Mari Durward-Akhurst Para Dressage Rider

Competing at National and International level.

About

I have Cerebral Palsy, hyper mobility and lax ligaments.My CP affects all four limbs and has left me weaker down my left side than my right. As a result of my CP my coordination, balance and muscle tone are all affected. I have a permanent limp and walk with a walking stick. I am unable to walk long distances and so use a scooter.

My disability has made it hard for me to make friends and I used to get bullied a lot as I was different to other children and much slower than them. But then I found riding and things changed as it was something that I could do which helped me physically, as I started it as a form of therapy, but also mentally as it was something that I was good at and I could excel at. I was able to develop a fantastic partnership with the horses that I ride and after I decided to have a go at competing it has all spiraled on from there.

This year I became the Grade 3 Restricted Winter Para Dressage Champion, but have been struggling for some time at this grade and so have recently been re-classified. I am now in the most disabled category for Para Dressage Riders (1a).

I have got my sights firmly set on the 2020 Paralympics.

As you can imagine competing at this level and having two horses is extremely costly, due to deterioration in my disability I am currently unable to work. Therefore I am seeking a financial sponsor; if you could help in anyway however small please contact me.

 

 

Please have a read of my journey so far!!

My Journey!

I am a 22 year old Grade 1a Para dressage rider. My horses and I are trained by Linsay Coleridge Smith and I am based at Windmill Farm in Bucks.

I started riding at my local Riding for the Disabled Centre and won my first RDA competition when I was 11, the following year I qualified for the RDA National Championships. A summary of my journey follows;

2007 selected onto the Hertfordshire Elite Athlete Support Programme, who supported me until I began University. Represented GB at Junior International.
2008 Sport Aids grant, towards my training. Selected onto the World Class Programme at Pre-start level. Represented GB at Junior International.
2009 3rd at Para Talent Spotting. Represented GB at Junior International.
2010 given the ride on Wald Minor who had competed up to a very high level in able bodied dressage. This was where my dream really started to take hold. Selected onto the Regional Foundation Squad for the East and East Midlands. Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme Award. Grade 3 Restricted Winter Champion. Represented GB at Junior International (2nd). Bought a new horse Lady Amelia to progress my riding career.
2012 Lady Amelia was injured, started to loan Sky O’Hara, attained the qualifying scores to apply for World Class and for the Para Home International and the CPEDI1*.
2013 a very hard year for me as I lost Lady Amelia to colic. Runner up at the Luton Sports Women of the Year Awards. I qualified and competed at the Para Dressage Winter Championships and the National Championships. I competed at the Para Home International. I represented GB as a Young Rider at Bishop Burton International.
2014 selected onto the British Equestrian Federation Excel Talent Programme. Represented the Central Region at the Para Home International. I qualified and competed at the Winter Para Dressage Restricted Championship (2nd) and the Para Dressage Restricted Summer National Championships.  Nominated for the Bishop Burton 2* (2nd). Represented the London Team at the BD Inter County Challenge.
2015 qualified and competed at all the major Para Dressage Championships including my first Open Championships. Got selected to represent GB at Bishop Burton 2*.  I qualified for the able bodied Under 25 Championships and an Area Festival. Purchased a new horse who sadly injured himself and has been out for the whole year. He is definitely one for the future. I completed my degree an achievement I am very proud of especially as I continued to train and compete at the same time. It wasn’t easy though; I faced many challenges along the way due to my disability.
2016 became the grade 3 Restricted Winter Para Dressage Champion. I got reclassified to a 1a.
2016 Qualified for the Silver Para Dressage Summer Championships. Got selected to represent the Central Team at the Para Home International, where the team finished 4th and individually I won my section. Qualified for the KBIS Gold Semi Finals and finished 5th. Qualified for the BD Nationals. Got selected to represent GB at Hartpury CPEDI3*. A few weeks ago I was placed at my first ever 3* International representing Great Britain, a wonderful experience where I had the opportunity to compete against current Paralympic contenders. I became the Grade 1a Silver Champion.

Advertisements