Maestro

By: Horse Deals


Maestro
Chris Hunnable
Horse Deals meets multi-talented hunter judge Chris W Hunnable, who is equally at home in any discipline.
Whether your chosen discipline's showing, jumping or all three - Chris Hunnable's name will surely ring a bell. The former Olympian has devoted a lifetime to all things equestrian.
Chris, who never strayed from his Essex roots, was the middle of three sons. Although his father, the late Tom Hunnable, and mother, Edna, weren't horsey, Chris became interested when his grandfather bought his elder brother Martin a pony.
Ann Hood, who had worked for Stella Harris, became the Hunnables' groom for around 10 years until her marriage to producer Allister Hood.
"I had to endure hours and hours of lungeing without stirrups, but Ann taught me everything," says Chris.
He moved up to county level and among his highlights was Toyd Bewildered's WHP championship at Peterborough. Another ride, Rotherwood Peek-A-Day, finished second three times to the legendary show pony Holly of Spring at HOYS.
Chris moved on to show hunters, with Lucky Hit one of his best rides. This horse was also a brilliant hunter and when Richard Meade came to see him, proved the catalyst for Chris’s eventing career.
"I rode Lucky Hit from Richard’s yard and the week before Badminton one year, Richard asked if I’d like help. When I looked at the fences, they terrified me, but by the end of the trials, it was my main goal," explains Chris.
Chris extended his stay with Richard to three years and enjoyed the best of both worlds, also fitting in training with show jumper Malcolm Pyrah.
He began eventing in 1982, quickly rising through the ranks and securing wins at top level. The pinnacle of his career was riding Mr Bootsie into 10th place individually at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Chris had bought the horse as a six-year-old.
"I knew he was special, but to ride
him at the Olympic four years later was fantastic," he recalls.
After his father’s death, Chris turned his hand to developing Towerlands and his marriage to Samantha in 1989 produced the perfect organisational team.
"Sam loved show jumping, but she also started eventing — a case of if you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em," jokes Chris.
Towerlands grew into one of the country’s most popular venues and Chris remained at the helm until its sale to Bill Gredley in 2004.
Showing had gone on hold, but a meeting with Dick Saunders and a judging appointment at Dublin saw Chris gain a place on the hunter judges’ panel.
"It’s difficult to commit to dates far in advance, but I love showing and judging’s the ideal way to stay involved," explains Chris.
Chris and Sam are busy with horses and ponies. While their elder daughter Lucy, 14, is mad keen on hunting, 11-year-old Zara is determined to follow in her father’s eventing footsteps.
Chris still competes and among his rides are the six-year-old Spring Centurion, who has done six novice events, and Riverside Vision, who will contest Burghley Young Event Horse classes next season.
Sam currently has two coloured show jumpers and a four-year-old.
"My intention was to sell horses,
but I seem better at collecting them," reflects Chris.
After Towerlands was sold, Chris set up an investment company with dressage rider Robin Hudson: "We understand when the other leaves the office to ride."
This year, Chris added to his responsibilities by taking on the chair of British Eventing’s sports committee, which covers all aspects from breeding to rules, fixtures
and safety.
"It’s nice to see eventing from another point of view, but it is a challenge to keep everyone happy. I’m surrounded by a brilliant team and although it takes up quite a lot of time, I love doing it because I’m passionate about the sport," he concludes.