The Billy stud has now evolved to become one of the largest breeders and producers of top quality sport horses in Great Britain.
Donal was brought up in Ireland on the family farm in County Wexford. From an early age had a keen interest in horses. He has an incredible eye for a horse, a huge depth of knowledge and vast experience with both breeding and the eduction of sport horses.
It was the mid nineties when Donal and William started working together. From their first venture, the Billy Stud has evolved to become one of the largest and most successful breeding programmes in Great Britain.
The Heart of the Stud
Donal and his wife Sarah’s base is in an idyllic setting near Petworth, West Sussex about 30km further south of Jordans Farm. His yard is specifically set up to accommodate the mares, foals and young stock. With ample grazing in post and rail paddocks, Donal can keep a close eye on all of the breeding mares and foals. Not afraid of hard work, Donal carries out most of the day to day running his yard himself, this is why he has such a depth of knowledge about each individual mare as he spends most of the day tending to them.
Donal invested in the very best of Irish bloodlines for the Stud’s foundation mares some 25 years ago, crossing them with supreme continental stallions; he has now created many exceptional breeding lines that have proven themselves worldwide.
The Irish mares brought great conformation, longevity and blood as many of the best Irish breeding lines can be traced back to thoroughbred stallions.
Embryo Transfer & Breeding Lines
In the region of 80 foals are due each year, the majority of which are via embryo transfer. ET enables the stud to use the highest quality breeding mares and also some of their best competition mares during the breeding season, whilst mares continue their competitive careers. The mares pedigree is the key detail when selecting the studs Dam lines, ‘Black Type’ pedigree that can be followed back over three Dam generations gives a real insight into the quality of the mare.
This is Donal’s starting point when he is selecting what stallions to cover the mares with.
Now in the Studs third decade, there is no doubt our most notable breeding lines contain Billy Congo on the dam side. With his lines going back to our primary mare Billy Autumn crossed with Animo, he has produced many exceptional quality mares that are now at the heart of the breeding program.
Never one to sit back, Donal continues to refine the Stud’s bloodlines for the progression of the Stud and to keep British bred horses at the forefront of the modern day sport.
All of our Billy horses are brought up in the most natural environment possible. From their early days they are kept in small herds. Horses learn a lot firstly from their mother and secondly their peers, by keeping them in small herds it allows them to learn discipline and patience from one another, and we find that when they come in to be broken they are unspoilt and very trainable.
They are kept in their age groups and most of the year is spent on the land grazing the fields, we try to keep them outside in the fresh air as much as possible, only bringing them into barns for the worst of the weather over the winter months.
As three-year-olds all the Billy horses go to Will Plunkett who backs and breaks them in. Will believes that when you have quality raw material to work with, consistency and correctness is vital to laying the solid foundations in the young horses training.
All the Billy horses are produced in a manner that ensures they are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Will feels that often bad habits occur as a reaction to poor knowledge and training as youngsters. He likes to keep things uncomplicated, a snaffle mouth and simple noseband are always preferable.
Once broken, the three-year-olds arrive at William’s yard able to be lunged and ridden at walk, trot and canter on each rein. They are once again turned away, living the herd life until they reach their fourth year. As four-year-olds they continue their education with the experienced team, working in a quiet, yet firm way.
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Twenty years after winning her first National Championship with Sir Barnaby, Pippa Funnell is firmly established as one of the world’s leading three day event riders.
Throughout a long career, Pippa has consistently been at the top of 3 Day Eventing having cemented her place back in 2003 when she achieved a landmark record by winning the Rolex Grand Slam (consecutive wins at Rolex Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley). As well as a healthy bonus from Rolex, Pippa earned herself a place in the history books as the first person to achieve this feat.
A year later she broke yet more records when she became the first person to win the Blenheim International Horse Trials for an incredible fourth time. This was followed by success at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where she helped the team to Silver before taking the individual Bronze medal. Her list of achievements has continued to expand, with Pippa repeatedly placing well at all the major events, and includes claiming both the Badminton and Windsor titles on more than one occasion.
