Anthea Gunner, Para Equestrian Paralympian


Blog - Journey to London

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3 More Sleeps!

Posted by Anthea Gunner on August 20, 2014 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (1)

Time is literally flying by and we are down to 1 last training session at home before the journey to France begins. Don and Jen leave on Thursday morning in the capable hands of Johannsmann Horse Transport to meet some other horses also heading to Caen and all going to plan arriving on Friday morning. Bella, Jess & I head off on Friday on the train via Paris to arrive mid afternoon.

Training has been improving every day, my body is finally starting to co-operate thanks to a fair bit of stretching and plenty of use from the wheatbag. Both of us are feeling fit and well and fortunately the weather hasn’t been too hot – only early 20’s and far more comfortable for us kiwis!

The forecast is also good for Caen next week with similar temperatures thank goodness! WEG is shaping up to be the biggest yet with 100 Para Dressage combinations and 33 nations (up from 60 combinations and 16 nations at the last WEG in 2010), around 20 of these are in my class alone so it’s shaping up to be another London with grade 2 being the biggest!

All of the disciplines have big increases in entries which makes for a very exciting competition and we are hoping that we have time to get along and support our Endurance and Eventing teams and hopefully catch some of the Dressage & Reining. Unfortunately we fly home before our Vaulting team and Jumping rider arrive so will be cheering them on from home.

Otherwise here it has been pretty quiet, one (failed) trip to the local castle – well it failed for me anyway with the track being way to steep and long for anyone to push me far. Jen & Jess managed to get a quick look at the top. A bit of a browse around the local saddleries (and I was so good – very limited space in my suitcase so saving for WEG shopping) and just today finishing the few tweaks to my musical freestyle test.

It’s all about to get very exciting so stay tuned or follow me on Facebook – Anthea Gunner Para Equestrian, or the Equestrian Sports New Zealand facebook and website for the most up to date info. You can also follow on the WEG website   I’ll be doing my best to keep everyone posted but also need to focus on being awesome and achieving my goals.

Thanks for all of the good wishes from around the world, Don and I are ready to do NZ proud!

 Anthea


Bring on Summer!

Posted by Anthea Gunner on August 8, 2014 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

It’s been a nice change to arrive in Germany to summer weather, although it’s taking a bit for us to adjust! We left Christchurch on a cold wintery Sunday and arrived in Singapore 11 hours later where it was 30 degrees and such thick humidity! Jess and I had a quick visit to the butterfly garden which was lovely but after about a minute the sweat was starting to drip.

We had a 6 hr stopover before boarding a nice new A380 for Frankfurt. Only 12hr 30mins! At least it was a night time flight so we slept a lot of the way. Still Singapore Airlines took care of us well and we arrived safely in Frankfurt at 6.30am on Monday.

Our first mission was to find the train station which is right next door to the airport, and after a short wait we caught the ICE train to Stuttgart. I knew it was a couple of hours drive in the car but the ICE train gets up to 250km per hour so the trip took just over an hour. I did feel sorry for Jess though having to tow 2 big suitcases around! Mine was right up to the 32kg weight limit too. I have no idea how I accumulated so much stuff – I thought my packing was brutal. Still I guess I needed to bring all my riding gear and competition gear.

We made it to Stuttgart and then caught a taxi to Kirchheim unter Teck, our base for the next few weeks. To say the driver was crazy was not an understatement but he did deliver us in one piece. After a freshen up we walked down to the stables along the river pathway that connects Kirchheim and Wendlingen, with the stables at Bodelshofen in the middle. Its lovely down there although we had to keep an eye out for these big brown slugs after the rain!

We were in time to see the girls having lessons and Hayley training a couple of her horses that are based at Bodelshofen as well. Don looks super, his summer coat at its best just in time to show the world. We watched Bella give him a short ride and I was excited to get back on the next day.

With the main focus being getting us in sync as much as possible I started out on the lunge without reins, walking and trotting with my hands on my hips. It was flipping hard – as much for training the mind as for activating my abs!! However I could do it – and it was good to just get into the movement so that when I got my reins back I could try and be more independent and not relying on the handlebar.

