Jonjo was a curly haired toddler who wanted nothing more than to be a farmer. More often than not he could be found in the byre with the cows or shovelling manure on the muck heap. Jonjo was a boisterous child and there were plenty of thrills and spills in early days. His first visit to hospital was due to swallowing a ¾” long allen key fitting. At 16 months the nurses suspected that he may not have actually swallowed it, but he was adamant that he did. The x ray confirmed it really had gone down, and two days later to everyone's amusement a shiny, silver fitting accompanied by extras, appeared in his nappy.
At 3 years old Jonjo started to show an interest in ponies and would watch on as his big sister Anne-Marie rode in the paddock. Aged 4, Jonjo got his first pony, an 11.2hh grey mare called Lily. From that early age he was a natural and before long he was chasing Anne-Marie around the paddock shouting, “you’re dead, you’re dead! The cowboy always shoots the Indian”.
At 5 years old he became a member of the East Antrim Pony Club. Over the next few years he attended many events such as rallies, camps and triathlons. Jonjo thoroughly enjoyed his time at pony club , however one thing he did discover was that he absolutely hated dressage! Already the taste for something faster and more daring was looming. When the lesson finished you could be sure to hear the instructor yelling, “slow down boys!” as Jonjo and friends came up the field flat out (with the dressage length stirrups now 5 holes higher).
At 8 years old an interest in Boxing had developed and poor John Wayne was now second best to Rocky Balboa. It was not long before Jonjo had us searching for Boxing clubs in the area. He soon joined Antrim boxing club and trained with them every Tuesday night. Unfortunately because of his age he was not allowed into the ring to spar, and the thought of not getting a chance of knocking seven bells out of someone for a few more years didn’t inspire him to continue. From that moment, all it took was the Rocky theme tune and on went the gloves with poor daddy and Sam getting the brunt of it. Along with an interest in farming, Jonjo continued to ride, but a change in pony was required as poor Lily just couldn't go as fast as Jonjo wanted. Now ready for the next step up he moved on to Midge, a 12hh chestnut flying machine. Jonjo spent many hours dressed as a jockey, ‘schooling’ her over barrels in the paddock, and had a few great seasons on her hunting with East Antrim Hounds.
At 9 years old he had now developed into a very competent rider and enjoyed showjumping, hunting and generally rounding up cows or sheep around the farm. As timing would have it, along came a little pony called Mary Dunn. A 12.1h dun mare and in Jonjo’s own words “the best wee pony ever”. This would be the point that Jonjo would enter into the world of registered jumping with he S.J.A.I. It all began in Cavan, one Halloween weekend in the under 10’s, when he had a real chance to go against the clock. Parent’s John and Jayne’s hearts were in our mouths as they watched him turn into fences with barely a stride to be seen. He came out of the ring with a smile from ear to ear. They were the proudest two people around that arena that day, as he stood in the line up to receive the all important Cavan Red Rug ,like the true little gentleman that he was and still is..
Show jumping became a major part of Jonjo’s life, and he travelled and competed all over Ireland, as well as Scotland and Wales. He was a competitive and determined pony rider, gaining places on the Irish team for Home Pony Internationals in both Ireland and Scotland. Jonjo took part in many major competitions, including Royal Dublin Show and the Belfast International Horse Show.Jonjo thoroughly enjoyed the years he spent show jumping, but as they say ‘horse racing’s in the blood.’ His Dad John, a talented and tough rider became the Northern Point to Point Champion in 1993. His mum Jayne, won the novice championship the same year, while his uncle Robert Patton was Champion in 1999. Grandfather, William Patton also rode many winners back in the 1960’s. At the age of fourteen, he finally got what he had begged for....his chance to school a racehorse upsides. After the racing had finished at Cumber Point to Point, his dad threw him up on to Mr Money Spinner. The rest is history. From that day on, he dreamt, slept and breathed racing.
As Jonjo entered his teenage years, school was unfortunately just something that had to be done. He didn’t hate it, but he certainly didn't love it. GCSE’s came and went, and without any effort he came out with 8 under his belt. This was a major surprise as one wet morning, late for the bus as usual, Jonjo jumped into the car. As he plundered through his school bag, his mum asked what he was looking for. The reply was shocking, but very believable. “You know Mum, I think I might have a G.C.S.E today”. Interests apart from the horses, were Pedigree Texel Sheep breeding and welding. Over the next few years Jonjo became more involved in running the farm, and a talent for welding was evident. In January of this year he completed a full set of sheep slats and sheep pens ready for the lambing beginning in March.
At sixteen he left school and the only form he was looking forward to filling in was the application for his Point to Point license. To his horror in 2009, the age requirement increased to seventeen, and Jonjo was forced to spend a year gaining experience. Over the next he worked at various racing establishments and gained some invaluable experience. During this period, Jonjo realised his passion for a career in the racing industry, and he became very dedicated to pursuing his dream of becoming a jockey.
In spring 2011, Jonjo rode in his first point to point. Over the next year he rode horses for a various owners. He was placed a number of times and showed great potential as an up and coming young jockey. Jonjo’s competitive nature meant that he would not be content until he rode his first winner. Unfortunately, that was not to be! On 2nd March 2013, aged just 19, Jonjo had a life changing accident while racing at Tyrella Point to Point. A serious spinal injury at the c3 and c4 level has seen Jonjo paralysed from the neck. Jonjo, along with his family and friends, remain very hopeful for an independent and fulfilling future.
Jonjo has been incredible throughout this difficult time, and he is an inspiration to us all. His family and friends are so proud of him and the strength and courage he has shown. He is very grateful for the loving and supportive network around him, and wishes to thank everyone for their continued support.