Meet Mari Durward Akhurst

Mari Durward-Akhurst is Sorbeo’s newest ambassador. Mari is just 21 and is a Para Dressage Rider on the Para Squad of the British Equestrian Federation Excel Talent Programme.

Mari Durward Akhurst

Last year she represented the London and Central Teams at the Para Home International and Inter County Challenge competitions. She was also reserve champion at the Para dressage Restricted Winter Championships. Mari’s ultimate goal is to ride at a Paralympics and win a gold medal.

We asked Mari about herself and she is happy to share her remarkable story with you:

I have cerebral palsy (CP), lax ligaments and dyspraxia. As a result of my CP, my coordination, balance and muscle tone are all affected. I suffer from very tight muscles and less muscle bulk on my left hand side.

I am weak down my left side and have a permanent limp. I have had my condition ever since I was born. I use a walking stick most of the time and use a scooter for longer distances. I am in my final year at the University of Bedfordshire studying Sports Therapy. I have faced many challenges along the way due to my disability but I have been able to overcome these.

I am unable to write for long periods of time, and struggle with exams needing extra time and rest breaks as I find sitting still for long period of time hard as my muscles get really tight. I am able to complete most tasks but I take a long time to do them, and it may require me to do it over and over again before I have the correct technique.

My disability has made it hard for me to make friends and I used to get bullied a lot at school as I was different to other children and much slower than them. But then I found riding.

Things suddenly changed as it was something that I could do which helped me physically. I started it as a form of therapy, but it was good for me mentally as it was something that I could excel at. I developed a fantastic partnership with the horses that I rode and when I decided to have a go at competing it has all spiraled. I am unable to use normal reins as I cannot hold them without losing grip so I ride with loop reins. I ride with enclosed stirrups as my feet fall through them otherwise. I use a seat saver on my saddle to prevent bruising. I also have a hand held on the front of my saddle in case I lose my balance.

It was suggested that I should use two whips as my legs don’t always work as they should. This has been successful with my new horse as he is young and very big. He understands me better and I don’t have to work so hard. I have now tried it with Sky and its going well.

Mari and Bear

In dressage tests I salute with my head only as I can’t let go of my reins and then take them again. I also can’t let go for free walk on a long rein
so I lean forwards and get my horses to stretch that way.

I am very excited to be working with Sorbeo Horse Bedding. I’m looking forward to using the bedding and feel that my horses will benefit greatly from having it in their stables. I have been looking for a bedding company for some time and was delighted when Sorbeo Horse Bedding said they would support me.