I awoke the next morning with aching abs, knowing that it was only going to get worse. Bella had that glint in her eye that I know is going to hurt but will also feel great at the end!! Day two went well, some really great moments and more time just learning to trust myself and my balance. Don is so patient and obliging but still makes me work for it. Day 3 bought more highs and lows, it’s just a matter of trusting myself! When I do its great, when I don’t it’s not so much. I’m sure Jess is enjoying seeing me getting the lessons although she will have her turn when we return to NZ!

Time is flying, its Friday now and we are having a free day – which is lucky as it’s stinking hot and it would have been a mission to ride. Jess and I went into the town centre and looked around, lots of history here and wonky buildings just like in Soest. And lots of shops – it’s a bigger town than I thought.

I’m also excited to announce a new sponsor in Kerrits Performance Equestrian Apparel, via their NZ agent Janine Simmons. They have some lovely gear, I particularly like the breeches with the super sticky bums – I only need a quarter of the spray on glue as I do with a normal pair! And they are super lightweight which makes them super comfy here in the hot summer weather. Thanks so much for the support Janine and Kerrits!

I also would like to thank everyone who has supported our journey – we have had massive support and especially for the Fundraiser Quiz night run by the super Debbie Rolmanis and her team which raised nearly $2200 in one fun evening. My team even got 3rd! Thanks to Spectators Bar & Bistro at Addington Raceway for hosting the evening.

Off to bed early tonight ready for another good ride tomorrow!



Jess before taking Don for a hack to cool down

Off to France!

Posted by Anthea Gunner on July 9, 2014 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (1)


Off to France!

A lot has happened since my last update as we were heading to Roosendaal for the CPEDI. The trip was good, 600km isn’t so bad when you are on the autobahn the whole way! Don travelled well and sailed through the vet check that evening.

Thankfully the weather was much nicer than the previous year and the sun even came out. The hotel was lovely – I could even use the bathroom (shock – horror!!). The judging in Roosendaal was very tough, only 4 combinations achieving the 70% mark on day one over all grades. Don and I were pleased with 4th place on 65.882% behind the 3 best dutch riders. There were a few wobbles but I was hanging on to the bar a lot less and now I have to become quicker to adapt which is a work in progress.

We had a short turnaround and rode the individual test the next morning, it was another improvement, and we moved up a place to 3rd with a pleasing 67.714%, and thankfully I had no ill effects from a dodgy stomach the night before. Saturday bought more nice weather and the freestyle to music. The warm up was very good, and even most of the test went well, I just need to get the hang of getting Don a little rounder when I am not hanging on! Still it was a vast improvement to the start and despite being a bit disappointed at the score (65.833% and 5th) I had to be happy with the progress we have made.

So began the wait to see what our NZ selectors thought, and our fate for WEG was to hang in the air for what seemed like ages!

Meanwhile I returned home to wintery Christchurch, just in time for a 1 in 100 yr flood which went right through the middle of our property. While it was frustrating, particularly seeing as all I wanted to do was ride and it wasn’t possible due to the arena being completely waterlogged there is not a lot that you can do except keep feeding hay and changing rugs and looking for dry spots to put the horses!

It is slowly improving but with the water table so high this year its going to be muddy until spring I think! Fortunately most of the arena is ok now so riding is back on, all be it at the weekends as by the time Aaron and I are home from work it is dark. We also extended our fur family adopting a new cat Slade from the SPCA having lost Jack in April. He is quite a character, the best headbutter ever and is busy sorting out the dogs from his vantage point on the back of the couch.

Mask has been enjoying the mud and so far has been coping with a little bit of work, although has been reluctant at times. Its been very different getting back on him from such a long time on Don and I’ve had to be careful not to expect too much of him just yet.

Finally the call came and after what was an agonising wait before I could tell anyone it was confirmed that we were selected for WEG. What a relief as I’ve put so much into this campaign, and thankfully Aaron has supported me in doing so. Still there is not much time before I need to head back over (to summer!!) to get final preparation underway.

Flights have been booked and I head away on the 3rd August to get cracking. I have a fabulous support team with me once again, my neighbour Jessica Brechin accompanying me from the start in what will be a massive learning curve for her, and for me being responsible for a 14 yr old! We are then joined by Jen Affleck who will be in charge of Don at WEG through the Games, and once we arrive in Caen we have the support of the superstar Debbie Rolmanis to make sure Don and I are in tip top condition for our events. This team with Bella as coach and rider is the best line up possible, and we all have our fingers crossed that Hayley and Basti will also be there for the Aussies in the Dressage.

