Monday 22nd of July 2024
Pro Secrets

Interview with Jonty Evans

Jonty Evans has been eventing internationally for over 20 years and has represented Ireland at two European Championships and jumped clear round Badminton.

 

Last weekend Jonty was part of the winning team at Military Boekelo, the first time Ireland has won a Nations Cup event. As well as competing and teaching, Jonty is an experienced presenter and, for the last few years, has hosted the Celebrity Talk area at Burghley Horse Trials.

Jonty also has a strong selection of young horses who are gradually working their way through the levels including A Chance Affair, Ervano, Newmarket Dove, Alamo II and Flying Dutchman

The Gaitpost caught up with arguably the friendliest gentleman in eventing to find out more about his own inspirations, the horse everyone is talking about and what he has in store over the winter.

Boekelo was a fantastic result for you and for Ireland. You were the highest placed rider in the team (8th)  How was that?

It really was a great weekend. As a squad we are getting closer and closer together, which I think is really good as you look forward to next year.

The riders that went to Blair for the Europeans had a really tough week in Scotland – it was really bad luck. So to be able to win this, I know the Brits don’t necessarily put Pippa and Tina and the other big guns in, but the Germans and Kiwis did, was really great to win. Boekelo is such good fun and it is a great event. It was fantastic for all the team and staff, Nick Turner, Ian Woodhead, Gerry Flynn and Hugh Suffern our vet, for everyone who has worked so hard, it was wonderful that everyone gets a bit of pay back this year.

It is a gruelling season and the Irish have put a huge amount of effort in over the last few years to try and catch up particularly on the dressage scene. We feel we have made a lot of progress although everyone is progressing at the same rate. It just felt good to come out on top this weekend plus we won the rugby (Ireland beat France) and Wales qualified for Euro 2016 in the football!

Who are you riding at Le Lion?

I am riding a really cool little 7 year old horse called Cuffesgrange Ars Royale. He was bred in a small village called Cuffesgrange in Ireland. I sold him to the girl who owns him, Charlotte Jenkins, and he came to me because she injured herself at the beginning of the season. He started at novice, has got better and better, and has had good results at Intermediate where he was 3rd at Gatcombe and had two lovely double clears in the CIC2* at Millstreet and Barbury. He deserves his chance but it is incredibly competitive here.

Cooleys Rorkes Drift

Cooleys Rorkes Drift has been turning heads the world over and is definitely one to watch even more so with his Rio qualification. What sort of horse is he?

His brain is incredible and it is like he has been there before. His focus is always 100% complete and he loves people watching him. I am very excited about his future.

He is a 9 year old, owned by Fiona Elliott and Ann Nobbs and is listed for the Rio Olympics for Ireland. This year he was placed at Aldon and did his first CCI3* at Tattersalls and was really good there. He feels like he is maturing more and more and he was so good at Barbury and didn’t go crazily fast. He was brilliant at Blenheim and was third in 8/9 year old class.

He was meant to go to Aachen but banged himself in the field so missed it. We decided we would go to Boekelo with the idea that if he goes really well we wouldn’t have to put too much pressure on him next Spring. He was amazing at Boekelo – I am very very upset about my 3 time faults in the showjumping, which were a total error on my part. He jumped a fabulous double clear and he’s got every single phase. His dressage is getting better and better and he is very good cross country – there was a direct route out of the 2nd water and I think only 5 tried to jump it and only 3 did and I never had a doubt he wouldn’t jump it. He is absolutely brilliant.

There were quite a few fences that were hidden around corners and it did cause a little bit of trouble, early on it was slippy and later the ground was dry. I have never been to Boekelo when the ground has been dry. Later on the ground was very loose and moving quite a lot. Ground wise it is better to be there when it rains but it was lovely to be there in the sunshine. There must have been over 60,000 people on cross country day and it is a very narrow track so it feels like the crowd is on top of you but it is really good practice for those horses that may get called to Rio. It is a really good high octane atmosphere.

You have had a great season but not without its ups and downs. How do you deal with those?

My wife would say badly!  I think when you talk as a competitor, you grow up knowing that a very large proportion of working with horses will go wrong. Consequently you have a mindset that you develop over the years that means you are capable of dealing with that. Or at the very least bouncing back from it.

I am not great for 2 days when I have had a disappointment – I was really gutted about Aachen, because he’s a very good horse and I really wanted him to experience the stadium. I firmly believe he will go to Rio, touch wood all things being well, and I wanted him to experience that.

I think, also, that I am possibly quite good at deciding that everything happens for a reason so I then decided he is very young, and that Aachen was unnecessary so I didn’t need to go anyway!  I am quite good at putting my own spin on it once I have had to change my plan.

I am sure this comes with experience and that the youngsters probably suffer more when they haven’t got the knowledge that there will be another good day coming along soon. I am lucky that I have the best horses now, it’s not for the want of trying, that I have ever had, the best owners and really good training help. I feel that we can have a really good few years –you have to balance it out – there will be bad bits and you hope that the good bits outweigh the bad bits.

The end of the season is close, how will you spend the winter?

I am going on holiday at half term with my children, and I can’t wait – it is very appealing at the moment. I love my hunting so I will hunt some of the youngsters in November and December and to be honest the older ones will be back in by December. I will make sure they are fit enough to do the training over Christmas, January and February.

