Meet Mari Durward-Akhurst Para Dressage Rider – January 2015

Hi my name is Mari Durward-Akhurst. I am a 20 year old Para Dressage Rider on the Para Squad of the British Equestrian Federation Excel Talent Programme. I am based in Buckinghamshire and trained by Linsay White. I have my present competition horse Sky O’Hara on loan, he loves Polo mints. I have just purchased a new horse L. Bear who is definitely one for the future.

Achievements so far include:

  • Grade 3 Restricted Winter Champion 2010
  • Represented GB at International level for 6 years as a Junior and Young Rider.
  • 2nd (Reserve Champion) at the Para Dressage Restricted Winter Championships 2014.
  • 2nd Bishop Burton 2* 2014
  • Represented the Central Team at the Para Home International 2014
  • Represented the London Team at the BD Inter County Challenge 2014

Aims for 2015:

  • Qualify for the Summer Para Dressage Championships.
  • Compete my new horse at able bodied Prelim and Sky at novice.
  • Qualify for an area festival/ regionals.
  • Get nominated and selected for Bishop Burton 2*
  • Go to London Team training

I recently competed Sky at the first Summer Para Dressage Championship qualifier. We did two good tests and I was really pleased with him; we came 1st and 2nd. Our next outing will be in January.

I have been having lessons on both horses with Linsay. Both boys have been going really well. Sky had a break from the school over Christmas and spent more time on the gallops, as I could ride in the daylight which was great.

Now I am back at university, Sky and Bear will be spend more time in the school but they will get to go round the gallops at the weekend. I will start working towards riding the movements of my tests with Sky, ready for our first para outing in January.

As Bear is only young I lunge him once a week- if not more – as find that this is really crucial and lets him get used to my voice. I lunge Sky as well once a week as he is older which helps keep him nice and supple.

I have been doing lots of transitional work with Bear as he is so big and young; this really helps me to make sure that I have control. For example walk, trot and trot, walk etc. and also transitions within the paces. This has helped me to find medium trot, and get used to it. I also spend a lot of time in canter as I find it easier. I am more balanced in walk and canter than I am in trot. I have started riding test movements on him and the next step is to shorten the long arena that I ride in to a 20 x 40. Bear is 17.2 and still growing so it could be challenging!!

I have a busy few months ahead as I am back to University and have one of my final exams in less than three weeks and so my Christmas has been spent riding and revising!! But the Para competitions start in January and I am aiming to take Bear out to do a Prelim soon.