Levin rider Louise Duncan is close to fulfilling a dream meeting qualification criteria to represent New Zealand in dressage at the Tokyo Paralympics 2020.
The 31-year-old and her horse Wolkenstein BC left for Brisbane this week to contest a qualifying CPEDI event, and must post a third international score of at least 72 per cent to be in contention for Paralympic selection.
Duncan had to overcome hurdles of her own in her quest for selection, including the heartache of losing top horse Don Ivanno to a freak injury.
The pair won the New Zealand Horse of the Year title last year and were setting a course for Tokyo, only to have their hopes dashed when Don Ivanno sustained a paddock injury and had to be euthanised.
All hopes then rested with her other horse, Wolkenstein BC, although her mother Franke Webb came to the rescue by lending her daughter her horse.
"Spirit [Wolkenstein BC] had finished reserve behind Don Ivanno. He wasn't too far off the pace," Duncan said.
"I felt vulnerable only having one horse. My mum came to the rescue and gave me the ride on her advanced horse Northern Ivanthus [Jed]."
Duncan had a stellar season on both horses, taking out the New Zealand National Grade IV Para dressage title on Spirit, and retaining the New Zealand Horse of the Year title, this time riding Jed, with Spirit again the bridesmaid.
"I was over the moon when they both achieved the required international scores from Australian and German judges," she said.
A third score now required a trip across the Tasman, as no CPEDI events were scheduled for New Zealand before Paralympic qualification closed.
Travelling a horse aboard was a costly exercise. Finances dictated that only one horse could make the trip, and as Jed had achieved the highest score, the decision was made that he would go to Brisbane.
But fate dealt another cruel blow. In March, the horse was rushed to Massey Equine Hospital requiring life-saving surgery. He is recovering well, but has not yet resumed work. That meant Duncan had to put all her faith in Spirit.
"I had faith in Spirit, I knew he could step up to the mark," she said.
"His work just keeps improving ... it really was a no brainer. I had to get the score on him or wait another five years until the Paris Olympics."
Duncan is aware that even if she qualifies for selection, New Zealand may not be given a start in Tokyo, but she was doing her best to make sure that she had met all qualification criteria.
She was philosophical about possibly qualifying, but not getting to Tokyo.
"I would feel proud to know I had met the criteria," she said.
"I am incredibly humbled by the support I have received from so many people in so many ways, I will do my absolute best to not let them down."