I actually enjoy showjumping now mainly due to my trainer Mrs Ros Morgan who is an invaluable help to me – I didn’t used to – but I really enjoy it now and we go to some of the big showjumping shows. I might go abroad showjumping as well this winter. I do find that if you have been showjumping, I did the Premier League show at Bury Farm last year, if you can jump there then your horses normally come out firing and ready to go.

You are well known for your presenting at the Burghley Celebrity Talk Area. Have you always enjoyed it and do you have a favourite interview or most memorable guest?

Without a doubt, I am very happy when someone hands me a microphone!  My most memorable interviewee for not the right reasons is Jordan, or Katie Price. It was for not the right reasons as it was at Burghley on the Celebrity Talk Area.  It was all getting very hyped and hundreds of her fans had come to Burghley to see her.

The area was getting fuller and fuller and the Healthy and Safety guys were getting very excitable. We were told that she was 40 mins late and her helicopter hadn’t landed in the field behind us. It was all getting a bit crazy as the crowd were getting fidgety plus we had the paparazzi at the front of the stage, which we weren’t used to. So I went out with the microphone and said “Ladies and gentlemen, just to keep you abreast of the situation…” I can’t admit to saying it deliberately but as the words were forming in my mind, I knew what I was doing.

The papps all groaned, and the next line was “Oh that was bit of a boob!”  The crowd all laughed and it helped to keep them mildly entertained as we all waited. When she did finally arrive, I talked to about her Derby House range of clothing and to be fair she was very professional, very pleasant, and it was quite an amusing interview.

©️ The Gaitpost

I am really lucky as I have interviewed Clare Balding, Andrew Nicholson, Zara, Pippa, all the big names and they have all been so generous with their time. Andrew was particularly brilliant. It is when you are at Burghley, in front of a live audience that you feel the warmth towards them from the crowd and with some people you can really feel how much the crowd like them. They always love Pippa, Tina and Zara but with Andrew the crowd always grows and grows and people want to hear what he has to say. I really enjoy doing it and we have got some super ideas for 2016.

What is your greatest fear?

Probably having to do the ironing!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

F**k it !

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Without a doubt my children.  I didn’t come from a background with money and I am very proud of the fact that between my wife and I now, we hardly make any money, but we have got really good loyal owners and some super horses and I enjoy what we do. I am really proud of the fact of what we have managed to do, to build trust with the staff and owners.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I suppose I would most like to know in advance how to avoid potential problems – I don’t need to see the future but I would like to know how to avoid certain things going wrong that are going to go wrong.  

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would become totally level headed

How do you unwind/relax?

When I am at home I love sport, I will get myself vegged out on the sofa and watch any sport. I particularly love the rugby and nothing beats the Six Nations in the winter. I have done a lot of work on my fitness in the last couple of years, particularly this year, and have nearly got to the point where I enjoy going running.

We drove from Boekelo to Le Lion this week and I did a 22 km cycle around the stunning French countryside and got slightly lost.  I’m not sure it can be called traditional relaxation but I do feel better for doing it and it gets the endorphins going. I have had quite a few injuries over the years and keeping in trim has helped a lot this year. I have totally noticed the difference this year. Calum Taylor helps me train and he has been brilliant – I have done a lot of running and cycling and go to the gym every Tuesday morning with Mike Jackson who is nearly 10 years younger that me so that is good motivation.

Who are your heroes in real life?

One has to be Andrew Nicholson – I worked for him for a good while when I was younger. He is one of the fairest people that I have ever had anything to do with.  Other heroes include AP McCoy and JPR Williams, he was a very good Welsh rugby player in late 70s and mid 80s. I grew up in North Wales so when I support Wales I get a lot of abuse on Twitter as I inevitably support Ireland as well!

The Irish rugby player Ronan O’Gara is up there as another hero of mine.  The World Cup has been amazing and both Ireland and Wales have sustained a lot of injuries. I will support them both and if they are both in the final, it will be the best day ever. I hope they both get there.

Where would you like to live?

Where I live now in the Cotswolds, as we have great facilities and easy access to all the events. The answer might change if we didn’t do horses. I love the South of France and there are so many amazing places in the world. The West coast of Ireland is pretty sensational.

What are you reading at the moment?

I daren’t admit to it! It is real junk ! I bought 2 new books before leaving for Boekelo: one is Wilbur Smith’s The Golden Lion and the other is Lynda La Plante’s Tennyson. When I am working I look at every angle of what we are doing and it is an intense time. Reading helps to switch my brain off.

What would be your perfect weekend?

Hunting on the Saturday, hunt ball on the Saturday night, 6 Nations Wales v Ireland on the Sunday and home for roast in the evening!

What are your top indispensable pieces of kit, for you or your horse?

We get fantastic support from NAF and I have had a relationship with them as they sponsor celebrity area at Burghley. They are a great help with the horses not just in terms of products, but helping advise us if we have a problem and their knowledge is indispensable.

I have always struggled with saddles because of my stupidly long legs. Luc Childeric saddles have changed my position and been a great support in getting a saddle that fits me.

I am supported by Ridgeway Medi Spa.  They are chiropractors outside Swindon and they have really helped my back and pelvis and Calum Taylor from Taylor Made Training has really helped my fitness.

Huge thanks to Jonty for his time in chatting to The Gaitpost during Le Lion. We wish him and all riders, horses and connections a safe event.

Keep up to date with Jonty’s winter clinics on his website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Thank you to Lucy Hall for the photographs

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