Rounding off Last Year and Looking Forward to This One – Mari Akhurst

(Apologies for the late posting. Mari sent this update at the end of last year. I delayed making the post live as we are in the process of having a new website designed and I had hoped to christen the smart new site with this lovely positive report. However, as the site won’t be ready until early next month and Mari’s not known for hanging about(!), I’m posting the update now. Knowing Team Mari, there will be plenty more good news for its arrival!)

Here is my yearly update:

Wow how do I sum up this year; it has definitely been my best year to date. Dreams have come true and I still cannot believe that I am ending the year as a European Silver Medalist; it shows that perseverance and hard work pays off.  None of what I have achieved would have been possible without my amazing support team, my family and all my fantastic sponsors and supporters.

Living with a changing condition has its challenges 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; this year acting as a mentor for two young para rider’s. I also enjoyed carrying out my role as an Ambassador for Arctic One and for the Douglas Bader Foundation (DBF). I started my public speaking journey this year which has been amazing and I cannot wait to build on this in 2020. I am so pleased that I can inspire others.

Sky has been a complete superstar and shown that age is not a barrier!! He definitely doesn’t act his age more his shoe size!! 3rd Winter Para Dressage Gold Championships (one judge had us in 1st) , Gold Semi Finals 1st team test 71%+ and Individual test 1st  72%+, Hartpury CPEDI3* (2nd Team and Individual to a Brazilian, won the Freestyle) Qualified for the Gold Nationals but took Bear instead so Sky could have a break after the Europeans! First competition back out after the Europeans and a 1st place with 72%+ beating a Paralympian on both of her horses.

We went abroad for the first time thanks to the Anders Foundation. It was an amazing experience and my class was huge with riders from all around the world.

My dream came true and I rode down the centre line for the first time with a red collar on. The Europeans was an incredible experience and I do not think I stopped smiling for the duration of the competition!!

Bear has grown up massively over the last year and I have got to grips with containing the power and turning the titanic! Highlights include coming 2nd to Sky at the Gold Semi Finals with 70%. Getting 73% in the Team and Individual test at qualifier competitions. Bear finished 2nd at the Gold Nationals (just missed 1st place as we had a small jog which was very costly). The International we were picked for didn’t go to plan for a number of reasons even though Bear was a superstar. We learnt from this and have been working extremely hard on the contact and now have a plan going forward.

In this most successful year to date I finished the year as an International Champion and a European Silver Medalist. Both horses have qualified for the Gold Para Dressage Winter Championships 2020.

I am so excited to see what next year brings!! Having been awarded a place on the World Class Programme at Podium Potential I will be striving towards selection for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and going for GOLD!! Bring it on!!

(Mari Durward-Akhurst, Para-Dressage Rider and DBF Ambassador)

We wish Mari and her beautiful horses, Sky and Bear, a fantastic 2020 when that long-held dream of winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics becomes a deserved reality. Nobody could work harder or with more commitment than Mari. We are delighted to have been able to support her on this journey so far and can’t wait to see what this new year brings. More soon. Keep watching this space…

Please click on the link (it will open in a new tab) to visit Mari’s Facebook Page where you will find more news and information about this very talented young rider.