Going to the Olympics is beyond my wildest dreams

A domestic abuse victim who spoke out about the horrors her ex-boyfriend inflicted on her has said representing Ireland at next month’s Olympics is “beyond my wildest dreams”.

Abi Lyle (39) from Bangor, County Down, became Ireland’s individual dressage competitor at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games with her 13-year-old gelding, Arty.

Ms Lyle made headlines in 2010 when her former partner, 36-year-old jockey Jonathan Creswell, was jailed for six months after admitting a string of abuses against her. In April, Creswell was tried for the 2020 rape and murder of 21-year-old show jumper Katie Simpson, but he took his own life a day after the proceedings began.

Abigail Lyle. Photo: Jon Bromley/Action Plus/REX/Shutterstock

During her nine-month relationship with the serial abuser, Ms Lyle was regularly beaten and at one point Creswell threatened to put her in a bleach bath at their home before he was interrupted by a stranger knocking on the door.

The abuse continued until Ms Lyle was rescued by a domestic violence unit officer who was counseling her. Fifteen years after the horrific abuse, the dressage rider told Horse & Hound magazine: “Many people guided me, supported me, walked alongside me and contributed in many ways.

There are so many to thank. But the first and most important person to thank is Arty (her horse). Arty, you have no idea what you’ve done for me. I will spend the rest of my life making sure you feel like the most loved horse in the world and that you never, ever want for anything.

Katie Simpson. Photo: Family leaflet

She added: “When I moved to England in 2009, my ultimate goal was to compete in the PSG (Prix St Georges). So to say that the Olympics exceeded my wildest expectations is a bit of an understatement.

After Creswell’s suicide, Lyle opened up about the extent of the violence she experienced during their relationship. She told the BBC that she looked “like a Dalmatian” on several occasions due to the large number of bruises on her body.

During one particularly brutal attack, which took place in a wooded area in County Monaghan, Ms Lyle said she feared for her life and that “it was like a horror movie”.

Abigail Lyle. Photo: Garry Bowden/REX/Shutterstock

“I have never felt such fear,” she said. “Just riding in a car with someone and not knowing where you were going… He took me to the forest and threatened to kill me. He threatened me every time and I thought he would do it this time.

– Of course not, but this attack lasted for many hours. He just beat me, threw me, choked me, shouted at me and called me names. Then he just said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Not what I meant. Do not go.”

Abigail Lyle. Photo: Garry Bowden/REX/Shutterstock

“Then the cycle would start over again. Every few weeks during those nine months I did something that would have been unacceptable to him.

Since escaping an abusive relationship and reporting Creswell’s crimes to the police, Ms. Lyle has competed in international dressage competitions around the world.