As told to Kate Johnson
Evie Toombes, para showjumper and disability campaigner, on living with an invisible illnesses, her accidental foray into grand prix and meeting Prince Harry…
I classified as a para rider six years ago, aged 12. I was the youngest in the UK and the first to be registered as junior. It was just after one of my main surgeries; I was lost. I had no school friends because I’d missed so much time.
I went to horses for comfort and a pick-me-up. I wanted something that gave me value, that I could enjoy, that made all the months in hospital worthwhile. That’s exactly what it did. Even as things got more complicated with my health, horses have been the constant.
I was born with spina bifida; there’s a fatty tumour wrapped around the nerves to my legs, bladder and bowel at the base of my spinal cord. All of that means tube feeding, four hours of treatment each night for my gut, I catheterise every three hours, wear night splints and do two hours of physio a day. I’m attached to tubes for sometimes 24 hours a day. If I’m riding, it’s 23 hours, and I’m no longer a patient for those 60 minutes.
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