I’m very excited about the next 2 months – another massive achievement and I’ll be doing my best to put some great performances on the board for Team NZ! Stay tuned for more updates 




photo thanks to - just awaiting the purchased copy!




The final hurdle

Posted by Anthea Gunner on May 27, 2014 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (1)

As I sit here looking at my overflowing suitcase and wondering how on earth I am going to fit everything in it, it is hard to believe that I am nearly at the end of my European ‘tour’ and about to head to Roosendaal in Holland for our last show this trip.

On our return from Mannheim it was a bit of a shock for Don to have a large abscess burst out of his lip a day later. I knew that he didn’t quite feel his usual self at Mannheim but we couldn’t find a single thing wrong. The vet thought that something (perhaps a seed) must have gotten stuck and while I was disappointed with the marks we had achieved at the show there was at least an answer as to why he was a bit out of sorts. It really bought home how genuine and special Don is as it would have been more than understandable for him to have said ‘nope, I’m not doing this when it hurts!’

Fortunately it has healed quickly and we both had a nice rest and returned to work a week later refreshed and positive about where we are heading.

The goal has been to get more swing and thoroughness which has come about largely as a result of me not hanging on to my handlebar. While it is a challenge every day we have made a lot of progress and the improvements have been obvious. My goal for the show in Roosendaal is to not hang on to the bar at all (unless its an emergency!) and I am determined to achieve this, as is Bella! She has been very tough but fair at pushing me a bit each day.

I have also had in the past few weeks a chance to explore the area a bit, there is some really beautiful scenery and castles around. The only issue is that when they built the castles there weren’t many folk in wheelchairs around to consider, so access has been rather limited! I have enjoyed some nice time adventuring in the forest in my ‘town’ wheelchair and did manage to get up inside the Hohenzollern castle (in the car no less which was very narrow and nervewracking!) which has views for miles around it. Unfortunately 26 steep steps meant I couldn’t get inside it but I had a nice look around the outside which was very impressive. This castle is home to the Prussian family jewels and is still privately owned by the Prussian royal family.

The weather has been very nice, some blazing hot days where the indoor school was a bit of a sauna, but otherwise fairly settled and warm. We had a pretty spectacular electrical storm the other night which made it quite hard to sleep. Still I am not looking forward to returning to winter at home, it is going to be a bit of a shock to the system!

Bella, Don and I leave for Roosendaal in the morning, it is a bit of a hike but at least it is autobahn the whole way which makes for fairly easy driving! We have trot up tomorrow afternoon and then compete Thursday, Friday and Saturday before returning home. I fly out back to Christchurch on Tuesday night so have a couple of days to rest which will be nice.

I have learnt so much this trip again, can’t believe time has gone so quickly! Will report back after Roosendaal so keep fingers and toes crossed for a great result.



Hohenzollern Castle


2 down, 1 to go

Posted by Anthea Gunner on May 9, 2014 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Well 2 shows down, 1 to go! Time is still flying and Don and I are now enjoying a short break before final preparation for Roosendaal CPEDI3* at the end of the month.

Our trip to Belgium was a successful one, Moorsele is a lovely venue, we were in lovely big stables and only needed to go outside to get in and out of the car. Warm up, and my competition arena were all in the same building, as was the café!

We arrived on the Thursday afternoon, Bella gave Don a short training session once he was settled in and he looked absolutely super. I had opted not to ride that day after driving from Oestinghausen and was a bit stiff from sitting in the same position in the car and holding the brake as we crawled our way through Antwerp.

Our first test was on Friday and on the whole it went quite well. A few too many communication errors and accuracy mistakes on my part but the feeling was good and the marks weren’t bad either! 67.88% and 5th place was a great start. One judge really liked it and awarded us with 72.9%!

My goal for Saturday was to tidy up the accuracy and communicate clearly, and it was much better, still a few things to be improved (isn’t there always) but I was really pleased with the marks as well, 69.77% - agonisingly close to our 70% magical score for selection and 3rd behind Canadian Paralympic medallist Lauren Barwick and her 2 lovely horses. Don was super excited in the prize giving, showing off his piaffe and passage all be it in hand and while Bella was trying to push me and lead him out of the arena!

