Merry Christmas from Mari and team! It seemed fitting that Para Dressage Rider, Mari Akhurst, should have the last word before the holiday.

Merry Christmas from Mari and team

Ambassador, Mari, who has cerebral palsy and one-sided weakness, has been a wonderful support to the DBF and has certainly had a year to be reckoned with. Not only has she been very successful competing in Para Dressage but she also discovered an aptitude for rowing which very nearly had her competing for her country at the sport, despite only having taken it up very recently. An extraordinary achievement. Very sadly for the first time, undoubtedly due to nerves while being assessed, Mari dropped an oar and wasn’t selected. You would think (hope?) that people doing the assessing in these situations would make some allowances when confronted with the evidence of talent and the probability of nerves and give someone another chance. Sadly that was not to be this year but who knows what next year may bring. The extraordinary thing was that Mari only took up rowing initially to improve her core strength to improve her riding!

Mari has done particularly well over the past year with her new horse, Damo. They’ve gradually built up a strong bond and now the trust between horse and rider is evident and a joy to see. They have formed a formidable team. Mari’s big young horse, Bear, is being brought on gently, doing well and looking like an exciting prospect, while Sky, her erstwhile star partner looks on from the luxury of retirement where he is apparently enjoying the Yorkshire mud a bit too much! He’s certainly earned his leisure.

Damo seems to have stepped up to be a worthy successor to Sky and he and Mari finished the year with 3 International titles: Grade 1 Gold National Champion; Grade 1 Gold Semi Final Winner and Grade 1 Gold National Champion. They also gained 3rd place at Keys CPED13* and 2nd Hartpury 3* International Freestyle. Congratulations to them both with carrots and pats on the back where appropriate! Bear, meanwhile, has been coming on well and is ready to start competing seriously so the future is looking bright for Team Mari. And it couldn’t happen for a more determined and courageous young rider. She has the guts to go with her natural talent and absolutely deserves to succeed. She is an inspiration.

It may be worth adding here that Mari also does public speaking and would be delighted to accept bookings. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about this.

Merry Christmas from Mari and team! Here is a brief recap of her extraordinary year in images:

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
In the training room…

 

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
Damo having a well earned rest

 

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
Mari’s rowing achievements being acknowledged

 

Merry Christmas from Mari and team

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
A rowing award…

 

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
…leads to wearing the Welsh Team shirt

 

Merry Christmas from Mari and team

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
A moving reunion with Sky O’Hara – the bond remains evident

 

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
Mari and Sky share a moment

 

Congratulations, Mari!

 

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
Bear showing that Sky’s not the only one who likes mud!

 

Merry Christmas from Mari and team
Well, it’s obvious to us but for a horse it needs investigating!

Links (will open in new tabs):

  • Previous DBF posts – To check out Mari’s progresss
  • Mari Facebook Page A great insight into the life of a dedicated Para Dressage Rider
  • Contact DBF if you’d like to know more about Mari’s Inspirational Public Speaking or book her to speak at your event