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Welcome to the 7th Inspo Interview of the year and I have someone very special lined up this month…
It is the amazing para rider and Hidden Disability Ambassador Evie Toombes. Evie was born with Spina Bifida, which has leaves her with weakness and severe bladder and bowel problems. Evie struggles with her health on a day to day basis and is in and out of hospital frequently. Despite this as part of her work as a Hidden Disability Ambassador Evie has set up a foundation called the Evie Toombes Foundation and has also written a children’s book called ‘Lucy goes to school’ which was written to help children understand hidden disabilities. Evie frequently visits primary schools to talk about disabilities with children and her work won her a Well Child award of ‘Inspirational Young Person’ last year, which was presented to her by Prince Harry and his wife the Duchess of Sussex.
As well as that, when she is well enough Evie competes in showjumping with her mare Daisy. I’m sure you will agree this is pretty impressive and to add to it Evie is just 18 years old!
I first heard of Evie when I watched a BBC 3 clip on the internet called Amazing Humans and they really weren’t wrong when they featured Evie. She is one AMAZING HUMAN!!
1) What inspired you to start showjumping and what inspires to continue even on the days you are feeling unwell?
I was lucky enough to begin riding aged 5 after growing up around my mums horses. I used to help my mum at shows when she was competing and soon became keen to join in on all the fun. Riding was initially a huge worry for my parents, but amazingly is the exercise of choice for people with Spina Bifida (my main condition) in the States after showing huge success in leg function improvement.
At times I’ve spent weeks in hospital, stressing and discussing the grief my health brings with doctors whilst being really ill, it can be a bit upsetting and it’s so easy to fall into being nothing more than a patient when you’re so poorly at times. There’s a real sense of normality and joy that comes from connecting with an animal, I’m no longer a viewed as a patient or an illness by Daisy… she probably prefers to call me the ‘treat lady’!
Riding gives me a drive to continue trying, taking medications, administering treatments etc. I can set goals and have plans to look forward to which is hugely important for remaining optimistic and continuing to live my life to the full (when my body allows.)
2) Who do you look to for inspiration & why?
For riding inspiration, I could watch Ben Maher ride all day, he’s so connected with his horses, it’s like they speak the same language.
I also hugely admire my dressage trainer, Kate Lewis. Not only does she teach, but she’s happy to ride any horse too and does so is such an accepting mindset of each unique horse. Nothing is ever forced and she works with horses and their personalities, instead of instantly demanding a robotic shape or good behaviour- through this they seem to work beautifully for her, and she’s so talented so it’s such a pleasure to watch.
I also find myself most inspired at RDA events, which some people struggle to understand. Seeing children who can’t walk find freedom onboard a horse never fails to amaze me, or to see visually impaired and deaf riders connect with animals when they can’t connect with humans very well is indescribable . Horses offer so much more than just a sport to us and seeing the benefits and joy they can bring is a huge remainder to appreciate every gift they bring to our lives. I challenge anyone to attend an RDA event and not leave feeling inspired.
3) What would you say has been your biggest achievement to date?
As crazy as it sounds, I think my best achievement to date is my elimination at Pferd International in Munich last year. I was selected for the Para GB team and after coming third in the first class with a double clear I was even more eager to give it a go in the final days jumping when I was drawn last to go in the jump off. When I attempted a jump off turn to cut inside a grand prix fence from the previous class Daisy not only locked onto the 1.50 fence but jumped and cleared it! I was so shell shocked by what had happened that I just picked her up again and carried on jumping the 90cm para course where we left off. The video went viral on Clip My Horse’s social media and has received over 2million views. I know it’s ironic but for it to happen at such a prestigious show and to have a horse who loves her job that much makes it all the more memorable- it’s a good job she cleared it!
Click here to watch Evie clear 1.50cm in the middle of her 90cm course aka the Munich mishap!
4) What would be the best piece of advice you could give someone who is feeling a bit uninspired at the moment?
My motto is ‘find a way, not an excuse’ and its been something I’ve lived by since first saying it aged 12. There will be challenges, hiccups and bad days- but its in your hands how you choose to deal with it. How you respond to these scenarios, whether it be an injury to your horse, broken down lorry or bad health is what produces the eventual outcome, not the actual problem itself. Don’t be afraid to change plans either, its great to have goals but there are times when they need to be adjusted, and that’s okay. You and your horses journey is unique and can’t be compared to others, try not to compare yourself to friends or people who may progress faster or seem to be doing better, let it inspire you to work hard but don’t forget to remember how far you’ve come.
5) What are your plans for this year & what do you hope to achieve?
I’m having so much fun with Daisy at the moment when I can avoid hospital, I’d love to aim to jump a low level international in the near future. Recently my young mare Breeze, who suffered a horrific field injury 2years ago came back into work full time- she’s performing better than ever which is so rewarding and is loving being ridden. I’m hoping to take her to some pony club fun shows and just have some teenage fun on her whilst working on her dressage with Kate, it’s so enjoyable to work with a horse you understand so deeply, regardless of the level you compete at.
My health has been deteriorating for the past 8 months and we’re looking into further surgery options (finally) with my new specialist in London. We desperately need some help as complications are becoming more common and often end up being critical- its not sustainable, especially when I have so much I want to be doing! For now though, I’m keen to make the most of my time riding now so I have plenty to look back on when I’m recovering!
My website: http://www.evietoombespararider.com
I’m sure that you will join me in wishing Evie all the best for the future and her medical treatment. She is a true inspiration!
Evie wanted to make sure that I do a big shout out to her sponsors https://justriding.com
KEP Italia and Global Herbs.
Copyright of Louise Dando and In Due Horse 2019. Photos provided by Evie Toombes.