Sorbeo Ambassador Mari Akhurst-Durward has been reclassified by FEI as a 1a – the most impaired of all Para Riders.
Mari took the long journey to France where her mobility, strength and co-ordination were assessed in order to establish her Classification Profile. People with similar functional ability profiles are grouped into competition grades. The Grades range from Grade Ia for the most severely impaired, to Grade IV for the least impaired. The competition within each Grade can therefore be judged on the skill of the individual competitor on their horse, regardless of the competitor’s impairment.
In seven years Mari has changed from a Grade 3 to a Grade 1a.
‘I got my classification decision by email from the FEI and a lot quicker than I thought I would’ said Mari. ‘The decision was a shock I am now a 1a, which is the most impaired of all the Para Riders. A big drop from grade 3 but I have really been struggling for some time. It means that I can have someone warm up the horses for me for about 20 minutes before I get on them at a show and I am also allowed to use my voice.
I have had a tough time recently dealing with the new challenges that my disability has given me. But it’s great to still be able to ride and excel. Since being reclassified I had to try and qualify at my new grade; I had already qualified at grade 3 but can no longer compete at that grade.’
At Hartpury College Mari won both of her classes with a fantastic 71.05% in her first test (her highest ever score) and 69.54% in her second class. Mari was absolutely thrilled as this result was her first time competing as a 1a.
And at Widmer EC she scored 72.37% and 69.78%.
Mari should now be qualified for the Silver Para Dressage Championships with just two more points needed before she qualifies for the KBIS Semi Finals (Gold level).
‘We headed off to Merrist Wood to try and get the last few points I needed to qualify for the Silver Para Summer Championships. We had a really successful outing and came home with a first and a second rosette. We won the novice test which is the qualifier with just over 68% which I was really pleased about especially as my body was not playing ball and we had a couple of costly mistakes. That should see me all qualified for the Summer Championships now, so the pressure is off.
Recently I have been struggling in training with the transitions as I am losing my balance and almost toppling off the side of Sky. Canter has also been a struggle for a while so I have taught Sky to go off with a tap on his withers with the top of my whip.
We headed off to Deauville CPEDI3* in France for reclassification. Me and mum took the Euro tunnel and then drove to the venue. It was a long way!! We arrived on Thursday evening at the hotel and then went to have a look around the venue (which was only 5 minute drive away), wow! The arenas were incredible. I would love to compete here if I get the opportunity to go abroad in the future. We found where my classification would be taking place and headed off to our hotel.
We decided to go into the town which was about a 5-10 minute walk away. We were not sure if there would be any parking and it was so strange driving on the opposite side of the road. Mum was tired as well as she was doing all the driving. So we used my wheelchair and mum pushed me to the restaurant. It was a lovely walk past a river and we saw an otter which was amazing.
Next morning, we checked out of the hotel and headed back to the venue to watch some of the dressage. It was really inspiring. I then had to head to the classification hut. Challenge one was getting into the hut! There was a very steep wooden ramp but it wasn’t wide enough for a wheelchair and didn’t look very stable as it was on bricks. So we left the wheelchair at the bottom and with the help of mum and one of the classifiers we just about made it in once piece!
The classifiers introduced themselves, they were very nice. One was from GB and the other one was from France.
The classification began and I was a lot more wobbly than last time which was over 7 years ago!! as sadly my condition has deteriorated. The classification ended and they couldn’t tell me the result as it has to go to the FEI for approval and I was told I would find out in two weeks.
I was in a lot of pain from the classification but it was great to be able to watch some more GB riders and competitors from the other nations. We also met up with a great friend of mine Julie who was coaching a New Zealand Para Rider Krissy.
I was in a considerable amount of pain after my classification and am still suffering. The boys were very pleased to see me, sadly at the moment I can only walk as I don’t have the balance to do anything else. But it was great to be back on board.
I got my classification decision by email from the FEI and a lot quicker than I thought I would. The decision was a shock I am now a 1a, which is the most impaired of all the Para Riders. A big drop from grade 3 but I have really been struggling for some time. My tests are now walk only, which has really taken the stress of both me and the horses. It means that I can have someone warm up the horses for me for about 20 minutes before I get on them at a show. I am also allowed to use my voice.
I have had a tough time recently dealing with the new challenges that my disability has given me. But it’s great to still be able to ride and excel. Since being reclassified I had to try and qualify at my new grade; I had already qualified at grade 3 but can no longer compete at that grade.
Hope you are all enjoying the warmer weather with your horses; let’s make the most of it while it lasts!!
Everyone at Sorbeo wishes Mari every success for the rest of the season – she really is a true spirit and inspiration for all of us.