Great News for June from Bader Grant Recipient, Mari Akhurst!


We were so pleased to get the latest update from our lovely Lady Bader Grant Recipient, Para-Dressage Rider Mari Akhurst. Mari, who has Cerebral Palsy, hyper mobility and lax ligaments affecting all four limbs and resulting in left side muscle weakness and affecting her balance and muscle tone has recently been battling with an escalation of her symptoms. This was terrible timing for her with the National Championship, a major qualifying competition for both horses, on the 7th of this month and at one stage it looked as though this might be a step too far.

Mari, however, is a fighter as she has proved time and time again, and far from admitting defeat, was there with both horses on the 7th coping with the added complication of having to ensure that neither horse knew the other was at the same competition! All part of the horse psychology required amongst all the other skills when competing at this level obviously but clearly not the easiest part to deal with practically! Below is Mari’s account of her day and the logistics necessary in accomplishing this feat. It’s lovely to imagine the conversation between Sky and Bear over their stable doors that evening…! “Hmm…Now that’s a coincidence….”

When people tell me I won’t be able to do something I like to prove them wrong. When I was sat in a hospital bed just over 3 weeks ago and the Physio said me you need to take it easy and have sometime out of the saddle and no way will you be able to compete on the 7th. I did everything in my power to make sure that I would be able to compete; mission accomplished!!

Next mission was to keep the boys apart so that they didn’t see each other and so that we wouldn’t have a repeat of Mysercough! Next mission accomplished we took two separate lorries and two complete separate teams! As Sky left Bear arrived!

We decided just to do the one day of competition and so didn’t have a chance to do the arena walk. The arena was very spooky and it was a big atmosphere but both boys were stars and didn’t look at anything.

Sky was an absolute superstar and I couldn’t of asked anymore of him on the day I am so proud of him. We decided to play it safe and ride a test that was very accurate and rhythmical, rather than trying to ride the massive walk and making mistakes as I wasn’t quite up to keeping it the whole way around the test. It’s one of the best tests I have ridden to date I couldn’t believe how accurate I was, hard work really does pay off. I am delighted to say that we came 2nd with 70% (just over 2% behind the winner). Considering everything I think that’s a pretty good achievement and I am thrilled with the result.

Massive thank you to Rob for driving Sky and for training me and for Rhianna for being super groom.

Mr Bear was a true star and is definitely going to be a very exciting prospect for the future. I forget that Bear is still only young and yesterday was only his 3rd national championship! We just need more ring experience. We are both growing in confidence and that showed in our test yesterday.

Massive thank you to dad for driving Bear and Alice for being super groom, warming Bear up for me and massive thank you to Elaine, Linsay and William for your support.  Thank you to Heather from the Anders Foundation for coming to watch and your continued support.

Somehow I managed to ride both horses and complete both tests which I am very pleased about. I really enjoy every minute and had a very big smile on my face and the boys definitely enjoyed dancing. Thankfully my body mostly saved its tricks until the end of my tests when it had a major meltdown! Poor Sky had it miss behave in the test just on the half 20m circle not the best timing!! But we managed to complete the circle and keep it accurate and Sky carried on regardless.

Everyone commented including the selectors on the massive improvement with Bear and how well Sky is going, exciting times. I couldn’t do any of this without my support team and all of my sponsors, so thank you so much to every one of you. My team did everything possible to allow me to compete yesterday and I am so grateful.

To have two horses in the top 5 is a good achievement and I am a very proud mum. We are all very excited about our next few outings.

Thank you to Wellington and all the stewards it was a really well run competition and it was great to be in with the Premier League, the atmosphere was fantastic. Big thank you to our class sponsor Equissage Pulse UK. Pictures and video to follow.

I would also like to say a big thank you to everyone that has supported me and sent me well wishes since I left hospital it has really helped me and on the days that I felt down it made me keep fighting, so thank you. As someone said it was a miracle I was able to compete but we did it and I am now very happy, but have a feeling it might take me a while to recover! But the terrible pain and how I feel today was completely worth it!!

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We are so proud of Mari – both her achievements and the sheer determination and courage she displays in bringing them about. She earns every bit of every success and we couldn’t be more delighted that, despite all, her goal of winning a medal for Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is getting ever closer. Go Team Mari!