With her best selling autobiography and her range of ‘Pippa Funnell’ computer games continuing to top the game sales charts it’s clear that Pippa’s determination, drive and devotion to her sport, is proving an inspiration to many. Pippa’s appeal continues to grow and with the launch of ‘Tilly’s Pony Tails’, her popularity is set to expand further still.
Away from eventing Pippa has also received many awards which include the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Award, the Sports Journalist Association Pat Besford Award for Outstanding Individual Sporting Achievement, as well as being named BBC South’s Sports Personality of the Year and reaching the last five of the overall BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Pippa was awarded an MBE in 2005.
Pippa is married to international show jumper, William Funnell.
Donal was brought up in a farming family in Co Wexford in the heart of Irelands horse industry and from an early age was involved with horses. He went to agricultural college, graduated and farmed pigs commercially for 3 years until he could resist a career with horses no longer.
His first job was with the late Pat Cash, where he spent 3 years learning the business and developing his own unique philosophy and outlook on selection, breeding and training. Being a farmers son and a stock man gives Donal a unique perspective on horses and accounts for ability to see potential in a horse which others may miss.
Donal is recognised as having one of the best eyes in the business. Overall athleticism and conformation is important but Donal also looks at the head and eye to get a real feel for a horse. Donal moved to England 25 years ago to work for one of Pat Cash’s clients near Maidenhead. Donal developed the business and extended his business contacts in England before setting out on his own.
18 years ago he set up on his own from rented dealing yards near Chichester and 10 years ago moved to his current yard in Kirdford, West Sussex. Historically Donal has specialised in eventers although with The Billy Stud he has broadened out into breeding competition horses for all disciplines.
William began riding ponies as a child on the family farm in Ashford, Kent. He was born into a farming and hunting family. When he was not doing farm duties he would ride the family ponies. At the age of 16 he has the choice of leaving school to start farming, or showjumping. When Cyril Light of the Brendon Stud in Sussex offered him a job as second stable jockey to show jumper Simon Trent, he chose the latter option.
He has had success at the highest level in international show jumping, 2013 has been a great year so far, especially with Billy Congo. After finishing 4th in the London leg of the global champions tour, William went on to jump triple clear in Cannes to finish second, and an unlucky pole in the final round in Monte Carlo prevented him winning the class, but another 2nd place finish meant that he moved up to fourth in the global champions tour ranking list, with over £150,000 worth of winnings from the 2013 global tour season alone. William and Billy Congo finished off the summer in style by being part of the Gold medal winning team at the European Championships.
William and Cortaflex Mondriaan joined the elite ranks of three time Hickstead Derby winner adding the 2009 championship to their wins in 2006 and 2008. Last to go in the international arena they achieved the only clear round of the day and the first clear in the Hickstead Derby for five years, a great achievement for William and his team and their sponsors.
William Funnel is a world-renowned show jumping rider with over 20 years experience at the top of his sport. He has won over 20 International titles and has represented his country all over the world at the highest levels.
He has represented Great Britain on 27 different occasions involving 2 European Champonships and has won over 50 International competitions.
William has been bringing on young horses for some 20 years and has his own philosophy on how this should be done.
Young horses need time to mature and should not be rushed. William tries to give them much more time out in the fields so there bones, ligaments and muscles develop as they would in the wild and at a “natural rate”. While this means that they may mature later than horses of similar age which have been brought on quicker Williams feels they have a more substantial foundation of bone and muscle on which to build.
Each horse is brought on slowly and carefully depending to its attitude and development. All the horses undergo similar work at a early age and are not streamed into eventers or show jumpers. This happens at a much later stage with William taking charge of those that may be destined for show jumping and Pippa Funnell managing the development of those that seem to have the latent skill as eventers. Even when streamed William feels that cross discipline work can still help bring a horse on.