Attendees at the Horse & Hound Awards were delighted that injured event rider Jonty Evans was able to join them for the prestigious ceremony.
The great and the good of the equestrian world flocked to Cheltenham racecourse on Thursday 8 November for the glitzy evening event.
The crowd gave a massive round of applause when presenter Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes announced that Jonty was in the room, prior to the awards getting underway.
Jonty was in attendance to see his groom, Jane Felton, win the award for the Horseware Groom of the Year.
Jane has been keeping Jonty’s yard running while he undergoes intensive rehabilitation and recovers from a serious brain injury that occurred in a fall from Cooley Rorkes Drift (“Art”) at Tattersalls on Sunday 3 June.
Jonty was admitted to intensive care after the fall and remained in a coma for six weeks before regaining consciousness. Jonty’s therapists have described his recovery to date as “remarkable”.
“Jane is exceptional. She has been the most incredible friend through the hardest time of my life,” said Jonty. “Jane has been amazing, she has run my yard in my absence and kept my business afloat.”
Jane described the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio among the highlights of her time working for Jonty.
Jane said: “It’s been a long year — but it was a hell of a team effort. I couldn’t have done it on my own; everyone pulled together, plus the support from the public and other professionals — it’s been incredible.
“It’s a massive thing to win this award, it’s very humbling.”
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Jonty and Art first came to public attention when they finished ninth at the Rio Olympics in 2016. They followed this up with an eye-catching dressage test at Badminton the following spring, although a run-out across country put paid to a top placing.
In July that year, H&H broke the news that the partnership was under threat. 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. He set up a website, jontyandart.com, through which people could donate.
Four weeks after H&H’s first online story, the £500,000 target was raised, helped by two lump sums of £100,000 and £150,000 being donated.
Full report from the H&H Awards in this week’s magazine, on sale Thursday 15 November