Sunday was musical freestyle day, I hadn’t really practised it and decided to add in a canter circle each way the night before. I thought I had the timing sorted but I was a little bit out and ended up having to make up some more canter and the following walk section to get the two compulsory circles completed and get to the right place to carry on with the floor plan. It came off pretty well, the canter was good and I was really pleased to place 4th on 71%, with 4 of the 5 judges all over 71%. Check it out here

Due to some last minute changes in our travel plans we had a bit of a convoluted trip home, but a massive thanks to our friends from team Singapore who kindly transported Don to their base in Cologne and we had a transporter collect us the next morning to return to Soest. We were all tired but had a rest day before having our last couple of training sessions before the next show.

The show in Mannheim came around really quickly but at least this year the weather behaved. I hd the company of the wonderful Debbie Rolmanis for the competition with Bella helping move the whole of Hayley’s stable from Soest to our lovely new stables near Stuttgart.

Don, Debbie and I settled in and had a quiet few days in the hustle and bustle that is Maimarkt Turnier Mannheim. The show is not just Para Dressage but also a 3* jumping and dressage show so the German stars were out! We enjoyed admiring the riding skill of the top riders such as Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Michael Jung and Helen Langehanenberg which was quite a treat!

Because it was such a busy show the first day of Para competition for me was Sunday, there were 15 very classy combinations in my grade. Don was a little nervous and we didn’t quite find our groove before the test, it wasn’t terrible but not quite as good as the week before. We finished on 63.97% although with nearly 7% variance between two of the three judges.

We had another chance on Monday in the individual test, and it was an improvement getting to 65.24%, some really good marks for our halts, rein back and walk pirouettes but an expensive jog in the walk movements and a massive hip spasm at the end of my medium trot was disappointing and we lost a few marks. Still as long as we were improving was the main thing!

We made it through to the freestyle and had a lovely ride, the canterwork was much better than at Moorsele, and with no real mistakes we finished on a good note and 68.58% for 7th place. By the end of the event I had gained much more confidence in my ability to ride the test, not just sit there! The overall feeling was much better and Don was much more confident in what I was asking him. Sometimes we just need to back our abilities and trust that we know what we are doing. And if you make a mistake so what??

A massive thanks must go to Bella for all of her help in Moorsele and for coming to Mannheim to support us, and to Debbie, who not only massaged Don & I making sure we were functioning as well as possible, but also took such wonderful care of him, I know the early morning strolls for grass were popular and the key to keeping his state of mind fresh in such a stressful atmosphere.

The new stables are just gorgeous, Hayley’s base is absolutely world class (I have lots of ideas for Aaron) and the stable where Don is living is also gorgeous, newly renovated and with fields and hacking at the door. There is even a castle on the hill which I hope to explore soon.

Tomorrow I will write about my hotel experiences here in Europe…. If you didn’t laugh you would go mad to be honest!! Although my current digs are very nice!!

A massive thanks to my wonderful supporters and sponsors, especially Bates Saddles, CourierPost who make this all possible. We are feeling positive for Roosendaal and planning to finish with a bang so keep your fingers crossed!

Till next time


Power pony at Moorsele CPEDI3* photo courtesy of

Don & Debbie waiting for the trot up at Mannheim



Moorsele bound

Posted by Anthea Gunner on April 23, 2014 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I am not really sure where the past 2 weeks have gone, it is all a blur of bandages, bridles, washing and sweeping – and of course a few rides added in!

Our training has been going really well, everyday a learning curve and a few light bulb moments have been had. There have even been a few firsts, all be it not always on purpose! Some counter canter, a flying change, a bit of a piaffe pirouette (won’t be winning the World Cup final but felt pretty good!). As well as good improvements on all the stuff we are supposed to be doing.

I had a great free day with Hayley and we headed to Holland for the Excellent Dressage Sales auction at Academy Bartels. What an amazing facility and man to they know how to look after their guests. It was a very exciting way to buy a horse and I have to admit to sweaty palms and the heart racing when we were leading the bidding and the flipping auctioneer was trying to drag it out! The stunning Filithyo (Phil to his mates) has since joined Hayley’s team of horses and looks to be a very talented prospect for the future.

