Anthea Gunner, Para Equestrian Paralympian


Blog - Journey to London

WEG wrap up

Posted by Anthea Gunner on September 7, 2014 at 5:10 AM

Wrapping up from WEG

Well I am home now, trying hard to stay awake instead of crashing on the couch at 7pm! Our WEG journey is over and it’s time to rest, recover and regroup and see what the future holds.

Monday in Caen bought rain, rain and more rain, at one point we were worried that the stable block would flood, and had to make an emergency mission to the games village for waterproof jackets and gumboots. I rode, and got absolutely soaked – it’s always those days when you ride like a muppet! It turned out that it was the most rain in the area since 1955 which was just our luck. Fortunately the stables were ok but there were some nervous moments!

I spent Monday afternoon getting dry and getting into the zone for my test on Tuesday, analysing my tests and trying to remember stride by stride what I needed to do. It worked well as I was feeling good on Tuesday, the weather was a vast improvement and we warmed up well, although it was tough to stay focused with cameras from all angles. By the time we got to the arena we were ok and I was overall pleased with my test. I made some errors with my accuracy and had a couple of wobbles but the judges liked it and we finished 7th= on 67.914% which is very close to a PB for that test.

Of course the only rain shower of the day decided to turn up half way through but I didn’t even notice and Don and I trooped on. It was great to see some kiwis in the crowd including my family and I had a lot of comments about how Don was so much more stunning in the flesh – and he is pretty stunning in the photos! I knew that already of course.

Wednesday we decided that I would train early and then Don would have a decent break before my test on Thursday. At least the sun was out and I was improving! It’s very hard to factor in how you are going to feel at these events, I didn’t feel nervous but was struggling with basic things which you can only really account for as nerves. Often it is as much about training the mind as the body!

I made a particularly big faux par that day – or realised I had at least! It was an awful moment – when someone mentioned the date (it was the 27th) and I realised, with quite some horror, that I had completely forgotten about Aaron’s birthday (on the 26th). After remembering the past 15 birthdays I forget the 1st one since getting married! I guess I did have a good excuse being in full focus for my test, but even afterward I didn’t click. I have some serious making up to do although I suspect that Aaron will dine out on that one for a long time!

I also went for a tiki tour to the Endurance venue at Avranches for the veterinary inspection. It was a lovely glimpse of the Normandy countryside, and nice to see our Endurance team and their horses! I also got to see the very impressive ‘ marquee’ belonging to Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum from UAE taking pride of place overseeing the main area where the vetting is done and complete with chandeliers and burly security guards. It was much more impressive than the regular marquee for the rest of the national federations! He and his son (also competing for UAE) were helicoptered in and out each day – oh how the other half live!

My test (the individual Championship and the first medal event) on Thursday was quite late in the day, which allowed for a bit of a sleep in, I then had my wonderful sponsor and friend Debbie Rolmanis come and see me for some stretching and making sure that my body was in as good a shape as possible. I spent some time watching some of the other tests and felt positive about what I had to do. It’s all about the details and holding my reins!!

Don felt superb, and our warm up was the best ride we have ever had. Of course the challenge is keeping that feeling right to the end of the test! It was much better than the Team Test on Tuesday, my accuracy was much better and despite an uncharacteristic spook in the middle of one walk circle my reins were better and we went for it. However in a subjective sport it doesn’t always go your way and despite very encouraging and positive comments, one judge had us on 62% which bought our overall % down and we finished on 66% and 10th place and missing out of the final Freestyle event.

I was very disappointed at the score but not at my ride, I have improved so much since London, and while there is always more that can be done I can only be proud of that improvement, and Don of course was a super star. So our campaign came to a close a day early.

I spent Friday watching the Freestyle tests, and I knew that we could have been competitive had we made the cut! It was really good to sit and watch and learn, and admire the stunning performances that were made across all of the Para grades. The standard really has improved considerably even since London and the trick will be keeping tabs on that and keeping up!

Bella, Jess and Jen spent the afternoon at the Dressage Musical Freestyle – Jess garnering a few more photos with the dressage stars (once we pointed them out!), we had Don basically packed and ready to head home on Saturday morning and made time for a bit of last minute shopping, even though I had no room in my suitcase. After a nice dinner on Friday night it was my job to get packed, and fitting everything in my suitcase without going over 32kg was a mission! At about midnight I had made it.

Saturday morning we headed to the stables early to get Don and Bella on their way home, it turned out there was a bit of a miscommunication, we were told we were loading up at 8am, and in reality we were actually leaving at 10am so had quite a lot of time to wait, and in the end Jen, Jess and I had to leave Bella and Don as we would have missed our shuttle to Paris.

