‘You can do more than you think’: para showjumper wows at first able-bodied international show

  • “The week before was absolute chaos – but oh my gosh, it was so much fun”.

    Para showjumper Evie Toombes came up with the idea of competing at her first FEI competition, at Bolesworth International Horse Show (14-18 June), when she was in hospital last December. She told H&H she was not at all sure it would be possible to go, and that even when it was looking more likely, they had the official side of things to sort out.

    “It was one of those goals that you think won’t be possible but it will keep you going – but it actually happened,” she said. “Mum said it was a lovely idea, probably thinking it would keep me happy!”

    Evie said as her nine-year-old KWPN gelding Jack Sparrow had not jumped internationally before, he had to be registered with the FEI.

    “We found out he wasn’t legally owned by me so we had to send his passport to KWPN and it got delayed, and they said it wouldn’t come back in time for Bolesworth, so we couldn’t go,” she said. “This was on the Friday, so Mum messaged the chair of KWPN on Facebook and very respectfully explained the issue and asked if there were any options – and within 24 hours, he’d had a word and the passport was being sent. It arrived on the Tuesday morning, two hours before we left!”

    At the show, Evie had to plan her rides around her treatment. She was born with spina bifida, which means she has no feeling in her legs below the knee, and bladder and bowel issues. She competes in para and able-bodied classes, with the motto “Find a way, not an excuse”, including once jumping a 1.50m fence in a 90cm class on her mare High Offley Business Centre (Daisy).

    “I have 16 hours a day of food through my tubes but because it was so hot at Bolesworth, I was on 22 hours a day for fluid,” she said. “Most people would drink more water but I can’t as it’s not absorbed. So I’d be walking the course with the international showjumpers, with my backpack full of tubes. It is usually on a drip stand; you can put it in the backpack but that weighs 10kg. I can give it to Mum but I’m a bit clumsy and if someone walks between us, and the tubes are connected to my heart…!”

    Evie and Jack jumped double clear in two of the CSI amateur classes, winning prize money in both.

    “When you go in that big arena, it’s like being in a bubble down there,” Evie said. “Some days, Jack will look at anything but the fences but he went in there and was ‘This is my job’. It was amazing.”

    Evie said she was very proud of Jack, whom she said can be shy, to go to a show with the atmosphere of Bolesworth and perform as he did.

    “Daisy’s 20 now – and she’d jumped at Bramham the week before and come third – and she’s always really been my heart horse,” she said. “I never expected to get another one I could enjoy as much. She’s having a bit of a quieter life now but she whinnies every time the lorry went so we took the old faithful to Bramham and she was a star.

    “People keep asking what show I’m doing next; this was all I’d planned for a year so I’ve no idea! But that’s the hope, to go to a few more places and make more memories. We’re so lucky to have Bolesworth, and everything feels worthwhile when it all comes together.

    “I always try to have something to pull us along; sometimes silly things but it keeps you going. I’m now back to reality and in bed for a week but it’s nice to know you can do more than you think.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...