DBF Ambassador, Mari Akhurst, has been in touch with a wonderfully positive update for this new(ish) year. So, herewith, an update from Mari!
Most of you will know her, but for those who don’t, Mari is a para-dressage rider who received a Bader Grant from us in 2017 (how does time pass so fast – it doesn’t seem possible…). She has cerebral palsy with accompanying left sided weakness and has long pursued a dream to reach the top in para dressage. Her love for horses started early; she was bullied at school for being different but discovered that she was very good at riding.
Horses are my legs and together we excel – Mari Durward-Akhurst, Para-Dressage Rider
In the time that we’ve known Mari she has shown absolute determination to achieve her goal of representing her country and securing a medal at the Paralympics, and has displayed huge courage and commitment in the face of whatever challenges have presented themselves. DBF originally awarded her a grant to assist with strength and conditioning sessions and her physical trainer said that she hasn’t known anyone to work so hard! Having seen videos of some of the sessions (you can see them in previous posts on the website and will find a link at the bottom of this page) I can tell you they look gruelling! Mari has climbed steadily up the rankings, winning or being placed in qualifying competitions on Sky O’Hara (now happily retired!); her young horse, Bear; Damo, the newbie, and most recently on the brilliant mare, Athene, who has been loaned to her by Di Redfern. That in itself a great endorsement of Mari’s riding ability.
In addition to training and competing herself, Mari has been mentoring young riders and has just taken on two more to work with, Fils Marriott and Nicola. Fils and her horse, Seran, are a Grade 1 Para Dressage partnership and Nicola and Squid (who loves cuddles and ear scratches) are climbing the ranks after winning their RDA regional qualifier with over 80% and securing two titles at the RDA National championships.
Congratulations to Fils and Nicola and Seran and Squid on being selected to join Team Mari! We can’t think of a better person to be associated with and wish you all luck and success ongoing.
In this update from Mari, she reveals how she has started the year in great style by achieving the first part of her dream. As of 1st January she has been accepted onto the World Class Programme at podium potential level. This is so well deserved and really represents a fantastic opportunity for Mari. We are keeping our fingers firmly crossed.
She is practicing hard and she and Athene will face their first competition in March. Please keep your fingers crossed for them.
Always one to keep challenging herself, Mari has also started attending events as an inspirational / motivational speaker and is certainly qualified to inspire. She is the most gutsy, positive and determined woman you could ever wish to meet. Please contact us if you’d like to know more about booking Mari for one of your events. She also has fantastic empathy with horses and this shows in the relationships between her and her equine partners. The mutual trust is clear in them all and it is always a joy to watch Mari riding in her videos and see that sensitivity flowing down the reins. She is one of those people who, as my mother would have said, “looks good on a horse”!
Keeping horses to competition standard is extremely expensive and Mari has been almost totally self-funding in her pursuit of the reaching the top of her sport. She has a fundraising page and the link will be added to this page shortly. Other useful links will be found at the bottom of this page.
Links (will open in new tabs):
- Mari’s January Blog
- Mari’s Facebook Page for more information and updates
- Previous posts on Mari from the DBF Website