An update from Marie from the Hartpury international festival of dressage July 2018: Yes I beat Sophie Christensen who has represented GB at the Paralympics and is a triple gold medallist. I also won the freestyle on the last day. It was an amazing week. It’s an amazing feeling that all mine and my teams hard work has paid off. Mari Report Below: International Champion I have always dreamed of winning an international and always imagined what it would be like hearing the national anthem play. Well thanks to my amazing horse, mine and my teams hard work my dream has become a reality! The last few days have been incredible and I have enjoyed every minute. Day 1 Vet Check, Arena Familiarisation and Trot Up Day 2 Team Test We were all really pleased with my team test and were a bit disappointed when the score came out at just under 70% and I finished 3rd. Unfortunately one judge pulled me right down that’s dressage for you. But I finished in the top 3 who were all very close. I wanted to come out of all of my tests saying that we had done our best and I came out of my Team Test saying that. Day 3 Individual Test I came out of my Individual test smiling and we were so delighted when my score came up and it was over 71%. It was a fantastic test and the score showed that. It was a waiting game as my score was the highest on the board but there was still one more score to go, so we had all our fingers and toes crossed. After what felt like hours rather than minutes it was confirmed I had won, the score to go up had gone into 4th place. My feelings/words straight after finding out I had won: “Lost for words. Over the moon. We only went and won the Individual Test with over 71%!! It's a dream come true. I cannot thank my whole team enough and my super-duper horse Sky who I love so much and am so proud off! Our first ever international win” Day 4 Freestyle Test It felt strange going into a test as an international champion but also a pretty good feeling. Sky felt amazing whilst he was walking around the outside of the arena before the bell went. He loves his music and always rises to the occasion and dances. We were spot on with our music and then we went down the centre line for the last time and I’m not sure what happened but we finished a tiny bit early. I was kicking myself as wanted to be spot on - last year I was late and this year I was early, so maybe next year I will be spot on! I was still really pleased with our performance. Due to the live stream my sister messaged me to say did you get 73+%? We had a look at the online score board and yes I had got over 73% but “oh my word everyone else had 70% so it meant I had won again! “I couldn’t believe it another win!” This week couldn’t get any better, am so proud of Sky and my team. Hearing the National Anthem play was fantastic and brought tears to my eyes! Hearing the words Mari Durward-Akhurst and Sky O’Hara first was also pretty special. I am now the top Grade 1 in GB which is an amazing feeling and one that I can hopefully hold onto. Waking up as an International Champion the morning after was a wonderful feeling! Realising that all mine and my teams hard work has paid off and we have done it. It really is a dream come true and we are all on cloud 9 and will be for some time!! I cannot thank everyone enough who has supported me and continues to; so that I can continue to live my dream. Dealing with a recent deterioration in my condition and trying to focus on competing at an International wasn’t an easy task! But I managed to do that; all I can do is stay positive and focus on my riding and staying in the saddle!