Born on the 24th September 1948, in Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear, Anne Patricia Dunham was a very successful member of the GB Equestrian Team competing at 5 Paralympics starting at Atlanta in 1996 through to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Anne was originally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 27 and has had to use a wheelchair since the age of 30. In 2011, thanks to advances in medical technology and the wide use of MRI scanners, she was correctly diagnosed with having dystonia, a neurological condition that causes uncontrollable muscle spasms and affects 70,000 people in the UK.

Early Life

Having started to ride at the age of 8, Anne joined the Horse Ranger Association, which she has described as “girl guides with horses”.

Whilst at school, Anne worked at a local stable; by the age of 16, she was running a stable of 80 horses at weekends, tending to the horses, whilst their riders competed on them

Life as a Paralympic Athlete

Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 27, and having to use a wheelchair since the age of 30, did not alter her love of horses, and at the age of 40, when her husband sold his business, they bought a farm in Wales which was later used as a riding school. Anne would use this opportunity to buy and train her own horse in order to enter the competitive scene.

Anne first represented Great Britain at the Para-Equestrian Dressage World Championships in 1994. She has since competed in a further 7 Championships, including two World Equestrian games in 2003, and 2010. From these events, she has won a combined 22 medals.

Recollections

See and hear Anne talking about Para dressage here.

After the Teams’ successes at the Rio 2016 Games, Sophie Christiansen commented –

I remember when I was 13 and started out in the sport. She was always this top rider that I thought I would never beat. I was down seven, 10 per cent below her. I thought I would never do it.

It’s thanks to Anne that I’m as good as I am now.

Having that rivalry is really healthy. The fact that she is British is even better. It means we get the one-two.

Retirement as a Paralympic Athlete

On the 10th March 2017, Anne announced her retirement, ending a 23-year career at the age of 68, saying

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. 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.

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.

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.”

Achievements and awards

Paralympic Games

Anne became the first British rider to win a Team Gold at four consecutive Games, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 in addition to one gold and 3 silver individual medals. Although she would miss out on selection for the London 2012 games, at the age of 67, Anne was the oldest British athlete to compete at the Rio 2016 Games, adding another Team gold and an individual bronze to her medal collection.

Paralympian equestrian, Anne Dunham, at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

At the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. Image ©GettyImages

Other sporting events

At the 1994 Hartpury World Dressage Championships Anne won an individual gold and team silver. She went on to compete at World Championships, European Championships, World Equestrian Games and Senior European Championships until 2015, winning a further seven team gold, five individual gold, seven individual silver and one individual bronze medals.    

Other awards and recognition

In 2003 Anne received a British Dressage Outstanding Contribution Award for her services to Paralympic dressage.

Coming off her success in Beijing 2008, in 2009, Anne was appointed a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for her contributions in disabled sport. In 2017, the year of her retirement, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Order (OBE), honouring her services to para-equestrianism.

References

  • https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/03/12/british-paralympic-equestrian-anne-dunham-retires/
  • https://web.archive.org/web/20110728082026/http://www.equestrianteamgbr.co.uk/rider.aspx?rider=Anne-Dunham
  • https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/58929/supplement/16
  • https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-years-honours-list-2017
  • https://www.radiotimes.com/news/2016-09-11/seven-time-paralympic-medallist-anne-dunham-on-her-hopes-for-rio-2016/
  • http://www.equestrianlife.com.au/articles/Anne-Dunham-From-the-birth-of-Paralympic-Equestrian-to-Rio-2016_
  • https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/tag/anne-dunham
  • https://www.paralympic.org/anne-dunham
  • http://teamgbr2015.mosweb.co.uk/team/olympic-paralympic-disciplines/para-equestrian-dressage/anne-dunham-mbe/
  • https://www.paralympic.org/news/paralympic-champion-anne-dunham-retires
  • https://www.fei.org/athlete/10027010#biography
  • https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/9782117.profiles-of-our-paralympians/
  • https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/paralympic-dressage-star-anne-dunham-retires-614671
  • http://www.activityalliance.org.uk/news/2730-paralympic-equestrian-stalwart-anne-dunham-obe-announces-retirement
  • https://www.windsorobserver.co.uk/sport/14759820.2016-paralympic-games-sophie-christiansen-tribute-to-athene-lindebjerg-and-anne-dunham/
  • https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/dressage/ride-of-my-life-anne-dunham-34701