It was a huge atmosphere for what were mostly very young horses (between 3-6 yrs old) but most handled it very well and were well presented. I also got to meet a few of the top riders attending, and I managed to keep my cool even though all I could think of was Imke Schellekens Bartels riding Sunrise at the World Cup Final in 2010 and the test made me cry every time as it was so lovely!

On Monday the team all went to support Bella and the lovely lusitano Goose compete at their first competition together. We arrived as it was raining and had to slog through a muddy paddock… only to find that there was a car park at the bottom of the hill on tarseal! I was a little dirty but the sun came out and the mud dried. We also supported Elina who is also stabled at Team HB headquarters, both girls rode well and show a lot of potential for the future.

One thing that I found fascinating was that the show was dressage and show jumping over 2 days, side my side. Most of the dressage horses coped really well doing a level 4 or 5 test right next to 1.45m jumping! I am not sure what Mask would think of that but it is one way to make the horses spook proof!

Early tomorrow Bella, Don & I head to Moorsele for our first competition. I am nervous but also excited to be back in the arena. There is a pretty strong field, 13 riders in my class alone. Altogether there are 22 nations represented and 72 riders so it will sure to be a busy weekend. I am looking forward to also catching up with a few of the other riders and support that I have met over the past few years and also to see my good friend Zani, her husband Richard and to finally meet their wee girl Libby who just celebrated her first birthday! They are coming for the weekend which will be great.

I also can’t wait for Monday to see my good friend and sponsor Debbie Rolmanis from DB Muscle Therapy who will be joining us for a few weeks to work on riders and horses! Debbie will also very kindly be my support at Mannheim next weekend as Team HB are moving to new stables near Stuttgart so it will be all hands on deck getting things sorted out. The new facility looks really nice, and apparently there are a lot of castles in the area so I will get to see some more and learn some Bavarian history.

Better finish packing and get to bed, I’ll update again after the weekend!


Anthea  - a video of Don and I training



Back to Germany

Posted by Anthea Gunner on April 6, 2014 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi from Soest, Germany again, where spring is busy springing and spargel & strawberry season is well underway. After a hectic few weeks at home in NZ I am now back on the other side of the world, giving my best shot at being selected for Team NZ for the World Equestrian Games.

There was so much to get done at home as I am away for so long this time, trying to catch up on work and get the garden tidy. I have to admit I gave up on the garden although did manage to get the sprayer around the edges! Even Mask was feeling a bit neglected although had a couple of fun rides with Jess over some jumps, showing that he had certainly not forgotten anything from last winter.

Everything ground to a halt with the loss of my beloved cat Jack, after a year long battle with a rare skin condition, and subsequent diagnosis of diabetes, of which there was no way to treat both illnesses. It was very unexpected but in the end an easy decision to make. I still miss him every day, he was Aaron & I’s first ‘child’, he moved to Wellington with us, spent 3 months in a cattery in Christchurch and visited me while I was in the Burwood Spinal Unit, moved back with us and was always my boy, waiting in the laundry when I got home, demanding breakfast, lunch and dinner, sitting on the couch at night and on the bed of course. The house is very quiet without him, it is going to be a while before things are back to normal.

Mask, despite being only fairly lightly worked was making good progress and I was very pleased with how our cantering was progressing. All it takes is a bit of confidence in each other and we are away, and as a result the quality of the rest of his work was improved. Our last show at the start of March was a bit of a mixed bag, I made a few silly mistakes in our able bodied test, although the para test afterward was much better with a 68% result. Mask gets to have a wee break before having some fun with my neighbour Jessy who is also having a break after a stunning season in the show ring, being I think unbeaten at every show!

I departed for Germany on the 31st March, another long arduous trip, although a rather charming French flight attendant in Sydney and seeing the Sheikh’s racehorses awaiting loading at Dubai were some perks. Another nice surprise was the positively balmy temperatures on arrival in Dusseldorf, 24 degrees even!

