It is the end of an era for British para-equestrian sport, with the retirement of 19-time gold medalist Anne Dunham.
With a career spanning more than 23 years, Dunham first represented Great Britain at the Para-Equestrian Dressage World Championships in 1994, and has since gone on to amass a staggering 32 championship medals for her country.
“This has been a hard decision, but I know it is right because I don’t want to start with a new horse and then have to part with him; Tokyo is four years away and I’ll be in my 70’s then and it’s time to give others a chance,” Dunham said.
“I’ve loved it all, it’s been exciting, I’ve met some wonderful people and have travelled the world; I’ve done things I would never imagined I would have done. Horses and dressage has given me a varied and happy life.”
Across five Paralympic Games the 68-year-old has won 10 medals, and with LJT Lucas Normark, owned by the Lady Joseph Trust and Henrietta Cheetham, helped ParalympicsGB defend their team title at last year’s Paralympic Games. As well as contributing to the team result, Dunham also brought home two individual silver medals, and in the process, helped the equestrian team to its most successful Games to date.
“I must thank Pammy Hutton from Talland, who has been with me on this rollercoaster of a ride, supported me, helped me with owners and horses, trained me and become a great friend. My daughter Amber, who has groomed for me since 2000, travelled the world with me and given up her time to support me – I wouldn’t have had the success I have achieved if we hadn’t been on this journey together, and for the last few years, my sister Gill, who has travelled with us and has helped generally keeping me in order,” Dunham said.
Whilst at school Dunham worked at a local stable in her spare time and, by the age of 16, she was running a yard of 80 horses at weekends. She has said that she “always wanted to compete” but whilst she was able to ride the horses in the stables their owners competed with them.
Dunham was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 27 and has used a wheelchair since the age of 30. At the age of 40, when her husband sold his business, she bought a horse and began to compete.
In the 2009 New Year Honours, Dunham was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to disabled sport. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to para-equestrianism.
British Dressage’s Chief Executive, Jason Brautigam said Dunham was the flag bearer for the sport ever since dressage was first introduced at the Paralympics in 1996. “From Atlanta to Rio, Anne has played an enormous part in ensuring that Great Britain has remained undefeated in the team competition, as well as her fantastic individual medal success.”
Dunham has been a member of the equestrian UK Sport National Lottery-funded World Class Programme since its inception.
“World Class and the Lottery have made it all possible for me, as they have for so many other athletes, and have helped to take us to the height we are at now. Thank you to all the Lottery players who have made this all possible,” Dunham said.