Severe epilepsy no barrier for dedicated showjumper

  • Young showjumper Toby Bevins has impressed the jumping community with his determination to continue his love of competing. This is despite suffering from an extreme and rare form of epilepsy.

    The 24-year-old can experience several bad turns while at a show, anything from a twitch to a full-on attack. Yet, he manages to still get back on his chestnut gelding Askan Van Overis and continue riding.

    “It usually starts off as a twitch, but then sometimes I will be on the floor having a seizure. Askan will just be standing still next to me with his head over me,” said Toby. “It’s better when the people around me don’t panic — it’s something I’ve suffered from for 22 years, so all I’ve known.

    “Sometimes if it’s just a twitch I can carry on but other times I need to get off. If I am riding indoors and get too hot it can trigger an attack. I often put water in my riding hat to keep myself cool.”

    The Wiltshire-based rider, who is on daily medication, has been competing the 15-year-old Darco son since 2009. They have notched up numerous wins and placings together in both 1.05m and 1.10m classes. “I am hoping to step up a level with him next year,” added Toby, who has been riding since he was just one and is also a keen footballer.

    “I ride Askan on Mondays and Thursdays during the week if there is someone available to drive me over. Then my mum takes me to shows at the weekends,” he said.

    Their five-hour drive to Aintree EC paid off when he finished third in the pairs class. Toby had qualified for the Dodson & Horrell National Amateur Championships at the venue (18–22 November) after winning the 1.10m second round at West Wilts EC.

    Just 20 minutes before jumping in the pairs class at Aintree, Toby had suffered a particularly bad seizure — yet he did not let it stop him and produced a spotless round with Askan.

    This prompted the equestrian centre to host a raffle and auction during the weekend. They raised an impressive £1,720 for the charity Epilepsy Action — a charity close to Toby’s heart.

    “Toby goes through these attacks, which to us on the outside look horrific, yet he gets up, dusts himself off and continues to ride,” said Carly Goodall, the manager at Aintree EC. “On Friday, when he finished third, there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.”

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