You Can Now Book Mari as a Motivational Speaker!

DBF Ambassador, Lady Bader Grant recipient and erstwhile Bader Grant Recipient of the Month, Mari Akhurst is adding another skill to her box of tricks. Already a very successful para dressage rider who will be competing for Great Britain in Belgium next month, Mari has decided to add motivational speaking to her repertoire. 

We have absolutely no doubt that this is yet another field where Mari will excel. She is one of the most determined and courageous people you could come across and however tough the going gets, never gives up. Her philosophy is always that things happen for a reason and she remains positive throughout. It was because of this inspiring, can do attitude so reminiscent of Sir Douglas’s own, that we invited her to become an Ambassador to the DBF and we were delighted and honoured when she agreed.

Mari has cerebral palsy, with added complications including ataxia and dystonia, that affects all four limbs and has left her weaker down her left side. As a result her coordination, balance and muscle tone are all affected. She experienced a worsening of her symptoms last year but has upped her physio and core strength training to help to counteract this and now with the aid of a wheelchair (waiting for a name!) to help her independence, pursues her long-term goal to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. As Mari says, she loves a challenge! She is a genuinely inspiring person and her motivational speaking would be the product of her personal experience and come from the heart. Having achieved so much herself and never giving up on her own dreams, she is now keen to inspire other people to follow theirs.

An excerpt of her speech follows below: 

During my life I have constantly faced many challenges along the way due to my disability but I have been able to overcome these. I believe that these challenges and the problem solving that I have had to undertake have made me into the person I am today I am constantly told that I am an inspiration and due to this I have decided it’s time to share my story with others and to inspire others to follow their dreams.
We all have dreams what you chose to do to reach those dreams is down to you; you have to make the best decision for yourself. I have one big dream/my ultimate dream and that is to win a gold medal in para dressage at the Paralympics but along the way I had smaller dreams. Such as competing at the Gold para dressage Nationals, winning the Gold Nationals and becoming an International Champion. Mari Akhurst

Mari will adapt her speech to suit the occasion so if you’d be interested in booking her to speak at an event or to a group, school or anywhere else you think her message could inspire, please contact her for more information by emailing: 


Funding: As you will have seen from a previous post, Mari has recently been invited to represent Great Britain abroad at Waregem CPED13* in Belgium in April bringing her another step closer to achieving her dream of competing in the 2020 Paralympics. She will have to self fund this – for now anyway – and has recently started a new GoFundMe Page where any contributions towards her goal will be very gratefully received: 

Facebook Page: You can check out news and updates and see some wonderful photographs and videos of Team Mari as they pursue their path to the top!

Blog: A great way of getting more in-depth news and a very honest and readable insight into Mari’s journey and her set backs and achievements along the way. 



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!!

Useful Links (will open in separate tabs):

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!

Recognition for Mari!

We’re delighted to report that Bader Grant Recipient, para-dressage rider, Mari Akhurst, has had her hard work and phenomenal achievements with both her horses, Sky O’Hara (on loan from Glesni Owen) and her own Bear, rewarded. Mari just found out that she has been selected for a place on the competitive Excel Talent Programme. This is wonderful news and hugely important for Mari as it represents a stepping stone towards the World Class Programme. You can find out more about the Programme and what it will mean to Mari by following the link below.

To add to a great month for Mari, she has also been recognised by SportsAid Bucks. This Club provides a way for local individuals, businesses and trusts to raise money to help with training, travel or equipment costs for young, talented athletes in Buckinghamshire. Mari, the first Para Dressage rider to be rewarded in this way, was presented with a cheque for £1,000 at the SportsAid Bucks Sporting Lunch Club on Friday 20th October. Please see the link below for more information.  

Mari has Cerebral Palsy, hyper mobility and lax ligaments. Her CP affects all four limbs and has left her weaker down her left side than her right. As a result, her coordination, balance and muscle tone are all affected. She received a Lady Bader Grant towards fitness training to improve her core strength, which helps with balance and control, so important for dressage riding, and has to carry out her intense fitness regime 6 times a week with a determination that has earned the respect of her trainer amongst others!

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

To compete for Team GB in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is Mari’s goal and, having qualified both horses for the Winter Championships, with Sky and Bear coming 1st and 2nd respectively overall – a brilliant double – she is well on the way to achieving her dream. 

We couldn’t be happier for this truly gutsy and inspirational young rider and are so proud to have been able to play a small part in her very exciting journey.

Useful links: (all links will open in new tabs)

  • The Excel Talent Programme
  • Mari awarded by SportsAid Bucks
  • Mari’s Blog Page where you will find more hugely readable information about what’s involved in following her ambition to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
  • Get Mari to the 2020 Paralympics – Mari’s fundraising page. Keeping horses and training them to Olympics standard is a hugely expensive business. Due to deterioration in her disability Mari is currently unable to work and is seeking financial sponsorship or funding of any kind. She would be extremely grateful for any help, however small.  
  • Mari’s Facebook Page  Where you will find all kinds of interesting information, updates, photographs and videos of Mari, Sky and Bear


DBF Grant Recipient on the One Show

Nathan Doidge

32 year old Nathan Doidge, born with cerebral palsy, is described as  the ‘most profoundly disabled Pilot in the World’.

Nathan recently gained his Private Pilots’ Licence, funded and supported by the DBF Grant Scheme and trained by Aerobility at Blackbushe, and has flown over 14 hours solo. Chris Evans met Nathan and  was so taken with him that he rocked  up with a TV crew on Tuesday and they shot a piece with Nathan flying Chris and an interview for Friday’s One Show.

Nathan says on the Douglas Bader Foundation Facebook Page: ”If interested, please Like and share this page. I’ll be eternally grateful for DBF’s unwavering and continued support in getting me to where I am today. Thanks everyone” Nathan

You can click HERE to see a very cool Chris Evans being expertly piloted by an equally cool Nathan Doidge! Please make sure you have your sound turned on. (These links can be short-lived so please let me know if you’re unable to open it and I’ll remove it it prevent further frustration for others!)


The photo of Nathan is courtesy of the Aerobility Blogspot and clicking on it will take you to the page