With no funding available in New Zealand for the country’s para-equestrian competitors, Anthea Dixon has decided to sit out the 2016 Paralympic season, and has no international events on her current competition schedule. Her major recent goal was to compete at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, where she finished seventh in the Grade II – team test event while riding Doncartier. In the Grade II individual test, she finished tenth. This campaign was self funded through sponsorship, and donations from family, friends and supporters. In addition, she extended the mortgage to make it possible to compete. In New Zealand, she has to work full time to support her riding. It can make getting time to train difficult.
Dixon has still been actively competing domestically, where she has been ridingHuntingdale Incognito. The horse is currently for sale though and Dixon has said she is sad to part with him. She is seeking a “more purpose bred dressage horse to be able to work toward future international campaigns.”
The experience in Normandy and additional time spent training in Germany with horse Doncartier under the guidance of Australian Olympic equestrian Hayley Beresford gave Dixon a lot of confidence where she felt like her riding had really improved. This experience has impacted her decision to seek a new horse, who could help her in the long-term to compete internationally.
Dixon has spent a fair bit of time recently working with Twilight, but the horse is still relatively green. According to Dixon, “Brian may or may not make international level, he is a lovely boy and has lots of potential but is very green when it comes to dressage so definitely not ready for a Rio campaign. We are starting with small local shows as there is a long way to go before he goes to any big national shows, let alone overseas. I am however really enjoying having a new project and starting the whole training journey again.”
In New Zealand, there are currently around 75 classified para-equestrians, with around 20 who are actively competing. According to Dixon, most they are “mostly in dressage, and a couple jumping and eventing. Dressage is the only “para” sport that we run at the moment. We have probably 2-4 that are knocking on the door of taking the step to international competitions.” New Zealand para-equestrian does not get together for national squad type training, which is mostly a result of the lack of funding on the para-equestrian side of the sport. Inside the sport, there is a desire among riders and administrators for this to change; people are actively working to find funding to make that possible. The lack funding issue though is an issue, because while the standards get higher in Europe, the inability to send competitors to international events means New Zealand does not get to take innovations in the sport.
New Zealand’s National Sport Organizations funding currently prioritize cycling, rowing and yachting on the tier 1 level. On the tier 2 level, athletics, men’s rugby sevens, women’s rugby sevens, netball, and equestrian eventing are tier 2. Canoe, triathlon and women’s field hockey are tier 3. Other targeted organizations are snow sports, and Paralympics. They have allocated funding to some national sport organizations for specific campaigns, including swimming, women’s soccer, men’s field hockey, cricket, rugby league, bowls, squash, men’s softball, surf life saving, canoe slalom, boxing, basketball, judo, Olympic weightlifting, gym sports, and University Games. A similar list of sports was eligible for funding through New Zealand’s Performance Enhancement Grant. Para-equestrian is not part of this framework. A number of New Zealand Paralympians have gotten Prime Minister’s Athlete Scholarships in 2015, but none came from para-Equestrian. Recipients have come from para-sports like cycling, swimming, athletics, shooting, and wheelchair rugby.