At this week’s World Horse Welfare webinar, three-time Badminton winner Pippa Funnell shared her thoughts on a number of subjects that she feels are at the core of having a successful, confident and happy relationship with your horse.

Words by Emily Bevan

1. Know your horse

It’s really important to know your horse. See how well they trot up, trot loose on the lunge and on hard and soft surfaces so you have a base to start from. Often injuries occur because people have ignored the early signs. When you really know your horse, you can prevent these things from happening. I can walk past any of my stables and notice if a horse is a bit off colour or down in himself because I know them all so well.

2. Have boundaries

I’m soft as hell with my horses; I want each horse to be my best buddy. Eventing’s a sport and business but for me they aren’t tools for our trade. I give them all lots of attention and want them to be happy but they need to understand the rules. Spoilt horses that barge over you are not happy horses, they need security to know where they stand. Be consistent and black and white with them, then reward. Positive reinforcement’s essential.

3. Focus on the controllable

Don’t worry about the things you can’t control; work on what you’re capable of controlling. Look after your horse and work on yourself. It’s too late after the competition to say, “I wish I was fitter, I wish I’d done that”. Dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s so you don’t have any regrets.

4. Check your bridle fit

Too many people crank nosebands too tight and I don’t agree with it, it’s bad training. I use flash nosebands a lot but don’t need to crank up the noseband. I always ensure I can get two fingers underneath. Remember to also check you can get two fingers under the headpiece. Often people aren’t aware of that and think the noseband’s a bit low, so they adjust it and suddenly there’s all this pressure on the poll.

5. Love your pony

Keep following your dreams and be prepared to work hard. Never be afraid to ask for help and advice. Watch and learn from people. Enjoy it, love your pony and look after it.

6. Training young horses

Don’t run before you can walk. Give the horse time to see what the question is and don’t put them under any pressure. Cross-country is about confidence. If your horse is unsure or jumps too big because it’s a bit green, keep repeating the same jump until the horse is comfortable. So many people go wrong because they use speed to answer the question; if the horse is unsure never use speed. Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.