A Great Start to the Competitive Season for ex-LBGRotM Mari Despite Some Challenges…

As always, a treat to hear from our lovely erstwhile Lady Bader Grant Recipient of the Month, Para-Dressage Rider, Mari Akhurst. Despite battling worsening symptoms at the moment from her cerebral palsy, Mari has started the competitive year in great style, coming second on Saturday on Sky, who is now qualified for the Gold Semi Finals in June, and, to her absolute delight, winning on Monday on her young horse, Bear. As Bear is still inexperienced at this competition level, this was a fantastic achievement that bodes really well for the future.

Both outings were helped by the arrival of Mari’s long-awaited new lorry, “Luna”! Luna is a huge help to Mari, allowing the horses to travel in far greater comfort that was previously the case, meaning that they arrive more relaxed and avoiding repetition of a recent episode when a very excited Bear managed to knock Mari’s dad off the ramp ending up with an unexpected visit to A&E (Mari’s dad) and almost an unexpected break for freedom (Bear). Luckily a timely lunge for the rein by Mari’s mum meant that Bear – probably much to his disappointment – wasn’t able to hightail it off across the show ground after all!

Luna also helps Mari’s dad to stay relaxed as she’s an automatic, which is a huge help to the driver when crawling along in a traffic jam en route to or from a competition. Most importantly, Luna protects Mari’s dignity and her jodphurs as she has a lift and Mari no longer has to crawl up the steps or shuffle down them on her bottom while attempting to keep her white jods clean!

Read on for Mari’s reports…

  • SKY

Luna is a good name! Well Luna the lorry was absolutely fantastic. She’s automatic and dad loved driving her and she got us from the yard to the venue and home safely. Sky loved her and travelling in luxury and was so chilled out. I like the new chilled out Sky! The lift made my life so much easier and has given me my dignity back; no crawling up the steps and bum shuffling down them trying to keep my white jods clean!!

Everything was going really well Sky warmed up fantastically and was really relaxed and listening to me. The team test was a good test I was pleased with it just felt we lost some of the activity but then we hadn’t had the chilled out Sky before so its all a learning curve. I was pleased with plus 69% especially considering there were a few mistakes that would have easily pushed us up above 70%! I ended the test thinking I was going to choke and struggling to breathe not great; with my whole body in spasm!!

The second warm up was super I really had Sky he was more active and was really marching. I started the test and it was going really well had got my circles spot on that I had been working on really hard. Then just as I turned my last circle before turning left I got this sudden horrible feeling and I thought I was going to pass out. I keep getting these funny spells but thankfully haven’t had any on the horses before! I wasn’t sure what to do so carried on trying not to pass out, fall off or be sick. Sky carried on and was so good especially when I dropped my reins! I think I was concentrating so hard on not passing out etc my brain had a major meltdown and I went wrong which never happens! Mum was calling my test and it was horrible as I felt so dizzy for a few minutes I wasn’t even sure I was on a horse or where I was. Thankfully I noticed and did an extra circle and then got back on with my test and finished still on board. Unfortunately going wrong is very costly and so I had -2 taken off my final score which meant I finished 2nd and got just under 70% again frustrating as I could of won and got a personal best! But considering the circumstances I think I did well to finish my test. I really wasn’t very well when I got off and felt awful. I am so proud of Sky for carrying on regardless and cannot wait until we have the consistency within the big walk in training and then we can bring that into the test and wow the judges!!

Delighted to have qualified Sky and now we just need to work really hard on lots of test practice at home and working on perfecting the individual movements. Mari Akhurst

Thankfully I got my last two points and have now qualified Sky for the Gold Semi Finals in June. I am definitely not one to make excuses but it just wasn’t to be and I couldn’t of done anymore. My body let me down big time and I am really hoping that feeling I got I won’t get again whilst I am in the saddle, fingers crossed!

Please click on the link below to see a video of Mari and Sky competing on Saturday. She did so well not just to stay on board but to finish second given the battle she was having with her own body. Amazing courage and determination, Mari – we are so proud of you. As you can see from the video, Mari and Sky make a beautiful team and the rest of the test was poetry in motion, even without Sky’s big new walk… Can’t wait to see that! Can his walk get any better?

Mari and Sky competing at Wellington SQ:

  • BEAR

Thank you for thinking of me and Bear it worked wonders as we won!! Super chuffed and happy as there is still so much more to come and looking at the test sheet I can see where in the future we can make marks higher. Bear was a bit spooky at the beginning of his test which pulled his marks down. But I stayed confident, didn’t panic and remembered my test! I just need to keep growing my confidence with him and then he will be more relaxed. But a massive improvement from last time and the comment from the judge is what we are working on now. So once everything fulls into place we will be getting the high marks, exciting time. We got just over 67% which I am pleased with. All our hard work is starting to pay off and I think you will agree he looks so handsome 😀

To see the video (only half as apparently Mari’s dad forgot to press record!) where Bear is looking decidedly handsome and Mari’s looking pretty good too – what a great team they make – please click on the arrow:

As Mari says on her Facebook Page:

So proud of this one today and my whole team. All our hard work is starting to pay off.

A win and just under 68%. Super pleased with Mr Bear and thank you so much Alice for stepping in today and all your help and support at home. Rob Waine for all your training to date. Bear produced some of his best work to date today in parts of the test.

Lots of work still to be done but made some silly mistakes today. I just need to be more confident which will come and Bear just needs more ring experience. If we can get the bits we had in places for the whole test we will be on our way to great things!

Took a massive step forward today and the best thing is there is so much more to come!! Exciting times ahead 😀

Going out to celebrate tonight so pleased people are starting to see his potential he is going to be one to watch!

Short session on Sky but he went amazing and produced some super work. Just need to get that the whole way through a test now. He felt incredible today. Very happy girl tonight 😀

I have got a massive grin across my face still can’t believe we won and so happy the judges are starting to see Bear’s potential.Mari Akhurst

We are very happy for Mari too and her success couldn’t be more well deserved. 

We’ll be bringing more news from this super-talented rider and her 4-legged team as she gets ever closer to her goal of competing for Team GB in the Para-Dressage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Keep watching this space and joining us in wishing her every success and thank you, Mari, for the updates.