Anthea Gunner's love of horses has taken her to places many can only dream about - both in terms of nightmares you just wish you could wake up from and dreams you hope never end.

On a rainy Wellington day in 2006, Gunner was leading her horse up a narrow track when it slipped down a bank and crushed her against a rock. The accident left her paralysed from the waist down.

Just nine weeks later, and to the amazement of her Burwood hospital staff, Gunner was back in the saddle. From there the word rehabilitation and horses were never far apart.

"That was the one thing that wasn't negotiable when I broke myself, I'm getting back on a horse," the 30-year-old said. "I don't care how I do it I'm going to do it and here we are."


Here is the Paralympics, which start in London on Thursday, and Gunner will take part in the dressage. It's not an event she saw herself specialising in when a youngster growing up in equestrian.

"I have a jumping background," she said. "I didn't really like dressage at all until it was dressage or nothing and now I've made it work and really enjoy it.

"Now it's quite addictive. You get a couple of bouncy strides into a trot and I'm like, 'I want that all the time'."

The Paralympics will be Gunner and mount Huntingdale Incognito's first big European-based competition. Competing at Greenwich Park will be significantly different to competing in front of small crowds in Christchurch but it's something Gunner feels they're ready for.

"We had a familiarisation day at our arena in the north of England," she said. "We had flags, we had umbrellas, banging, mobility scooters and people clapping, flowers, pretty much everything we could think of to get the horses used to that sort of atmosphere.

"It can be quite hard to know how he's going to react, especially to 10,000 people, because he's probably had 50 people cheering and he was fine. He really liked it, but 10,000 will be a bit different. I hope he likes it, too. I'm sure he will."