Anthea Gunner, Para Equestrian Paralympian


Blog - Journey to London


Posted by Anthea Gunner on January 11, 2016 at 3:55 AM

Today (11th January 2016) marks 10 years since my spinal injury – a decade that has bought so many memories both good and not so much. I thought I’d reflect on how far I’ve come, and some of the character building moments!

I don’t remember a lot about the accident, other than the long wait and the extremely painful journey down the hill on the hard board with the ambulance crew. I remember wondering if Frankie was ok, never really thinking about myself and my new found predicament.

I remember my Auntie Yvonne picking the grass out of my hair in the hospital, and me telling the doctors to ring work as I wouldn’t be in that day and they would worry. I remember the overwhelming smell of human poo in the ward room at Christchurch Hospital but didn’t have the presence of mind to know if it was mine or someone else’s!

I remember being grateful to have my own room after that, and for all the masses of flowers that arrived from friends and family. I remember the boxes of books and chocolates that arrived from my workmates at CourierPost, and the scratchie tickets that family bought me to help pass the time. I remember the morphine drip and waking Aaron up during the night because he was snoring too loud.

I remember the frustration of having to dress myself for the first time – who would have thought that it would take 30 minutes to put your bloody pants on! I remember having to learn (quickly) how to swallow pills down and training the physios and Aaron to run for a bucket when I said that I felt sick.

I remember being proud when I could finally pull a wheelie in my chair the length of the gym, and working on my balance in my saddle during my gym sessions so that I would be ready to ride again at the earliest opportunity. And the bribery from Aaron to help me achieve the key milestones in the gym.

I remember that first ride back on the gorgeous Barney at RDA. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to balance, or stay upright. When Effie made me put my hands on my head I think I nearly cried. You would have missed it if you had blinked. But I did it, and it reignited the fire to get back on the horse again. Then there was riding Frankie again, and he treated me like spun glass – so pleased to see his mother again after having such a terrifying experience.

I remember moving home to Wellington, and having to figure out how to reach into the washing machine to get the washing out, and figuring out cooking without setting myself on fire with the gas hobs. There was driving and getting back to work. The support I received from my workmates was incredible, and made that part so much easier and gave me new experiences like orienteering in the forest at Rotorua (with a team of burly blokes to chauffeur me) and the gondola ride!

I went sit skiing and rafting but still wasn’t as brave as some; I did the Catwalk Conquest Tour – my first foray into motorbiking that wasn’t feeding out on the quad! I relearnt to ride and retrained Frankie to accept my new aids with the help of good friends. And then here was Mask.

The horse of anyone’s dreams and he certainly made mine a reality. He was not always easy but he taught me a huge amount especially how to sit to a spook! I am still so proud of what we achieved together, taking on the world in London – the only rider in my grade who didn’t have a coach or other rider warm their horse in before their tests – at home I had to do it myself so why change the routine? I remember how brave he was in the training arena with 10 horses in a single arena and how he strutted around like he belonged there.

I remember being a blubbering mess at the Greenwich Tavern afterwards, trying and failing to thank my support team who kept everything together and made it all happen. I remember Aaron running over a lady’s foot with my chair as we tried to get on the Tube amongst the throngs of commuters and having McDonalds in the Paralympic Village.

I remember my first trip to Germany – 30 hours on the plane, having to drive on the wrong side of the road, hoping that I’d be able to ride Don well! What if I bounced straight off??!! But it went so well and then I tackled the across the world trip by myself. The memories of having the flight attendant guard the toilet door as it wouldn’t shut with the aisle chair in it, having to fumble my way through ordering food and finding my way around with only the most basic understanding of German. Feeling embarrassed when I tried order my breakfast in German and they couldn’t understand me!

Staying in hotels where I couldn’t fit into the ensuite, or use the shower, or park my chair next to the bed. Navigating the trains, autobahn and 5 lanes of ring road at Antwerp. Building a real partnership with Don and cementing my role as chief bandage roller and bridle cleaner at Team HB. Competing with best in the world on their home soil and not feeling like a fish out of water. And riding down the centre line at WEG with the NZ flag on my jacket again.

I remember marrying my childhood sweetheart (finally!), building our home and creating our property from scratch. It’s so rewarding seeing how far we have progressed from a bare paddock to what we have now. I remember Diesel running around the lawn with a towel from the washing line in his mouth and me yelling at Aaron about his bloody dog! Then Rufus who pulled the same rose out of the garden 6 times! No it didn’t survive.

Now I’m enjoying a new journey with Brian, who has taught me that patience and perseverance will pay off. Bit by bit. And I’m grateful for the independence I have gained, skills I have learnt, the people who have mentored me, those who have supported me in my achievements and I can only hope that I can pay you back somehow, someday.

I read an article the other day about 15 things you should never say to someone in a wheelchair, sometimes things can be sensitive and you might not want to share them. But I have learnt to roll with the punches, don’t be offended, be positive, a role model, have fun, and if you get frustrated swear like a sailor.

Life’s too short to dwell on the small stuff. Here’s to another bumper 10 years.







Categories: None

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In


Reply KarrenJ
2:09 AM on January 12, 2016 
Fantastic post, Anthea! You've achieved such a lot in the last 10 years! Hugs, KJ
Reply Rosie reynolds
1:37 AM on January 12, 2017 
I remember that day 10 years ago like it was yesterday. So proud of you. You are one kick arse lady