DBF Grant Recipient of the Month – Mari Durward-Akhurst

The Douglas Bader Foundation is receiving more grant applications than ever and with so many worthy and very diverse applications and recipients, I thought it would be interesting to feature one each month to give an idea of the range and scope of those people we are able to support and delighted to help in a small way towards achieving their individual goals. 

SIR DOUGLAS BADER’S main message to the amputees and other disabled he visited was always about what you can achieve and not what you can’t. The Douglas Bader Foundation was built on and still adheres to this message of inspiration and the Bader Grant initiative aims to assist successful applicants on that fundamental premise.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible. Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader

Everything happens for a reason Mari Durward-Akhurst


Mari Durward-Akhurst – Lady Bader Grant Recipient/DBF Grant Recipient of the Month

On the death of Lady Bader we wanted to honour her memory by creating specific Lady Bader Grants relating to her own interests and achievements. When we received Mari Durward-Akhurst’s application we were clear that, with a matching love of horses, she would be a perfect candidate.  Being born with cerebral palsy didn’t stop Mari learning to ride and excelling at  the sport.  Her goal is to compete at the Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020. The DBF is proud and delighted to be able to help her towards achieving this. Possessing the Bader spirit in spades Mari is a true inspiration and we have no doubt that both Sir Douglas and Lady Bader would be behind her all the way.

Below, in her own words:  

Mari Durward-Akhurst

I am a Grade 1 (new grades for 2017) Para Dressage Rider; I have cerebral palsy that affects all four limbs and has left me weaker down my left side. As a result of my CP my coordination, balance and muscle tone are all affected.   I compete in Para Dressage at National and International level.

I am extremely grateful to have received a Bader grant; in memory of Lady Bader. It will help enormously and allow me to have regular strength and conditioning sessions which will help my development as an elite athlete. With the deterioration In my condition it is essential that I try to do as much physical exercise as I am able to so that I can continue with my sport and to give me a better quality of life.

Last year I won the Grade 3 Restricted Winter Championships before being re classified to a 1a (the most impaired of all the grades) as my condition has deteriorated. I became the grade 1a Silver Champion and came 2nd at the British Dressage Nationals in the KBIS Gold Para Championship class.

I was selected to represent GB at Hartpury International my first ever 3* International; I was placed and finished just behind Rio Paralympian’s.

My long term goal is to compete at the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020 and beyond and to win a gold medal. My short term aims are to compete at the Para Dressage Winter Gold Championships and to qualify for all the major National and International para competitions this year.

Horses are my legs and together we excel. I used to get bullied a lot when I was younger as I was different to other children but then I found riding and my life changed. This was something that I was extremely good at and able to succeed at.

I am told very often that I am an inspiration to others and I enjoy inspiring the next generation of para riders. My motto has always been ‘everything happens for a reason’. A lot has been thrown at me but I have dealt with it and will keep pushing and fighting until I reach my long term goal of getting to the Paralympics and winning a gold medal.

You can read an update from Mari by visiting the Personal Experiences Page in the BILL section of the Website. Please follow the link at the bottom.

Mari’s Photos:

Above 1,2,3: In action competing in the British Dressage Nationals
British Nationals Test
At the Gym
Training at Windmill in the sun
Arena Walk at the Para Home International. Sky with my mum
Freestyle Warm Up
Warming up at the International

The horses: Sky, now 18 and on loan from Glesni Owen, has been with Mari for 4 years after a one-year original agreement! Bear, 8, is Mari’s own competition horse for the future.

Sky at the Para Home International
Mari and Sky – 2nd Place
Bear and Me
Bear, Me and Mirrors

…and the support group

Dream Team

I believe that Mari and her new horse have the ability and determination to reach the highest level in her sport Linsay Coleridge Smith – Trainer

Grade 3 Restricted Winter Champion

We are proud to support you, Mari. We know you’ll go from strength to strength and inspire others along the way. Bring back that Gold Medal from Tokyo!

Riding is an expensive business, competitive riding more so with livery costs, lessons, travel expenses, competition entries and more. Due to a deterioration in her disability, Mari is currently unable to work so, true to character, is helping herself to raise money to achieve her goal. She has a funding page at GoFundMe where you can also find out more about her extraordinary achievements and her journey to date and help towards that ongoing journey if you’d like to.

Mari’s heartwarming Website and Blogs are well worth a visit too:

An update from Mari. March 28th 2017