Irish Olympian embarks on crowd-funding campaign to keep his beloved horse
One of Ireland's best hopes for a medal at next month's FEI European Championships in Gothenburg, event rider Jonty Evans (45) who finished ninth with Cooley Rorkes Drift at the Rio Olympics, is trying to raise money to buy the horse through a crowd-funding campaign.
The target is £550,000 (€625,000) and so far more than £82,000 has been raised. But time is running out. The horse's owners, veterinary surgeon Fiona Elliott and her husband, have been offered what is believed to be in the region of one million pounds for the Irish-bred 11-year-old by a client in America.
Gloucestershire-based Evans says he understands the need to accept the offer but that "selling my best mate had never entered my head…the owners have given me time to try and raise the funds, and have agreed that I can buy him at a preferential price. We have some funding pledged, but we are short of the goal".
The horse, whose stable name is Art, is a phenomenal performer and followed up his Rio exploits by placing third after the dressage phase at the formidable Badminton Horse Trials in May this year. Evans blamed himself for the cross-country error that dropped them to 20th, but no one in the sport doubts they have a big win ahead of them.
The World Equestrian Games in Tryon, USA next year and the 2020 Olympics have always been in their sights.
And the pressure has been piled on by their selection for European Championships in Gothenburg next month.
Irish Eventing chef d'equipe Sally Corscadden is hopeful the crowd-funding campaign will get them there.
"It would be fantastic if it worked because this is the first time in a very long time that we have had a Team Ireland horse-and-rider combination with the potential to win an individual medal," she said. "We haven't done that since Lucy Thompson in 1995".
Thompson claimed individual gold at the European Championships in Rome with Welton Romance.