I arrived at Team HB headquarters not long after Bella had arrived back from Barcelona where 3 of the horses were competing. Don was about to be ridden so I got to have a sneak peak at what to expect and I have to say he looked super! He was also relieved to see me as apparently he hadn’t been fed any carrots since I left at the end of October! That is his story at least…

Wednesday bought my first ride and I was very pleased to say that I managed fine. All of the focus I have had on my position and keeping my abs activated has paid off and I have been able to slot straight back in to the ‘good’ trot! We have spent the past few days getting to know each other again, and are making improvements already. With just under 3 weeks before our first competition in Belgium I have a good feeling that we can do what we have set out to.

It is not going to be easy (my first blister came at ride number 2!) but Bella & Javais have done a fabulous job of keeping Don ticking and preparing him for me. I am really looking forward to giving it my best shot over the next 8 weeks.

The weather was back to ‘normal’ today after a stunning week in the 20’s. Here’s hoping for some more sunshine as we ramp things up for Moorsele CPEDI3*!

Best wishes



Counting Down and Wedded Bliss

Posted by Anthea Gunner on February 16, 2014 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I can’t believe it has been 3 months since my last update! Time has rocketed by and I’m now knee deep in plans to return to Germany for our last shot at selection for the World Games.

A big focus during the past months has been our wedding, finally after 15 years together. We had a very special day, Aaron was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t a bridezilla too much beforehand and I have to say it was nice to finally ‘get the job done’!

We had a small group of our close friends and family at home, the weather was nice (the best day of the week!) the cutest page boys & flower girls ever, Mask was stunning (thanks to my wonderful neighbours Jo & Jessy for getting him ready for me!) and even the dogs were washed and wearing ties. Aaron didn’t scrub up too badly either!

I survived my first facial, manicure and felt really quite out of place sitting there in my lovely dress for the final fitting! I am so much more comfortable in jeans or riding breeches, but felt like a princess on the day. Mask behaved perfectly as my chariot and really enjoyed being the centre of attention. I think he almost needs his own photo album – Mr Photogenic he most certainly is!

Even the first dance went well although we weren’t quite as impressive as Kate & Lei from NZ’s Got Talent. We were lucky enough to see them in action at the CourierPost Christmas party where Aaron got all sorts of ideas!

We have also had some visitors through the holiday period with Aaron’s little brother Travis bringing his lovely (new) fiancée Satomi to NZ from Japan for a few weeks and my uncle Maurice also visited for 3 weeks. It has been lovely to be able to spend time with them.

On the riding front it has been fairly quiet, with only 1 test at the Canterbury Champs in November, a local day in Rangiora and the South Island Champs to compete at. I have spent quite a bit of time training at home and trying to improve things after my last trip, and we finally have made some progress on the cantering front.

Mask has finally decided that he is ok with it, after a long time of being unsure if he was doing the right thing, now we are making big inroads and while there is a lot of improvement to come we are getting better every day. It’s helped the quality of his trot work too and helped me maintain some of my core strength. We competed in able bodied classes at the South Island Champs and I was really pleased with the outcomes and our scores.

We have one more outing at the beginning of March before I head away to Germany again and hand him over for some fun stuff with my neighbour Jessy.

I have had a lot of people asking if Mask and I are heading to the North Island this season for Horse of the Year or Nationals, unfortunately finances and leave from work won’t allow it this time with all efforts going towards my departure for Germany on the 31st March. The lovely Don & I have a solid 3 weeks of training before attending 3 planned shows in an attempt to crack the elusive 70% barrier and exceed the NZ selection criteria.

It is going to be a massive effort, one that we are both ready for I think, however there is a fair bit of fundraising to be done to help make it happen! We have held one fundraiser seminar at home, with another planned with my lovely sponsor Debbie Rolmanis of DB Muscle Therapy on rider position, biomechanics and fitness, which I think is Debbie’s specialty! It is really interesting how the position of your elbows for instance can influence the stillness of the riders hands and therefore the horse’s mouth and head! Hopefully we have lots of support for this very fascinating seminar and I am so grateful to Debbie for giving her time and support.

I am also putting together a facebook auction so if you have anything that you would like to donate please let me know! There is not a lot of time unfortunately and with possibly a shot turnaround and back again if we are selected I am very lucky to have such a supportive and understanding employer! Although I will be doing as much as I can from over there to keep the CourierPost ship running 

I am also very grateful to my stable of sponsors for their support this season, without it we wouldn’t be able to do half of what we are able to!!

