Mari Durward Akhurst – Welcome New Ambassador for the DBF!

We couldn’t be more delighted to announce that Mari Durward Akhurst, Para Dressage rider, has accepted our invitation to join our small team of DBF Ambassadors.

Our Ambassadors are selected because they have shown outstanding support of the charity and because we feel that they represent the DBF ethos and the indomitable spirit of Sir Douglas, whose determination in the face of physical adversity inspired the inception of the Douglas Bader Foundation over 35 years ago. Mari has shown both in abundance and we are enormously proud to be associated with her and to have her as a valued part of the DBF team.

I am looking forward to continuing to work with the Douglas Bader Foundation to inspire others to achieve their dreams. Mari Durward Akhurst


Riding changed my life; I used to get bullied a lot when I was younger as I was different to other children but I discovered that I was extremely good at riding and this has led to me competing Nationally and Internationally at Para Dressage. Horses are my legs and together we excel.

I compete two horses Sky O’Hara (who is kindly on loan from Glesni Owen) and Lebensfreude. This year I beat a Paralympic gold medalist to win Hartpury 3* International and I retained my National Para Dressage title. I am 100% committed to winning a gold medal at future major championships with my eyes firmly set on being selected for next year’s European Championships. My ultimate goal is to be selected for and to compete at the Tokyo 2020 and future Paralympics.

I was originally diagnosed with cerebral palsy, hypermobility and lax ligaments. Due to the deterioration in my condition over the last few years I have been under investigation and my latest diagnosis is progressive spastic ataxia.

The Douglas Bader Foundation (DBF) has made a massive difference to my life and sport as their grant has allowed me to have monthly strength and conditioning sessions at Performance Hertfordshire which has meant I have been able to keep my core as strong as possible so that I am still able to ride. It has also helped in trying to slow down my deterioration. Everyone comments on how much straighter I look in the saddle and judges have commented on how strong my core must be to keep upright. I cannot thank DBF enough.

Living with a changing condition is hard but my motto is “everything happens for a reason” and I’m a fighter!! I really enjoy inspiring others to get involved in Para sport in particular Para Dressage; acting as a mentor for a young para rider. The feeling that sport gives me is indescribable; horses are my life.

I am honoured to have been asked to be an Ambassador for The Douglas Bader Foundation. I really enjoy being involved with this fantastic charity and having the support of the DBF team on my journey. I have been inspired by the ‘I can do it and will do it’ attitude shown by Douglas Bader. I am looking forward to continuing to work with the Douglas Bader Foundation to inspire others to achieve their dreams.


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