A last minute decision to cross the Tasman to chase all important qualifying scores for Paralympic Games selection has paid off for Levin hairdresser Louise Duncan. Louise and 15-year-old Showcase BC may be a relatively new combination, but they got the tick of approval today for the Games.

“It’s so surreal,” said the Grade IV para-dressage rider. “I am absolutely over the moon. I was so proud of what we achieved in Australia. It was our first offshore competition and Showcase was a superstar despite our few glitches.” They had hoped to podium, and they did – finishing third in each of their three classes against Australia’s top Paralympian riders.

“It has always been a dream to get to the Paralympic Games.” Louise tried to make Tokyo but COVID and other obstacles put a halt to that, and she’s still relatively new to para sport, only being classified in 2017. When Para New Zealand first approached her about coming on board, Louise says she simply wasn’t in the right head space.

“It took a good 10 years for me to accept that things were going to be different to before, so I was late into the sport. I was just so pleased to be able to enjoy my pony and have compensating aids to help me make my riding fun and enjoyable again without pain and the frustration of losing my stirrups.”

She was delighted when her mother Frankie Webb bought Showcase BC as a surprise last year after they decided Wolkenstein BC deserved a quieter life at 21. Showcase was a horse she had admired as a youngster and is a half-brother to her now-retired star Wolkenstein BC. “Showcase is a little pocket rocket who always tries to please you 101%. He is very athletic, has wonderful paces and is one of the most sensitive horses I have ridden.”

They may be new together, but they’ve done well, winning the Central Districts Para Championship at their first outing, were reserve at Waikato and Northern Hawke’s Bay, and won the well supported Land Rover Horse of the Year Grade IV. A win at the National Championships gave Louise the encouragement she needed to hunt down that Paris berth.

It’s very much a family affair for Duncan who has huge support from her parents Frankie and Lloyd Webb, her husband Justin and grandfather Ivan Johnston. “They are everything to me – I really couldn’t do any of this without them.” She also is hugely appreciative of coach Andrea Raves and Showcase’s breeder Chris Beach from Beachcroft Equestrian.

Louise Duncan with Showcase BC. File Photo. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

Louise had meningitis as a teen and can be badly affected by migraines if she sits to the trot for too long. She also has back pain from the lumber puncture fusing. “My dexterity is not good and I get shivers in my legs sometimes when I am riding which leads to a loss of power.” She struggles to hold the reins sometimes and can have mini strokes which can lead to temporary paralysis.

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) chief executive Greg Warnecke extended his congratulations to Louise. “Louise has developed hugely as an athlete over the past year in the Para Sport Collective, a PNZ development initiative for pre high performance para athletes and coaches,” said Greg. “It really shows in her performances. What a treat for Kiwis who will now get to cheer on Louise and Showcase BC in the stunning grounds of the Palace of Versailles. We are thrilled to have them both with us as members of the NZ Paralympic Team.”

Louise joins five other para athletes already named for the New Zealand Paris Paralympic team. She follows in the footsteps of New Zealand’s pioneering para equestrian Jayne Craike (#90), who competed at Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000) where she won gold and silver medals, and Athens (2004) and Anthea Gunner and Rachel Stock who competed in London (2012)

Equestrian Sports New Zealand chief executive Julian Bowden said the organisation was both proud and excited to have Louise named for Paris. “We know how hard she has worked and it will be fantastic to see the silver fern back in para dressage for the first time since London 2012,” he said.

By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