Richard Neumann’s horse, Otto, is enjoying the break!

Para-dressage rider, Richard Neumann reports that training continues in preparation for the qualifying competitions.

Richard’s beautiful horse, Otto, in the meantime is taking this unexpected ‘downtime’, literally!

Enjoying his meals….

…and mutual grooming sessions with his stable-mate, Smartie

Otto has also been benefitting from some pampering with heat treatments to his back…


…which are clearly having a positive effect.


What a joy to see fit, happy, healthy horses enjoying themselves.

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.

End of the Competitive Year Update from Mari

A very positive update from DBF Ambassador, Mari Akhurst, Para-Dressage Rider par excellence. After what has been a tough year in many respects, Mari has finished on a high as you’ll see from her report below. She should be hugely proud of herself and her equine team for battling through adversity and ending the year in style! Mari epitomises the Bader spirit and we’re very proud to be associated with her. 

Not content with all the hard work involved in looking after, training and preparing 2 horses to Championship level, Mari has recently added another string to her bow with her new venture; Inspirational Speaking. We can’t think of anyone better qualified to inspire others than Mari. If you’d like to contact her about this, please leave a comment for Mari on her Facebook Page. The link can be found at the bottom of this post.

Read on for Mari’s report on her very gratifying results and wait for more news in January!

As Tokyo is fast approaching yesterday marked 300 days to go my aim is to campaign both horses; with selection officially starting next year (still awaiting selection policy).

The last few major competitions with Bear have not gone to plan for one reason or another. He has qualified for the Winter Para Dressage Championships in just two outings. He also has two scores over 73% in the team and Individual test. Bear has shown people his potential and we have had some very positive feedback.

The British Dressage Nationals was Bears first major show there is nowhere else that has the same atmosphere as the Nationals, not even the Europeans. Bear was a really good boy but got a bit tense and a jog cost us the win; we still came 2nd!

Then onto Keysoe CPEDI3* Bear did three super tests and we were all delighted with him and the work we produced; sadly the judges didn’t agree. But that’s dressage for you and the subjective nature!

Due to my Ataxia I find having a stable contact and keeping my hands still extremely hard but we were really marked down on this at Keysoe.  So we have worked really hard and found a way that seems to be able to stabilise my hands and as a result Bear is a lot happier and walking out so much more as he has stable connection to walk into. I just need to get the classifiers to agree the adaption and then we will go out into competition and see what the judges think.

I took Sky to a local competition it was a winter qualifier but he has already qualified as he has a bye from competing at the Europeans. He felt on top form and scored 72.5% to take the win beating a triple Paralympian on both of her horses!! A great way to start our campaign with even more to come.

Mari Akhurst

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News from Richard Neumann

Can’t be all bad… Congratulations, Otto!

Para-dressage rider, Richard Neumann, is pursuing his ambition to ride for Team GB. This follows disappointment when Richard’s horse, Otto, had an allergic reaction resulting in them having to pull out of a competition last month.

Not one to give up, Richard is still aiming to take part in the Championships and we’ll be waiting for results from that and other competitions that take place before then.

In the meantime, training and practice continue, and not without challenges…

Following his first ride out after Otto’s rest, Richard reported:

We got out at last he was a bit fresh and not easy but a good boy in general, now our journey properly begins  Richard Neumann

(Oh dear.That looks horribly like the equine equivalent of one of my old school reports…)

Richard and Otto Start Their Para-Dressage Campaign

Our featured Bader Grant recipient, Richard Neumann, is about to start his para-dressage campaign in earnest. He and his beautiful horse, Otto, have been training intensively for the last few months and have taken part in local shows but now things are beginning to get serious with a big competition on Sunday marking the start of Richard’s determined attempt to compete with Team GB.

Richard has sent us a couple of pictures of Otto showing off his very smart new clip looking every inch a champion:

There is also a video of Richard doing his personal training, a big (and tough), part of a rider’s preparation. Please click on the image below to view it. This video is even more impressive when you realise that it was filmed only 5 months to the day from eight hours of abdominal surgery with over 200 stitches…Otto’s preparation was also not without incident as you may remember from a previous post that he sustained a serious cut to his mouth, necessitating an unexpected holiday while it healed.

Video of Richard in training
Video of Richard in training. Please click on the image to view.

