Mari Getting Closer to her Goal…

An update from DBF Ambassador Mari as the 2020 Olympics draw ever closer. The competition is obviously hotting up and, as ever, Mari is finding ways to enable herself and her equine teammates, Sky and Bear, to give their best performances, and getting very promising results as you will see. With her inspiring determination and commitment, not to mention ingenuity, we feel sure that she will reach her goal and be competing for Team GB in 2020. 

We wish her continued success with her preparations. 

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 Durward-Akhurst, Para-Dressage Rider and Inspirational Speaker)


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.) 

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!