Canterbury Paralympian Anthea Dixon (née Gunner) is to represent New Zealand at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France next month.
The 32-year-old will be the country’s first para dressage rider at a World Games, and will compete in Grade II with the Australian owned Doncartier.
Since the London Paralympics, where she finished 22nd with Huntingdale Incognito, Dixon has been commuting between New Zealand and Germany to train with Hayley Beresford, practice and compete on Doncartier, who is owned by Bella Robson.
“It is a relief to be finally named,” Dixon says. “Since London it has been a big commitment to get to WEG, but it is the opportunity of a lifetime to have a chance to do so with such a classy horse and professional trainer.”
Dixon says without the support of her husband Aaron, her family, and employer CourierPost, she would not be able to do it.
“I am just thrilled for Bella and Hayley. Just to make the team makes it all worthwhile, but then there has been the enormous improvement in my riding and understanding since London.”
Dixon, a paraplegic after a horse accident in 2006, has won numerous national awards in para dressage, and has previously also competed in Australia for New Zealand.
She expects her main competition in France will come from the British, German and Dutch riders, but she has been competing against many of these riders in recent months.
“We have been tapping them on the shoulder,” she says. “It is a big step up, but it is possible. Don is definitely more than capable of it, but everything has to go right on the day.”
A personal best score at WEG would see her in the top five.
“That would be awesome … but higher than that would be even better!”
Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris calls Dixon, who is ranked 13th in the para dressage world rider rankings and third in grade two, a “talented rider for the future of the sport”.
“Anthea’s dedication to achieve success internationally has been rewarded,” said Harris.
Following London, a detailed programme was put in place to ensure Dixon would be best-placed for a strong performance at WEG.
It is just the second time para-dressage has been included at WEG.