BETTALife®: Hi Mari, thank you for joining us for an Exclusive Q&A. Firstly, Tell us about your latest result and what it means to you?
Mari Akhurst: Last week, 5/6th June Gold semi finals held at Wellington Riding in Hampshire. I was thrilled to win the team test with an amazing 71.61% and be 5% above second place!! I also then went on to win the individual test with Sky scoring 72.32% and take second place with Bear scoring 70%! I was over the moon with these results.
BL: Where do you train and who with?
Mari: I train at Trout Rise Equestrian with Rob Waine who I have been training with for the past two years who has helped me and my horses improve a lot in that time.
BL: Tell us a little about Sky and Bear please:
Mari: Sky is a KWPN, 16.3hh, 20 years young gelding. He previously evented and competed in able bodied dressage and is now my para horse. He is on loan from Glesni Owen, the loan was initially for a year and he is still with me seven years later!
Bear is a BFG standing at 18.2hh, he is a 10year old, bay Oldenburg gelding. He’s my star of the future! He was a very green five year old when we purchased him who had competed in a couple of able bodied Novice dressage competitions, it is a big step up for him to adjust to para and be competing at the level he is now with me. Mum and Rob also ride Bear, he is always wanting to please!
BL: Why do you choose to ride horses?
Mari: I started to ride as a therapy which was suggested by my physio when I was younger. I’ve always loved animals, especially horses, horses are my legs, together we excel! My sport is a way of life for me and something I am very good at. Horses don’t judge me and it’s something we have fun doing together.
BL: Who is your sporting hero?
Mari: My sporting hero is Helen Kearney, she is a grade 1 para who has represented Ireland. Helen is not currently competing but she is great to talk to and offers me fantastic support, I can ask her any questions I may have and she always seems to have an answer to help me.
BL: Who is your greatest influence?
Mari: Family, my mum and dad have always been around to support me. My sister lives in America but she is still a great inspiration. Mum is the greatest influence, we have been through so much and she never stops fighting!
BL: Tell us about the challenges you face both on and off a horse?
Mari: I have Cerebral Palsy and a rare neurological condition with symptoms including Ataxia and Dystonia. It affects all four limbs and as a result of this I use loop reins and two whips to act as my legs and I ride without stirrups. My co-ordination, muscle tone and balance are affected. Sadly over the last couple of years my condition has deteriorated so I use a wheelchair and scooter for every day mobility.
BL: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
Mari: My 2019 plans are to compete at Hartpury CPEDI 3*at the beginning of July, this also happens to be the final selection trial for the Europeans, so lets see what happens after that. I’m also aiming for Keysoe CPEDI 3* with Bear in October and I aim to qualify for next year’s winter championships.
BL: What is your ultimate goal?
Mari; To go to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games and win a gold medal!!!
BL: Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
Mari: In 2005 I played at the Royal Albert Hall in the Barnet Band, I played a duet with another band member, I used to play the French Horn until riding took over!
BL: What is your biggest win to date:
Mari: Winning Hartpury CPEDI 3* last year, I beat a Paralympian to do it! I’m currently the top ranked grade 1 in the country which makes me very proud!
BL: How has BETTALife® helped you?
A: When I first started using PharmaQuin I saw and felt a huge difference within the first 7 days. Soon after I stopped getting comments about “suppleness” on my score sheets with Sky. Sky is 20 years old and definitely doesn’t look or act it and I’m sure this is because he is on PharmaQuin. I also have Bear on PharmaQuin as protection and because he had an old injury. I have a great relationship with the BETTALife® team, I always like to support them at events if I can.
Both horses are also on PharmaTRAC Total Digestive Support, they are relaxed and happy horses; again this I put down to their supplements.
BL:What other support do you receive?
Mari: I have a number of product sponsors, too many to list, I am very grateful to them all.
Thank you so much Mari for your time and we are so proud to sponsor you.
Mari is currently looking for more sponsors, please contact her at her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MariDurwardAkhurstParaDressage/