Please join us in wishing this plucky and very determined team the best of luck on Sunday. (They will at least arrive in style as Richard is picking up his newly decorated horse box today, complete with DBF decals! We’ll post a photo shortly and thanks for the support, Richard.) 

Mari and Team GBR Achieve a Silver Medal at the Para Europeans!

We couldn’t be more proud of DBF Ambassador, Para Dressage rider Mari Durward-Akhurst and her beautiful horse Sky, who together had a fantastic 10 days at the Para European Championships in Rotterdam achieving several personal bests and a Silver Medal for the team. 

For years Mari’s dream has been to win a gold medal for her country at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and she has worked tirelessly to fulfil it. She has just brought that dream a giant step closer!

Read on for Mari’s report about this truly fantastic result, which was gained through sheer grit, total dedication and extremely hard work. 

Huge congratulations to Mari and Team GBR.


Wow how to sum up the last 10 days they have been incredible!! There have been so many special moments and it was awesome to be part of team GB. I think my smile said it all; a dream come true riding down the centre line with my red collar jacket on and representing GB at my first senior championship.

I had a fantastic week scoring personal best scores and all scores over 70% and then a fabulous 75%+ in the freestyle finishing 4th; two judges had me for the bronze medal!!!! 

I helped the team to take Silver in the team competition and considering 3 of us were all at our first championship; a fantastic result!! As my trainer Rob said ”what an achievement for someone that isn’t on any national squad!! We have chipped away, worked hard and pulled in the results making that Silver medal even more satisfying”.

I have learnt so much and have loved every minute the atmosphere has been electric. Sky has proven to everyone that he does not act or look 20. He has been wonderful all week and I couldn’t be prouder of him. He was back to the relaxed Sky during our freestyle and produced some super work shame we couldn’t produce that the whole way through the other tests. But we showed that under a lot of pressure and in challenging situations we can perform. Huge thanks to his owner Glesni for letting me ride this horse who is one in a million!!

The support we have had from the World Class Team during our time in Rotterdam has been super. Huge thanks to everybody.

Everyone dreams of winning a gold medal but to compete against the best riders in Europe/world in Grade 1 and to be placed is a fantastic achievement!! Time to build on what I have done and we will be going for the Gold next time!! To be selected to go was a dream come true to come back as a European medalist is indescribable!! It hasn’t sunk in yet!!!!

With yesterday marking 1 year until the opening ceremony of the Paralympics the future looks very exciting!! My attention now turns to Tokyo and going for gold; Sky will have a break now but he will be back before you know it!! In the meantime I have the Nationals in a few weeks’ time and then Keysoe CPEDI3* in October with Bear.


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Mari’s Only Gone And Done It!!

Wonderful news! The extremely talented and unbelievably gutsy Para Dressage rider, Mari Akhurst, has achieved what recently looked like an almost impossible goal. 

With her equine partner, Sky O’Hara, on loan from Glesni Owen, Mari has been selected to represent Team GBR at the European Championships which will be held from 21-25 August in Rotterdam. Mari has worked incredibly hard to reach this goal, which couldn’t be more well-deserved; we are so proud of what she has achieved and, of course, will be rooting for her and the team in Rotterdam. 

You are a star team, Mari and Sky and a genuine inspiration!

Dreams do come true! Mari Akhurst

You can read the associated press release by clicking on the link: and I’m sure you’ll join us in congratulating Mari and her entire team on this great news.

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Positive Updates from Featured Bader Grant Recipient Richard Neumann

Good positive updates from our featured Bader Grant Recipient, Para Dressage Rider, Richard Neumann. He reports that Otto (pictured above) has now cantered for the first time since the injury to his mouth brought an abrupt halt to their training and is moving forward well, which all bodes well for future competitions.

We’re keeping fingers firmly crossed for Richard and Otto who are both showing their mettle and determination  in getting over a worrying setback to their plans.
Progress although slow is good, am very pleased with how things are going. Richard Neumann
As you’ll be able to see from the videos, the pair are really going from strength to strength – see how Otto’s stride lengthens going over the poles – and make a very elegant team!

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Mari Does it!

We’ve just had the best news from DBF Ambassador, Para Dressage Rider, Mari Akhurst: 

I am very pleased to tell you the news that Sky and I are on the list of nominated entries for Team GBR at the Europeans. 

Thank you all for your support.

Fantastic news, Mari! We couldn’t be more delighted or proud; you’ve worked so hard for this.

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