Tuesday 14th of January 2020
Opinion

Eventing: Jonty Evans – Eventing from my side of the fence

A little while ago, Sarah from The Gaitpost called me with the suggestion that as a considered ‘expert’ in my field would I write a regular column – all I could think of was a lecture I attended years ago where a very prominent equine vet started with –

 

“Expert – an Ex is a has been,

and Spert is a drip under pressure”

I never forgotten it and consequently always been cautious of ‘Experts’

So, here we go.

Tim Price and Jonathan Agnew chat to Jonty at the Celebrity Talk Area

© Libby Law Photography

‘Eventing from my side of the fence’ is simply my take on what’s going on, where we are, general news and views and a bit of news from my yard – I hope you like it.

January and February are the two months of the year that the medical profession ear mark – they keep an eye out for people feeling low, not enough sunshine – the winter blues can be a very real issue – not if you’re an event rider. 

Frankly January and February are a nightmare – eventing is fast approaching, the days are short, the weather is bad and you’ve got loads to do. Added to that there is a feeling within our little community, that any day now we are going to be allowed to get back to the sport we love – it’s like the dawning of time, or the start of summer – excitement is just around the corner.

For me, at 45 years old the feeling is more to do with anticipation, January and February are quite tough months, this year we plan to take my lovely horse Cooley Rorkes Drift to Badminton, as such February particularly and into March are going to be the main ‘work’ months for both horse and rider fitness.

CRD or Art to his friends is in fantastic form, he seems since his 9th place at the Rio Olympics to have even more belief in himself, technically he has progressed really well, the improvement to the connection in the trot work is becoming more and more obvious and his strength seems superb. Dressage trainer Gareth Hughes even commented the other day (use your best mild Australian twang to read this quote) “Sh** mate, you look like you know what you’re doing.”

Sessions with show jump trainer Ros Morgan, who plays a huge part in the producing of all my horses have also been going well, with Ros sounding confident in our progression to this point. Finding trainers you believe in and trust and are willing to be open with is a vital part of any riders progression.

Something that has come to me more and more as my career has progressed, is my desire to do my absolute best for my horses and myself. 

I have spent a great deal of my career riding horses that weren’t good enough, happily interspersed by fabulous honest horses like Cregwarrior owned by Mrs Deborah Toogood who gave me a foundation at Championships, something that enabled me to take the Olympics last year in my stride.

My current team of horses are all very talented, we only have seven main horses, but I believe they all have top class potential. The horses having that ability fuels my desire to do my best by them – it’s a feeling of responsibility – they have the ability – its my job to bring it to the fore. I am hugely grateful to my incredible team of owners who support me and my team in trying to achieve the best we can for our horses.

To me this level of achievement is the foundation to competition success, I hear youngsters saying how excited they are that they are going to such and such an event – my excitement is drawn purely from producing the best I can for and with that horse on that day – from when it wakes up to when we both fall asleep – do your best for them and they will do their best for you. Leave nothing to chance and no stone unturned – slightly obsessive, but there we go! It depends how much you want it?

I am going to unashamedly mention and talk about my sponsors, this is not a commercial plug, this is a thank you to people who help me to do the best for my horses and me. What is maybe important to explain is that none of my sponsors were approached for a ‘sponsorship deal’ they were all our suppliers – we had gone to them because they were the best people we can find to give us the best for our horses. I am now in the lucky position where they are happy to support me and we work together. Companies like NAF and Gain Horse Feeds help me, they provide me with the best product I can find, we try and do our bit to help them. 

 

One person I must mention is Calum Taylor at Taylor Made Training, based in Shipton under Wychwood, near Burford. Calum is responsible for helping me with my fitness – something I will write more about in the future.

Calum always smiles and has a positive approach to a subject that can be gruelling at 45 years old with a lot of broken bits. But I can honestly say that for the Olympics last year, and for Badminton this year, I will be in the shape of my life – I will be in as good a shape as the horse, and that by the way is a riders duty! Thanks Calum for all your help. More on our supporters and sponsors in the future.

More and more people are recognising that the horse’s brain is possibly the key constituent to future success. A horse with a willingness to do it and a desire to shine is key, way above the super talented that don’t apply themselves. In addition to this I believe that riders have the chance to produce a horse’s mentality – learn to be a horseman – feel what they feel and see what they see.

There are horses that benefit from one approach as much as others benefit from another approach, be open minded and all encompassing, and you and your partner will form an incredible alliance – a horse working for you, helping you make decisions, giving you its all, is an amazing and indescribable feeling. I went into the final round of show jumping at last years Olympics in Rio, with absolutely no doubt at all that Art would give me his best – that is a complete honour – that is why we do it – that is why we owe so much to the horse.

Finally in this effort to describe to you what we do and why we do it, I have to tell you about the team behind the scenes, hopefully our yard runs due to my motivation, due to our amazing horses, their wonderful owners and largely helped by our top class sponsors and supporters.

However the yard simply couldn’t function without the grooms and my wife Jane. The hard work that Jane – wife, Jane – Head Groom and Abi – Working Student have put in is what allows the yard to actually function. Having two Janes by the way can provide challenges – but is something I wholly recommend!

Staff in this day and age is a huge challenge, Jane and I are incredibly lucky to have the support of our two full time and several part time helpers – thank you so much.

So enough of these ramblings for now, I hope that I have given you an insight into what we do, and why we do it. I promise that the next offering will be more about the state of the sport and the challenges we all face as we move forward into a new season – the main question might have to be – how do we beat that pesky German guy, that wins everything in snaffle on a loose rein!

In the meantime, enjoy your horses, do your absolute best by them and as you look forward to the new season, I will leave you with a bit of homework – “Fifth leg training” a quote from an article written by William Micklem – read it – it makes sense. Cheers J.

www.jontyevans.co.uk/

Complete Horse Riding by William Micklem

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