Jonty Evans was welcomed back to Belton International Horse Trials by a cheering crowd to ride in public for the first time since his serious accident last summer.
Jonty and Cooley Rorkes Drift (“Art”), who are the reigning Lycetts Grantham Cup CIC3* (now CCI4*-S) champions, returned to the Lincolnshire event on Saturday (30 March).
This was the first time the Irishman has ridden in a public arena since his cross-country fall at Tattersalls in June 2018, which resulted in a serious brain injury and left him in a coma for six weeks.
The pair were flanked by their Rio Olympic team mates, Austin O’Connor and Padraig McCarthy, to parade in the Cottages.com arena.
Jonty and Art then continued solo, enjoying a canter around the four-star dressage arena and putting in a couple of beautiful jumps over a fence, to the delight of the crowd.
“It was very good not to miss [at the fence], because Padraig and Austin wouldn’t have let me forget it!” laughed Jonty.
When asked what has really driven him, Jonty replied “I’m sitting on him”.
“What people have done for me is off the scale,” Jonty told the crowd.
“People have been incredibly kind [so] the determination was easy to get hold of, it was the drive from everybody who got involved, everybody who wore green for Jonty, it means so much – I want to thank everybody very much.”
He added the biggest thanks was to his children.
“Mia and Charlie were absolutely amazing throughout all this,” he said.
“Mia absolutely wouldn’t have it that I wouldn’t wake up, she just wouldn’t entertain that idea.
“What [they] mean to me is enormous.”
Jonty was then joined for photos by his family and key supporters, before inviting fans into the arena to join him and the crowd-funded superstar, Art, for more pictures.
The Grantham Cup concludes today (31 March), with Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around currently holding the lead on a dressage of 26.2.