’s Horses

According to the eventing star, Funnell’s first ever horse was a fluffy black pony called Pepsi Cola, who was a great all-rounder. Some of her most successful horses over the early years include Supreme Rock, Walk on Star, Bits and Pieces, Primmore’s Pride, and Ensign.

Primmore’s Pride and Supreme Rock were the two mounts that helped Pippa Funnell to her Grand Slam victory. After winning at Kentucky and Burghley in 2003, Primmore’s Pride has gone on to win Badminton in 2005 and became the first horse to win the three major CCI4* titles.

In the years following her victory at Badminton, 2005, Pippa Funnell retired several of her top eventers. After she came back to the circuit full-time in 2010, her main horses included Redesigned, Billy Beware, Sandman 7 and Billy the Biz. Billy The Biz was the Billy stud’s first horse to compete at the Olympics in Rio, 2016.

The most important quality Pippa Funnell looks for in an eventing horse is a trainable brain. The quality of movement is of secondary importance according to Funnell, however, jumping ability and Thoroughbred blood is essential.

Pippa Funnell Released Her Own Video Hames

In partnership with Ubisoft, Funnell released a series of horse-themed video games for PC, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, and other gaming devices.

Here are the 7 Pippa Funnell video games:

  • Pippa Funnell for Nintendo DS and GameBoy Advance
  • Pippa Funnell: Stable Adventure for GameBoy Advance
  • Pippa Funnell: The Stud Farm Inheritance for PC
  • Pippa Funnell 3: The Golden Stirrups Challenge for PC
  • Pippa Funnell 4: Secrets of the Ranch for PC
  • Pippa Funnell: Take the Reins for PC and PlayStation 2
  • Pippa Funnell: Ranch Rescue for PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii

Although technology has moved on since the release of these games, they still remain enjoyable and fun for any equestrian!

Pippa Funnell has also appeared on a few DVDs produced by Equestrian Vision: Road to the Top, Pippa Funnell and The Funnell Factor.

Pippa Funnell is a Published Author

The fact that Pippa Funnell had the time and energy to write several books alongside everything she had going in her life is quite astonishing. Funnell is the author of two non-fiction books and the children’s book series Tilly’s Pony Tails.

The successful athlete documented her journey in Pippa Funnell: The Autobiography, originally published in 2004. She also wrote Ask Pippa (Questions and Answers) in 2010, and Pippa Funnell: Follow Your Dreams. The book is essentially a guide to all things horse-related, spiced with the author’s expert tips and advice.

The first two books of Funnell’s popular children’s book series Tilly’s Pony Tails were published by Orion Children’s Books in May 2009. A further 16 books followed, all about Tilly Redbrow’s adventures with horses and ponies.

Each book contains a section with useful tips from Pippa Funnell on all aspects of horses and riding. The first four books of the series are also available as audiobooks, recorded by sports presenter Clare Balding.

See Pippa Funell’s store here on Amazon.

6 Interesting Facts About Pippa Funnell

  • Pippa Funnell received an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) on the Queen’s 2005 Birthday Honours for her contributions to equestrian sport.
  • Every morning before riding, Funnell does 30 minutes of Pilates exercises to give her horses the best chance she can.
  • She used to be a passionate chocolate and biscuit eater until Ash Wallace educated her about healthy eating.
  • Pippa Funnell is a patron of the non-profit organization World Horse Welfare.
  • Pippa Funnell trains with her husband William Funnell and Tracie Robinson.
  • She also competes in international show jumping and has had a successful show jumping career.