With the end of the year just a few weeks away, it’s the perfect time to reflect on 2023 and how it went. In this blog, we’re taking you though how the year went for our Champion riders. At Champion, we count ourselves very lucky to have riders of the calibre of Pippa Funnell, Kitty King, Piggy March, Sophie Wells and Will Rawlin working with us. Safety is in our DNA, and we are proud to provide these outstanding riders with equipment to keep them safer in the saddle. It’s always a pleasure to keep you, our customers and supporters, up to date with the riders’ latest results. Without further ado, let’s look back at 2023 and how our riders got on!
We’ll kick off with fan favourite and evergreen event rider Pippa Funnell. Based in Ockley in south Surrey with her husband, showjumper William Funnell, Pippa has had a superb 2023, consistently finishing in the ribbons at the highest level. We were thrilled to see her take tenth place at Badminton International Horse Trials with Majas Hope in the spring. The duo went on to take sixth place at Burghley Horse Trials at the end of the summer, showing how consistent Pippa and her horses are.
Pippa also won the competitive Bramham CCI-L 4* with MCS Maverick and came a close second in the CCI-S 4* at Little Downham with Billy Walk On. Pippa then rounded off her international season at Pau with two horses inside the top 15 in the CCI-L 5* – MCS Maverick in 11th place and Billy Walk on in 15th! We love watching Pippa and her horses compete and are already looking forward to seeing what they can achieve in 2024.
What a year it’s been for Champion rider Kitty King! Kitty is based near Chippenham in Wiltshire, and we’re delighted to support her on her journey, which has seen her win medals on pony, junior and senior teams. Now that is career consistency! This year, Kitty’s top-level campaign didn’t start quite as she’d hoped, as she and Vendredi Biats took a tumble on the cross-country course at Badminton Horse Trials. Thankfully they both bounded back and went on to win both team gold and individual silver medals at the European eventing championships in Haras du Pin in the summer. We were on tenterhooks for every moment and were thrilled with the results for this team of incredible ladies!
Kitty’s also been racking up results with a string of exciting younger horses, not least Kantango, who was crowned top British Six-Year-Old Champion at Cornbury Horse Trials in September. The duo went on to contest the World Young Horse Championships at Mondial du Lion where they finished a very impressive sixth place. That would be impressive for any young horse but is superb for a horse who only started eventing this season!
Champion rider Piggy March was riding high at the end of last year after winning Burghley Horse Trials on her stalwart mare Vanir Kamira or Tilly Bean as she’s known at home! Piggy retired her 18-year-old mare from 5* competitions at the start of this season, but the duo made a couple of appearances throughout the season – including taking second place in the 4* at Burnham Market International. Piggy has been a prolific winner and competitor in 2023. She took the top spot in the 4* at Hartpury International with Brookfield Inocent and won the 4* classes at Burgham International and Millstreet with Coolparks Sarco. The Burgham win was one of an amazing three advanced wins in a week for Piggy – the others were in the advanced classes at Aston le Walls!
Coolparks Sarco made his 5* debut with Piggy at Pau in the autumn and finished a superb fourth, so we’re excited to see how the partnership develops over the winter months. Piggy has another top-flight prospect in Brookfield Cavalier Cruise, who went to Maryland for the 5* there but was sadly withdrawn before the show jumping – another one to watch in 2024! Brookfield William won the 2*L at Osberton, just one of an exciting string of younger horses that Piggy’s bringing on at her Northamptonshire yard.
Sophie Wells has had another busy year juggling coaching pupils at her own and British Dressage Para camps as well as a hectic training and competition schedule. Sophie found some sunshine when we were battling the spring rain and mud, heading to Australia to teach riders in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. It’s safe to say her social media updates made us very jealous indeed, but it wasn’t long before jetting back to start training in earnest for her 2023 season.
In the ring, Sophie took a superb bronze in the Grade 5 Para Freestyle with the seven-year-old LJT Egebjerggards Samoa – Diana – along with Great Britain’s team bronze at the FEI Para European Dressage Championships in Germany. These two bronze medals are Sophie’s 37th and 38th medals (so far!) in her amazing career! Sophie then partnered the exciting Dragons Fire to over 70% and 12th in a strong Medium Gold at the Nationals back in the UK to end another stellar season. Well done, Sophie!
Last but by no means least, Champion rider Will Rawlin had a 2023 to remember! He moved his string to a new yard in Rockley, near Marlborough in Wiltshire at the start of the year, and the hilly countryside has been ensuring his horses are very fit and ready to run!
Will had his first completion at 5* at Luhmuhlen in June 2023 with The Partner, and the duo will be targeting the same event in 2024. He also partnered Ballycoog Breaker Boy to fourth place in the Bramham 4* S and this partnership finished in the top 20 at their first Nations cup in Arville and at Blenheim 4*L in September. Will has Badminton Horse Trials in his sights for this horse in 2024, so we’re looking forward to seeing how they improve over the winter break. Will’s string is growing for next season with two new horses joining the yard in Wiltshire – so watch this space!
We look forward to bringing you updates on our Champion riders in 2024, and hope that they all have a restful Christmas. With the Olympics and Paralympics taking place in Paris in the summer of next year we think it’s going to be a vintage year to be a fan of top-class equestrian sport, and we can’t wait to see it all unfold.