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‘It’s been a dark place’: rider whose health sparked serious concerns in spring wins national showjumping title #BestofBolesworth

A rider whose health “could not have been any worse” when she was sent home from hospital in March owing to the coronavirus pandemic has won a national showjumping title.

H&H reported in spring that Evie Toombes, who was born with a form of spina bifida, had been sent home, a planned major operation cancelled, despite the fact she was seriously ill, and her mother Caroline was appealing to the government to give her the care she needed.

Yesterday (4 August) Evie and High Offley Business Centre (Daisy) took the grade III para riders’ title at the British Showjumping national championships at Bolesworth. She also jumped a training class in the main international arena.

“It was wonderful,” Evie told H&H.

“I’d been really poorly the week before; the entries were in but we weren’t sure if I’d be able to go. We had to tweak plans a bit but in the end, said ‘right, let’s go, even if I get there and can’t jump, at least we’ve been’.

“We took a real no-pressure approach, so to get in the ring was a bonus; to jump so well, and for Daisy to help me out, and have so much fun, was wonderful.

“Daisy enjoyed herself too; she loved the atmosphere and I think she thrives on it.”

Evie paid tribute to her 17-year-old “dinosaur”.

“She’s about 17hh and I’m quite petite; Mum said at first ‘you’ll never ride her’ because she’s so big but I’ve had her three years now. We seemed to click and she’s my partner.

“To be able to ride into a big international arena like that, and against able-bodied riders in the second class, and know your horse will try for you is a wonderful feeling. I’m really lucky to have that partnership.”

Evie also thanked the Bolesworth team for putting on a “really wonderful” show, looking after everyone and with good organisation to make people feel safe, with which Caroline agreed, praising the efforts the organisers had made such as stabling Daisy near the ring so she was easy for Evie to access.

“It was breathtaking,” she told H&H. “It was a lovely atmosphere and people were proud to be there.

“I’m really upbeat now about what we’ve achieved. When you look back to March, when she was sent home, she was just a statistic. They took her off the IV feeding, and withdrew the ability to have new patients on IV feeding at home, and she said ‘I’ve had enough’.

“It’s been a bit of a dark place at times, and it’s still a real struggle, but she’s got it back now, and we’re pushing hard for her surgery.”

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Evie added that the last few months had been “a mixed bag”.

“Things couldn’t have been any worse,” she said. “So to go from one extreme to the other — it was brilliant to be there, let alone to win — was incredible. I had no expectations, I just wanted to go back to doing what I love.

“I probably wouldn’t put the effort in if I didn’t have anything to do it for, but being able to showjump and ride Daisy; I think we all deserve something that makes it worthwhile.”

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