Paralympics: Kiwi dressage rider Louise Duncan overcomes pessimistic prognosis to reach Paris

Levin dressage rider Louise Duncan has been named in the New Zealand Paralympic team for Paris.  

Riding her mount Showcase BC, she will be the fourth-ever New Zealand equestrian to compete at the Paralympics. 

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Duncan, 35, with a national dressage title at Taupo and a last-minute dash to compete at Melbourne all worth it, after securing a spot on the Paralympic team. 

Louise Duncan and mount Showcase BC.
Louise Duncan and mount Showcase BC. Photo credit: Libby Law Photography

"It's incredible, it feels like a dream," she said. "It's a dream come true, it really is.

"When they rang, I just could not believe it."

That dream was nearly crushed, when she contracted meningitis and suffered several strokes, leaving her paralysed as a teenager.

"The doctors, I can remember, came into the room and said to me, 'That photo of you riding... don't look at that, you'll never do that again. You'll be lucky if you can even sit up or move your head'.

"I was determined with that. You don't tell a 17-year-old girl she cannot do something."

Duncan can still be badly affected by migraines if she sits to trot for too long. She also has back and hand issues, and can get shivers in her legs, but day to day, she has an amazing support crew.  

"She's a very determined person, and that can be in her favour and against her sometimes," said mother Frankie Webb. "As far as this goes, it's been a big advantage."

"When we went to Australia a few weeks ago to try and qualify for Paris, she was actually quite sick with sinusitis. She just battled on and rode really well, and she's recovering now, but it shows she's made of quite tough stuff." 

Duncan has been here before. She qualified for Tokyo, but the COVID-19 outbreak meant she didn't go. Chestnut gelding Showcase BC only came into her life last June and strong early results have put her on a path to Paris. 

Louise Duncan in action on Showcase BC.
Louise Duncan in action on Showcase BC. Photo credit: Libby Law Photography

"I just wanted to build a rapport with him, get to know him, work with him and we just clicked," she said. "It's just gone from strength to strength.

"He listens to me. He is a pocket rocket, and loves to show his expression and get his game face on in the ring, but he's very in tune with me and what I need.

"I feel completely 110 percent safe with him at all times." 

Come August, when she rides down the centreline to salute at Paris, Duncan hopes she and her pocket rocket will have done her country proud.