Best Wishes


My beautiful chariot

glamour shot of Mask and his awesome custom made feeder from Willowhip NZ!


Home again

Posted by Anthea Gunner on November 15, 2013 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It seems like my German jaunt is a distant memory as I am home again and straight back into work and my ‘kiwi’ life! And with only 9 more weeks until we get married I am in a slight panic about getting the gardens ship shape at home! Not to mention organising the rest…

However back to Team HB and my final few days with Don. Unfortunately we were unable to compete this trip, the show I had found was too early on and it seemed silly to go and get the same marks as we had achieved in the last trip, when we were trying to get closer to the elusive 70% NZ selection marks, not to mention it is not cheap to get to a show over there and I wasn’t about to waste any money on something that wasn’t going to benefit the end goal. So we chose to just consolidate on the training and have a ‘Team HB Para championship' – Don and I competing against ourselves and Hayley judging!

We decided that this would be my last ride, so I spent the week practising my shapes whilst in the ‘great’ trot. The stronger I got the better we got and the more I was able to influence what I was doing. I had been riding with side reins on – something that I don’t normally do – but with Don’s much more powerful movement it was much easier to have a bit of help to keep him round so that I could stay in the movement much easier. Once I get out of sync it is also hard on his back ( as well as mine ) so for both of our sakes it was best to start with them on and once I was warmed up the goal was to make sure they were always loose so not doing anything!

My last ride came round far too quickly and I was actually quite nervous about it! I knew that we had made huge progress but the pressure was on to prove it for a whole test, and for the video camera! Don and I were all dressed in competition gear, he was plaited and primped and there was no backing out.

I started a bit tentatively in the first attempt, improving as we went through and by the end finally at the standard that we should have started! So the 2nd attempt I was much more positive, it was hugely better and much more consistent and Hayley was much happier. She then said, ‘right, start a circle at the far end’ and I knew that my ride was not over!

I had a funny feeling we were going to be cantering again. I hadn’t tried since the week before however Don had a much better idea of what we were asking this time so popped into canter quite easily. And once I was actually cantering it was fine! I wasn’t even leaning back! We cantered both directions, and down the long side of the arena, and afterward got a super medium trot. I had been hanging on a lot, and had not only created a blister on my finger but ripped right through it – but it was worth it for the smile and the confidence I gained from doing it.

Check out the video!!

Don was of course super, and very pleased with himself too I think! It was a great way to finish and I have come home with a plan of attack for Mask too. It was sad to leave the team there- they are so supportive and I secretly enjoyed cleaning bridles for nearly 4 weeks! Of course I cried (I am such a blouse) and on Friday 25th I headed back in the Ford to Dusseldorf to start the long journey home.

One thing that I had tried to find and failed was a castle. There are a few in the area but somehow I never quite got the GPS to find the right place! So on my way back I went via a Castle – Schloss Benrath to be exact. And it was well, pink. The castle to be honest didn’t really float my boat but the gardens were lovely and I think it would be nice to visit in the spring or summer when it is in it’s fully glory!

I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and even had time for a proper steak dinner before heading home. It turned out to be the worst long haul flight ever. Maybe I was still up in the clouds after my last ride on Don… but I couldn’t sleep! Only 5 hours sleep in the 30 hours of travelling took its toll and I got home (to a huge welcome from Diesel and Rufus!) only to sit on the couch and promptly fall asleep. Thank goodness I had Monday off work!!

It was very nice to be home and with Aaron and my fur family again. The cat tried to play it cool but gave the game away when he sat on me while I slept and followed me around constantly for the next few days! Aaron soon was asking me when I was going back as he was sick of me asking him to sort out his washing and clean the kitchen. I’m sure he didn’t mean it really!!

I am now back into it at work, with the madness that pre-Christmas brings, and juggling work, getting Mask fit again for our summer competitions, wedding plans and tidying up our nearly 2 acre garden. I also need to start planning my return to Germany next year for the final selection events – I am looking at a month of training before we go out and compete - the standard is so high and so are the selection targets so we must be ready to blow their socks off. It’s going to take a fair lot of fundraising so I am trying to get my head around that as well! Any ideas welcomed!!!

