byNina Fedrizzi| Aug 9, 2017
Jonty Evans probably has a lot on his mind today, and wondering which actor will play him in an imaginary future biopic isn’t one of them. Still, the story of Irish Olympic eventing partners Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift has all the makings of a Tinseltown blockbuster: high stakes, plenty of emotion, suspense, and now, finally, a happy ending.
News broke this morning that after a tense month, Evans had reached his fundraising goal of £500,000 in a crowd sourcing campaign to purchase his Rio 2016 mount, the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse “Art”, who was being sold by his owner. The owner gave Jonty time to raise the funds, and £63,000 was quickly donated within the first 24 hours. The pot ticked up to £100,00 by the end of week 1, but slowed considerably until a flurry of renewed interest in the last remaining days of the campaign.
This morning, as many publications (including this one) prepared to run our ‘Last Chance to Donate for Jonty!’ stories before the August 10th deadline, news broke that Evans had done the unthinkable: two large lump sums came in on Monday, and an additional £60,000 was raised in less than a day. Those numbers, combined with additional funds for an online auction, have officially set the “To Go” tally on Jonty’s fundraising page to a gorgeous, improbable ‘zero’.
Horse sport has its fair share of criticisms from people both inside and outside the industry. There are ongoing concerns about elitism and safety; about the role and effectiveness of governing bodies and various competition organizers. But then, there are moments, every so often, like these—when horse sport puts its money where its mouth is. Because while we may come from all over the world, from different disciplines and economic backgrounds, there is one thing we can all get behind: the love between a man and his horse and that love’s ability to accomplish incredible things.
In the case of Jonty & Art, that has certainly been reflected in the outpouring of support they’ve received from donors and top professionals in the industry—including Ruth Edge, who offered up two days of dressage training; Team Ireland veterinarian Marcus Swail, who donated a free vetting and set of X-Rays; and Badminton winner Andrew Nicholson, who gave a riding lesson—contributing to the online auction’s £37,390 total. In previous weeks and this morning on social media, others riders responded with their own well wishes:
The news comes just in time for Jonty & Art’s participation in the European Eventing Championships in Strzegom, Poland, which was out of the question until Cooley Rorkes Drift’s ownership issue could be resolved. This morning, an emotional Jonty released this video on BBC Gloucestershire, thanking the equestrian community for their support:
It’s a fairytale ending for one of eventing’s most beloved partnerships. But for all of us out there in our own far-flung stables, rising early and lugging tack and dreaming our dreams, it’s one of those deeply special, feel-good moments in sport that we can all take a little bit to heart. Congratulations Jonty and Art, we’ll all be rooting for you!
-Photo by Erin Gilmore.