Gunner's love of horses leads to London

Last updated 13:49 28/08/2012
Anthea Gunner
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TOP TEAM: Paralympic dressage rider Anthea Gunner and her horse Mask.

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In an ironic twist, Kiwi Paralympic dressage rider Anthea Gunner's love of horses has taken the 30-year-old to places many can only dream about - Both in terms of nightmares you just wish you could wake up from and dreams you hope never end.

On a rainy Wellington day in 2006, Gunner was leading her horse up a narrow track before he slipped down a bank and crushed her against a rock.

The freak accident rendered her paralysed from the waist down.

Then, just nine weeks on and to the amazement of her Burwood hospital staff, Gunner was back in the saddle.

From there the word rehabilitation and horses were never far apart.

"That was the one thing that wasn't negotiable when I broke myself, I'm getting back on a horse. I don't care how I do it I'm going to do it and here we are," says Gunner.

And while her love of horses never diminished, Gunner's dislike for dressage was quickly forgotten.

Like most young girls into equestrian, the rather subdued nature of dressage is no match for the excitement which cross country and show jumping possess.

"I have a jumping background, I didn't really like dressage at all until it was dressage or nothing and now I've made it work and really enjoy it," Gunner joked thinking back to those early days of rehab.

"Now it's quite addictive, you get a couple of bouncy strides into a trot and I'm like, I want that all the time.''

From hospital to rehab and now to the Paralympics, a horse is once again having a massive impact on the girl from Kaiapoi, just north of Christchurch.

A horse is the key to Gunner being given the chance to compete at the top echelon of her chosen sport.

This will be Gunner and mount Huntingdale Incognito's first big European-based competition, so gaining as much from the experience as they can is the key for the combo.

The change from crowds that struggle to reach double figures back in Christchurch to a bulging 10,000 fans at Greenwich Park will be the first thing for them to contend with, but it's something Gunner feels they're ready for.

"We did have a familiarisation day at our arena in the North of England, we had flags, we had umbrellas, banging, mobility scooters and people clapping, flowers, pretty much everything we could think of to get the horses used to that sort of atmosphere.

''It can be quite hard to know how he's going to react, especially to ten thousand people, because he's probably had fifty people cheering and he was fine, he really liked it, but ten thousand will be a bit different. I hope he likes it too. I'm sure he will."

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