Anthea Gunner, Para Equestrian Paralympian


Blog - Journey to London

Highs, lows & big decisions

Posted by Anthea Gunner on February 27, 2015 at 3:40 AM

Happy New Year to you all, although it’s February already!

My year finished with a small local competition, Brian’s debut and Mask’s first time out since March 2014! Brian was a very good boy, perfectly behaved and even got a ribbon.

Mask was a complete turd, either not wanting to share the limelight with Brian, or still scared of the bogeyman in the hedge next to the arena, which was a real shame as when he did behave he was very good! I think he can go out on his own next time.

I had a lovely relaxing break at Christmas, pottering about in the garden and riding the horses, I think the longest break I have had that was not for a Horse Show since I was at school. I was certainly refreshed! I also enjoyed 2 weddings, that of my sister high in the mountains behind Kaikoura, and my good friend Camille in sunny Nelson.

Late January bought some challenges, and the South Island Festival of Dressage where we were running Para Equestrian classes alongside the Dressage event. It’s always great to be included in these competitions, as they provide a good atmosphere for the horses that you don’t get at the smaller local shows.

We had my coach from Australia Mary Longden visit at this time, so Brian drew the short straw for 2 lessons and impressed Mary with his laid back nature and potential for the future. I was really pleased with him, he stayed away at a friends place and was as good as gold.

I had both Brian & Mask entered in the show, and both had been progressing well until things went a little pearshaped, not least Brian I think trying to rub his plaits out on the front fence where he managed to break a wire and it ended up whipping round his legs. Fortunately nothing major but very disappointing and instead of going to the show he got to see the vet and had 3 needles stuck in him. He is fine now and sound but if anyone needs a kidney, I have one for sale to help pay the vet bill!

Mask competed at the show and was very good after a pretty disrupted build up to finish 2nd place in both of his tests, he especially enjoyed doing his musical freestyle in the main arena complete with flower pots and in front of all the trade marquees! He does love an occasion that one.


It was a positive end to a trying week, and I am now training hard and looking forward to our next competition, the Dressage & Para Equestrian National Championships in Feilding at the start of March.

The same week I received the exciting news that I have been named a finalist in the Sportsperson with a Disability category at the upcoming Marriots Hadlee Canterbury Sports Awards. Unfortunately I will be in Feilding so am unable to attend, but fingers will be crossed!

It was around this time that I started thinking more seriously about what I want to achieve as an athlete over the coming years, and what I needed to do to be able to make these aspirations happen. The biggest thing is horsepower for me, with more and more the top international combinations riding professionally trained horses that our top able bodied dressage riders would give their eye teeth for.

After London I made the call that Mask would not do any more international competitions, because he just physically wasn’t the type of horse I need to be on the podium. When it costs that much money to compete at the top level, you want to aim to do it properly! We have continued on at home, and with my experiences with Don really pushing my boundaries I feel that I am ready to progress onto a more purpose bred dressage horse.

Brian may or may not be that horse, but I know that Mask isn’t, and as much as it breaks my heart, I have made the decision to find him a new home, where he can have fun and lots more variety. He has by far exceeded all of my expectations of him and deserves to enjoy himself for the future.

Nationals will most likely be our last major event together so I’ll be working hard to ensure that we go out with a bang and on a high.

Till next time…



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