Jonty Evans has secured the ride on his Rio Olympic horse, Cooley Rorkes Drift (“Art”), after raising £500,000 through an extraordinarily successful crowd-funding campaign.
“I’m lost for words and so, so grateful to everyone who donated,” Jonty told H&H tearfully this morning (9 August). “I just can’t believe it. Radio Gloucestershire rang for a radio interview this morning and I couldn’t keep from blubbing on radio.”
H&H broke the news four weeks ago today that interest from buyers, particularly in America, had led to Cooley Rorkes Drift’s owner Fiona Elliott considering selling the 11-year-old, with whom Jonty finished ninth and best of the Irish at the Rio Olympics last year.
Jonty had secured some funding towards the horse’s purchase and decided to start a crowd-funding campaign to attempt to make up the shortfall, with the aim of raising £500,000. He set up a website, jontyandart.com, through which people could donate.
Just after 10am this morning the counter on the website ticked over the £500,000 target. It was a case of just in time as Jonty had set the end of tomorrow (10 August) as the deadline for the fundraising as he needs to depart for next week’s European Eventing Championships in Strzegom, Poland as part of the Irish squad and he could not go with the horse’s ownership unresolved.
Two large lump sums were donated as part of the campaign, one of £150,000 and another of £100,000, which came in on Monday this week.
“Without the two big donors, we wouldn’t have done it,” Jonty acknowledged. “Without the second donation I don’t think the momentum would picked up again. The response from the crowd-fund was unreal.”
The campaign has moved in spurts — £63,000 was raised in the first 24 hours and £100,000 in the first week, but momentum then slowed. However, the total kept growing and the final £60,000 was raised in less than 24 hours. At midnight last night the total was still over £10,000, but by 7.30am this morning that had dropped to just over £4,000.
Jonty admitted today he didn’t think the campaign would really work at the outset.
“There’s no point hiding it that it was a last-ditch attempt — I had approached people to buy chunks of him or all of him,” he said. “This was my last and final choice and I didn’t really think it could be done. The momentum in the first 24 or 48 hours was unreal, and I thought ‘Christ, can this happen?’ Then of course it slowed a bit, then there were the two larger donations and we crossed the line. It’s unreal.”
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An online auction — with lots including a lesson with Badminton winner Andrew Nicholson, two days’ dressage training with Ruth Edge and a vetting and X-rays with Team Ireland vet Marcus Swail — also contributed £37,390 to the total.
The idea of “The People’s Horse” caught the imagination of both the equestrian public and the mainstream media, with Jonty receiving coverage on the BBC and as far afield as the USA.
Full European Championships preview in next week’s H&H magazine (dated 17 August).