Pippa Funnell, 35, was part of the British team that won silver in eventing at the last Olympics. She hopes for gold in Athens. She is happiest outdoors and indulging in Haribou sweets
Eventing requires bucketloads of stamina and agility. What’s the secret to your fitness?
Just riding my 14 horses. I get up at 6.45am and I spend about seven hours every day in the saddle. I’m also hands-on in the yard, carrying heavy buckets and stuff — that’s my weight-lifting exercise. I am planning to get an exercise bike in preparation for Athens — and for the heat. I would also love to play more sports but there’s just no time, apart from the odd game of tennis on a summer evening.
What about mental agility?
I always drink plenty of water and sport drinks; I believe they keep my reflexes sharp.
Do you graze?
I hate riding on a full stomach so I eat very little at breakfast and never have lunch. But I eat like a man in the evening. I certainly don’t overeat but I finish everything on my plate, including the fat. I’m not fussy, except when it comes to anything fat-free or sugar-free, which I hate. But I don’t have to watch my weight. I put on a bit over Christmas but it always comes off once I start riding again.
So you’re a meat and two veg girl?
Absolutely. My perfect meal would be fresh meat barbecued just as it is, with a really nice salad, new
potatoes and loads of Hellman’s mayonnaise.
Haribou sweets: I live on them.
I take Cortaflex, a natural supplement for joints. My horses are all on it too. I was never a great one for supplements but when I saw the benefits with the horses I decided to take the human form because it helps with joints, feet, hips, shoulders and back.
Have you always been healthy?
Yes. My skin might look weathered from spending most of my life out of doors but it’s a healthy way of life.
Clarins moisturiser. My husband asks: ‘Why have you still got wrinkles when you buy so many pots?’ I just say: ‘Imagine what my face would look like without it.’
Would you ever give nature a helping hand?
Never. I wouldn’t be brave enough. My one phobia is needles — I can cope with blood, cuts or anything, even with my horses, but I hate needles.
GP or green tea?
Neither, although the horses do have a range of alternative treatments, from acupuncture and massages to magnetic blankets.
I’m one of those people who sits out illness. Ages ago I took antibiotics and they made me feel lousy. Now I’m not into taking anything at all and I can’t remember when I last went to the doctor.
So what happens when you fall off?
I get straight back on. I’ve never broken a bone, touch wood, although a couple of years ago I ruptured some ligaments in my ankle. I had it X-rayed and had a great big plaster on it because there were a few chips, which turned out to be an old injury. But the next day I had the plaster taken off because I wanted to ride at Badminton.
Don’t you get saddle-sore?
I do get stiff and I don’t have the best back, partly because of all the various falls but also because I’ve spent an awful lot of hours in the saddle over the past 30 years and it’s not the most natural position. So I see a sports physio regularly.
You used to suffer quite badly from nerves. How have you overcome this?
With the help of a sports psychologist. One of my main problems was thinking too much, getting hung up on all the things that were going wrong and blowing my weaknesses out of all proportion. Now when my thought patterns start to go down the wrong line I’ve trained myself to do something to get away from it completely — such as writing a list, reading a book, or playing a game on the mobile phone.
Have you found the secret of happiness?
I’m a great believer that however serious things get you’ve still got to have some fun and have a laugh. And I’m very lucky that my husband William is very laid back — we’re both very balanced and don’t have great mood swings or anything. And no matter how bogged down I get I always remind myself that I do what I do because I love it.
Can’t live without?
Life out of doors, physical work and the horses. I feel really awful at the end of the day if I haven’t been outside.