Finally thanks for all of the support with my AMP scholarship application, while I didn’t win a scholarship this year I was a finalist for the Rothbury Risk Services Canterbury Regional Scholarship. There was nearly 100 applicants for that scholarship alone so I was thrilled to be a finalist – maybe I can get over the line next time!

Till next time


Anthea, Don & Mask!





Cliff Jumping

Posted by Anthea Gunner on October 16, 2013 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi again from Germany. Time is flying and in only 9 more sleeps I will be on my way home again!

Don and I have made huge progress in the last week, I thought we were awesome then but we are even more so now – and my fitness and core strength has improved significantly  Hayley continues to surprise me and get me jumping off cliffs – this week it was cantering, first on the lunge and then solo!

Cantering is something I have found really hard since my accident – balancing is ok once you are doing it but Mask has never been sure that I really want to do it and when he did was more of a drunk giraffe impersonation rather than actually a proper canter! The giraffe like posture makes his back hollow and hard to sit into and balance.

Don however was a bit confused as we had never had that as part of the equation before and he didn’t think that we should be changing the rules! But we did it and after I got over a small heart failure we were fine. It is important that I am comfortable doing it as it is helpful to improve everything else and also that I am ok if he ever took fright and buggered off on me. The latter I think would be very unlikely given his attitude about his “job”.

As a result the trot work has become stunning and I am much more comfortable sitting in the movement rather than being bounced out. My abs have never worked so hard in their life (I know I have said that before but that was nothing!) but fortunately I have found a massage therapist here who has managed to keep me functional so far.

Other than riding, helping out at the stables and watching I have done very little! My days off have been catching up on sleep and finding wedding inspiration on Pintrest. I had intended to go into Soest’s town centre today but it has changed from autumn to winter in the last week and the temperatures have, while only dropping a few degrees, gone from ok to cold and I am not sure I can get too many more layers of clothes on.

I am ever grateful that we have a roof over the arena so while cold we are at least dry – except for the sweat dripping on my brow .

Driving has been uneventful other than my one trip out to the saddler resulting in being on the autobahn in the absolute pouring rain which was very scary. They don’t drive any slower when it is wet and with my wipers on full and spray everywhere I could not see a thing! I stayed tucked in the slow lane and was relieved to only have to travel about 10km on it. It also poured again when I was on the narrow windy roads near the shop, fortunately no one was behind me so I crept along!

I bought a cheap microwave as while my motel room is great there is not even a jug to boil water so to save some money I thought 50 euro on a microwave would be better than eating out (that is if you can find a place that doesn’t have steps to get in!). I will be quite sick of lasagne by the time I get home but it is pretty cool having a grill function. It has a metal rack (which I was very concerned about putting inside the microwave after the one time I left a metal twisty tie on a bag at home) with all the instructions in german and google translate not being helpful (there were no instructions in the booklet!) I took a punt and ended up with a nicely toasted pizza bread so at least that has given me a bit of variety.

The team here are great and so helpful, Hayley’s dog Bella has decided that my lap is her throne and she insists on sitting on me for a cuddle most days. Today I was trying to sweep and she insisted on helping – not easy!! She also sits on me when I am watching lessons and when I stop patting her she climbs up and licks my face. Makes me miss my boys a lot!!

We also had the vet visiting for vaccinations the other day and he just so happened to come into the arena when I was about to get on. Being a bloke (ironically he used to work in Ashburton of all places!) he thought he would be able to get me up on Don (he is only a little taller than Mask). I got a bit nervous when he lifted me out of my chair (the easy part) and when he realised that he had to lift me up above the saddle (about 1.63m) he says ‘oh no’. We did get there but he may think twice before offering again! It is harder than it looks!

I am so pleased with the progress we have made here so far, it has been a steep learning curve and one I am keen to continue. We have 7 more rides to go and I am really enjoying learning to ride ‘proper dressage’ although I am sure Mask won’t thank me for it when I get home!

Till next week


Anthea & Don

Getting a bit of kiwi into the stables – Don and his gorgeous custom made hay bag courtesy of my wonderful sponsor Willowhip NZ / Julie Argyle.