Catch ride turns disaster into triumph for young disabled showjumper

  • A catch ride helped save the day for a young rider at the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) championships.

    Ronnie Robinson, 12, has a severe visual impairment, but does not let it stop him from enjoying his “love” of showjumping.

    Ronnie takes part in para competitions with his veteran pony Ardcarrig Snowball, who has been in his family for 13 years.

    He travelled from Norfolk to Hartpury in Gloucestershire for the championships on 14 July.

    However, on arrival it was found that the pony’s flu jab had been given days too early under the competition’s rules.

    Ronnie’s mother Karen Robinson told H&H he was “devastated”.

    Several people offered ponies for Ronnie to ride and he clicked with the “fantastic” Mr Pebbles.

    “They flew around the course and I had my heart in my mouth,” said Karen, who calls for Ronnie in the ring so he knows where the fences are.

    The round secured the victory for Ronnie in the grade IV jumping, and Mr Pebbles shone further by coming second with his usual rider, Evie Toombes (pictured, below), in the grade III competition.

    Evie was presented with the inaugural Hannah Francis Award for talent, courage and inspiration in April.

    The 15-year-old was born with a form of spina bifida, which affects her lower legs, bladder and bowel.

    She continues to ride and compete despite the challenges she faces, and also supports and mentors other young people to have the confidence to take up activities.

    Evie’s mother Caroline Toombes told H&H Mr Pebbles had been lent to Evie by some close friends.

    “Mr Pebbles is immense fun as he loves his job and has a forgiving nature — a perfect combination for any child — if Carlsberg made ponies, it would be him,” she said.

    She added that Evie was adamant Ronnie should ride the pony if he felt confident, so a quick phone call to the owners in Ireland gave Ronnie his chance to compete.

    “It was incredible to witness Ronnie being guided round the course by his mum in the centre and Mr Pebbles trying to help,” she said.

    I cannot stress enough what a huge achievement that was for Ronnie and shows his depth of determination with this wonderful pony.”

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    At Evie’s previous para showjumping competition, Ms Robinson had given her the ride on a pony belonging to Ronnie’s sister to help build her confidence after a fall.

    “Incidents like this show what the sport and people involved are all about,” said Ms Toombes.

    Evie added she was “so pleased” to see Ronnie and Mr Pebbles get on so well.

    “He’s such a genuine pony who tries his best every time you ride him, so I knew he would take care of Ronnie,” she told H&H.

    “Ronnie was not only incredibly brave jumping on a pony he had never ridden before, but also rode a perfect round under such pressure and stress.

    “Pebbles was amazing as always that day — I’m so pleased he was suitable for Ronnie and he was able to compete successfully — he really did deserve to have such a successful show after the morning he had had.

    “Although we all had our hearts in our mouths, Pebbles will always look after his rider and jump what’s in front of him, he’s so special to us all.”

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