Interview with Pippa Funnell's head groom Frankie Doodle Murrell


1) For how long have you been working as a head groom?

I have worked as a groom for 12 years and 4 of them for Pippa. I started at a dressage yard for 1 year but then all eventers.

2) Have you grown up in a family with horses and done all the typical British pony club education?

I grew up around horses as my mum was also a groom to showjumpers and eventers. I had a pony when I was little but didn’t join a pony club til I was 14.

3) What do you like most in your profession?

I love to be able to travel and work with world class horses and riders. It’s a lifestyle rather than a job.

4) How does a typical day as head groom look like at home / at a competition?

At home I over see my staff and keep check of everything from orders of feed to vets and farriers, along with keep the horses looking their best. At a competition is again all the above but with less horses and the obvious of preparing the horses ready for competition and driving the lorry be abroad or in the UK.

5) Many girls dream of being a groom - what is the hardest part of this job?

The hardest part is actually when something bad happens at event or home to your horse or rider, a fall or an injury.

6) Which is your favourite competition and why?

I love Badminton for my favourite UK event because it’s so prestigious and such an amazing feel. I also love Boekelo in Holland as the parties are amazing!!

7) Have you ever thought about working for a rider abroad or a rider of another discipline?

I haven’t worked for a rider abroad but I have worked for foreign riders based in the UK, all being eventers.

8) What are the characteristic skills a groom needs to have?

You have to be passionate, dedicated, willing and fun! With these you’ll be top!! Oh, and organised!!!

9) You've been working for Pippa's eventers - 5 minutes down the road is the big Billy Stud show jumping yard - what are the biggest differences between you and William's head groom?

Everything we would do on a day to day basis would be about the same but at competition it would be slightly different, the jumpers travel a lot more than us abroad and could be away for more than 1 week at a time, whereas we would have a week away and most likely home for a week before leaving again.

10) You have taken the reins of Redesigned, a former four star horse of Pippa - what are you doing with him and why is he so special to you?

Redesigned, owned by one of pips longest owners Denise and Roger Lincoln, is enjoying his retirement hacking with me, we have completed a couple of dressage competitions, which is amazing for me to be able to ride such an amazing horse! He’s 17 now but I love how he’s so full of life still! He’s very special to me because he’s obviously a lovely person but we’ve had massive highs with him and lows and you build up a very strong relationship through times like these and I just love him.

11) If you could build your own yard - how would it look like?

If I could build my own I would have a massive indoor barn leading to an indoor arena also leading to an outdoor arena so it’s all nice and easy to work with! Horse walker a must! And lots of grazing.

12) What would you change in the sport if you could?

If I could change anything it would be somehow to avoid injury!!

13) Is there any rider or horse you desire and why?

Umm, I’m not sure as there are so many amazing riders out there now and to be honest if I could be like any I’d be very happy!

14) How is the salary for a groom compared to e.g. a hairdresser in the UK?

Pay for a groom over here isn’t bad but when you compare to other professions in the UK, then yes it’s not brilliant with the hours you do compared to a hairdresser or shop worker. But it’s a job you do for love and opportunities rather than money.

15) Now you are pregnant and will stop working as a groom soon. How are you imaging your future with / without horses?

I’m not sure I can imagine it without horses, I think a ‘short break’ will be as much as I could handle! I will always have horses but maybe my career will change. It’s very hard to pull yourself away from the creatures!!