Jonty and Art make winning return to competition

Jonty Evans and his Olympic partner Cooley Rorkes Drift have made their first competitive appearance since the 2018 fall that left Jonty in a six-week coma.

In a successful dressage outing at Hunters Equestrian, near Cirencester, Jonty and “Art” won both their advanced medium tests.

“Admittedly I won the second test by absolute fluke as I was only one in it — I did the wrong test even though it was being called, as I hadn’t learnt it properly — but he did a really good first test, listened to me and did what I asked of him and scored 68.8%,” said Jonty, who has made remarkable progress since getting back on board Art for the first time last December.

Jonty praised the 13-year-old gelding — who he bought after a £500,000 crowd funding campaign in 2017 — saying his temperament and rideability made returning to competition at this standard achievable.

“He does everything, he does really good changes and really good half-pass, and because he’s quite chilled he just lets me get on and ride him,” he said, adding that the test also called for some moves less familiar to eventers.

“It also asked for a volte and I didn’t know what that was, but Pammy [Hutton] told me it was just a small circle!”

Jonty revealed that Art, who has made one public appearance at Belton since the fall at Tattersalls in June 2018, seemed pleased to be back out competing.

“Pammy was there and said she was watching his face as he walked into the warm up and his ears went forward as if to say ‘oh my God, I’m at a show’; it was great to feel him like that,” he said, adding that his own competitive instincts also appeared to be alive and well.

“I was really keen to do it,” he said. “It was interesting because I got into the warm-up — and they have white boards in the warm-up at Hunters — and I thought I could really sense a difference in how I started riding, I instantly sat up and I rode proper circles.

“In the test, I thought we weren’t staying in the corners well enough, and I was pleased that my arena craft kicked in. I would have liked his way of going to be a bit better, so I definitely haven’t lost striving to improve!”

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Jonty and Art will be making their next public appearance at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials next week, where they will be appearing in Pammy’s dressage demos on Thursday and Friday.

“He will absolutely love being at Badminton and being watched by people who love him and it will give me a chance to give something back to the people that have been so good to me,” he added.

He told H&H that beyond that he had “no firm plans” for Art but that he would be focusing on teaching and taking clinics.

“I’ve been really enjoying the teaching, it’s been something to get my teeth stuck into,” he said.

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