Or so we thought anyway – the shuttle arrived, and we dragged all our bags out only to discover that our gear didn’t fit and they still had someone to collect! So we changed to a later shuttle, and spent the day in my hotel room watching the Eventing cross country unfold on my laptop. We sat in disbelief as one by one combinations from all over the world were eliminated or retired. The conditions were really taking their toll and turning what was already a significant test into a slog fest. We were very happy to see Jonelle Richards finally put a score on the board for the Kiwi team before our shuttle bus arrived (only an hour & a half later than the rescheduled time of 2pm!). We bussed to Paris with the Danish team and some of the Swedish coaches, and 3 hours later we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport which looked from where I sat as the most confusing airport I have ever seen – and that was just driving in!

So much for our afternoon sightseeing in Paris – we had to settle for seeing the top half of the Eiffel Tower from the bus. We checked into the Pullman Hotel at the airport and after a very nice meal, heads hit the pillow – all very ready to be home. We had plenty of time in the morning to get to the airport – the only excitement was when I was trying to get out of the shuttle bus and the French speaking driver, who was trying to be helpful, failed miserably and he bloody near dropped me as he refused to listen to my instructions – French arrogance I suppose!!

It was nice to be on the plane although I wasn’t looking forward to 2 long flights again as I had picked up another cold . Our 13 hour stopover in Singapore went very quickly as we slept for most of it, leaving only time for a little duty free shopping (me at the M & M store for Aaron), a meal at the Hard Rock Café and then off on a marathon to the gate (probably the furtherist point of the airport from our hotel).

Sleep was not forthcoming until 45 minutes from Christchurch, and the flight was fairly smooth, only a little drama coming when an old lady was sleepwalking and collapsed in the aisle about 2 ½ hours from home. I believe she was ok fortunately! I was then stuck at the back of the immigration queue (cursing the lack of accessibility in the smart gates!) and then at the back of the quarantine queue. It took us over an hour to get out! It was very nice to see Aaron and to get home to my boys.

I would like to extend a massive thanks to my support team for WEG, Jessy, Jen, Debbie, Bella and Warrick - the best team a girl could wish for - thanks for taking care of everything and making my job so much easier :)

It really has been an incredible journey since London, and one that would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends, supporters and by wonderful team of sponsors. In particular, Bates Saddles (for where would I be without a saddle to sit in!!), CourierPost (who could quite easily have said no to my many leave requests!), Head 2 Toe Studio Massage Therapy (who keep me functioning and fix me when I get home), Debbie Rolmanis – DB Muscle Therapy (who is a key member of Team Gundog at the big shows – horse and rider massage, biomechanic advice and support and finder of white gloves at the last minute!), Kerrits Performance Equestrian Apparel (for making sure we look the part), Tasman Agriculture and Circle M Quarter Horses who keep the wheels turning. I am enormously indebted to all of you for supporting me on my journey. And a massive thank you to all who supported our campaign with donations – it has been hugely appreciated!

I also wouldn’t be at this point of my life without the support and belief from the fabulous Hayley Beresford – there should be more wines drunk at the Greenwich Tavern – this great idea turned into the most incredible life and learning journey. To meet Don and Bella, and to be part of Team HB has been simply amazing. Thank you Hayley for making me so welcome, opening the doors of your stable and letting me learn. It has been an incredible experience and one that I am enormously grateful for and will never forget. And I hope to be back!

And finally a massive thank you to Bella and her superstar Don. Without them I would still be thinking of what if. Mask can tell you how much these two have taught me, and he doesn’t know the half of it. I am hugely in debt to Bella and massively grateful to have been entrusted with her wonderful Don. He is such a lovely boy, and one that I miss dearly every time I leave Germany. I feel very privileged to have been able to ride him and proud of what we have achieved for New Zealand. It has been a massive step up from London, even if I still have much to learn and improve.

From here it’s time to rest and recover and drag Mask back in to work for the summer season. Don heads to the much deserved retirement paddock, although I am still hoping that lotto comes through and that paddock can be at my place in NZ! As for Rio and onwards? Who knows! I need to find a nice young horse to take me there first. What will be, will be.

Thanks again for all of the support – we are very proud to wear the silver fern!

And a big thank you to Libby Law Photography, Sarah Aldermann from Kampic and Diana Dobson - the Black Balloon for the lovely photos.




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1 Comment

Reply KarrenJ
3:27 PM on September 7, 2014 
Fabulous post, Anthea! You are a great writer as well as horsewoman :)