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.

Some Great News From Mari!


Mari and Bear shortly after the start of their wonderful partnership in 2014
Mari and Bear in 2014 at the first year of their wonderful partnership. (Image courtesy Paul Ruffle Photography)

We’ve received some excellent news from our lovely new Ambassador and erstwhile Bader Grant Recipient of the Month, para-dressage rider Mari Akhurst.

Mari who has been digging deep into reserves of strength and determination recently when the worsening of some of her symptoms threw up some new challenges for her including the recommendation of a wheelchair (*still waiting for a name, all you creative folk out there!) to enable her to retain maximum independence. True to form, Mari has displayed huge courage to carry on with her training and practice and now her refusal to be beaten has been rewarded handsomely.

When people tell me I won’t be able to do something I like to prove them wrong. Mari Akhurst

This very talented dressage rider, whose goal has long been to represent Team GB in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics,  was thrilled to be selected, against all odds, with 4-legged teammate Sky to represent GB abroad at Waregem CPED13* in Belgium in April.

As she says, this will be a big step on her campaign journey towards the Para Europeans. While Sky is currently getting the rewards, it clearly won’t be long before Mari’s very handsome young horse, Bear, will be hot on his hoofsteps. Mari’s hard work and training with Bear are really beginning to pay off now and his enormous and undoubted potential is finally being recognised. It all bodes very well for the future.

As precursor to this news, Team Mari and Sky had pulled off great performances in the Winter Para Dressage Gold Championships at Myerscough, Lancashire, returning at the end of February. You can read her report below.

Update from the Winter Para Dressage Gold Championships: 

We arrived back from the Winter Para Dressage Gold Championships late last night; a very long weekend!!

The first day we took the win and topped the class with a 70%+ score; lots of point towards the Gold Semi Finals.

In the championship test the judge at E gave us a score of 70% and had us in the lead by several marks. For me this is a pretty big achievement as being on the side they can pick up on a lot more things that the C judge cannot see. Sadly the C judge had other ideas and only gave us 66% which pulled our score down massively. So I finished 3rd less than .5 behind 2nd; the top 3 were very close!!

I am incredibly proud of my superstar pony who strutted his stuff and had his best dancing shoes on all weekend!! You can see from the videos how good he looked!! I cannot thank everyone enough who has supported me this weekend. I am really looking forward to the year ahead with my superstars .

(Mari Akhurst)

Links and more:

Mari’s Facebook Page where you can see photos, updates and the videos Mari mentions of Sky and Mari in partnership and looking £1 million and deserving of their high marks!

Mari’s Fundraising Page: To help to raise funds for what promises to be an expensive year – keeping horses isn’t cheap, especially at competition level, Mari has started a new Fundraising Page:

Inspirational Speaking: Mari is going to be available to do inspirational speaking, I have no doubt she’ll be very good at it – details to follow in a new post…

* Wheelchair: Please contact Mari or respond to this post and we’ll pass it on if you can think of a name for her new wheelchair!