I wanted to like this book, and in some ways, I did.
But it's not really an autobiography. It's more of a rambling of goings-on, and it's covered my like an advanced level XC course. Far too fast.
I can't blame Mrs Funnell. She's an eventer, not a writer. I blame the writers and editors.
This book is poorly laid out, poorly edited and has far too much information that is not necessary.
As a writer and Equestrian myself, one of the first things I know when writing a book, is know your audience. Bottom line, readers of this book will be horse people. So, one might wonder where is all the horse information? In fact, the horses and riding is skirted over so fast, you don't get to know any of the horses on an in depth basis. Another sad note is that some statements made in the book make Mrs Funnell look to be an incompitent horse woman--something she is NOT by any means. But, comments such as 'I learned a great lesson--always check your horse's legs before going to a 3 start event'. How could one not know this? As a lower leveled event rider, I know this. Other comments such as 'Always make sure your horse is fit before a 3/4 star event' come off as making the reader go 'say what? You didn't know this? Yet you are competiting at that level?"
That proves to me that much more important information was deleted for other, less important information.
The book is poorly organized. One chapter, assumingly dedicated to Sir Barnaby, barely mentions him. It skirts over all these various horses, but we never really get to know the real points we want to know:
Who trained Pippa? From the book, it seems like she hacks a lot before and after schoool, but has no formal lessons until she is a working student. However, as this working student with a top trainer, she fails to know how to fitness train a horse? How to improve her dressage? Having ridden pony club successfully, she would have had to have had brilliant coaching prior to her working student position. So, where was that all? It's never mentioned. I knew more about Pippa's schooling via the commentary on my Blenheim and Burlghley tapes.
How is that so? Watching her ride, she is absolutely brilliant. I have her competiting Sir Barnaby at Blenheim and Burlghley in 1992, and she was incredible. So, a comment Mark Phillips made about her XC ride has me baffled.
Readers of this book want to know her training, how the horses were under saddle, how it is to gallop XC at that level, how Badmitton feels to ride. Not a two paragraph statement of 'I did this fence well' or 'I retired' etc.
Another sad fact is that it does not explain or describe at ALL of the serious time it takes to condition an event horse, let alone 13. The fitness training an eventer goes through is tougher than any of the equestrian disciplines. You must carefully write down your horse's schedule to get them fit for the length of time they are out on endurance day(now this has changed somewhat due to the short format), not to mention hours of schooling dressage and jumping. None of this is explained in the least! Instead, we find out a million names that are dropped, all of which are somewhat irrelevant to the greater picture.
It makes Pippa look as if her desire to succeed over wraught her care for her horses in some passages, and again, that is not the case. I mean, I HOPE It is not. Judging from what I read in other sections, I highly doubt her desire to succeed would over shadow her care for her horses well being.
Still, there are some gems and pearls of wisdom to be found. The prologue is excellent because it is recounting one moment. You get a feel of what is actually going on when one would win such a prestigeous goal as a Gran Slam in Eventing. But, then we go back in time and are introduced to family, which is fine, but you don't get an idea of what her family life really was.
This book is what my writing teachers would have called 'telling a story, not showing'. Writing is about show and tell. Bring us there, don't just tell it. This book is one giant run-on sentence of horses, people, events, accidents, tragedy, triumph and it's all interconnected. It leaves the horse enthusiest a bit frustrated because we want more--or at least I do.