8 May 2024

New combination ride into New Zealand Paralympic team

1:20 pm on 8 May 2024
Louise Duncan rides Showcase BC.

Louise Duncan rides Showcase BC. Photo: Libby Law

A critical decision to cross the Tasman to chase all-important qualifying scores for Paralympic Games selection has paid off for Para equestrian rider Louise Duncan.

Duncan and her mount 15-year-old Showcase BC were selected to the New Zealand Paralympic team on Wednesday for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, after finishing third in each of their three classes against Australia's top Para equestrian riders last month.

"It's so surreal," said the Grade IV 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."

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) chief executive Greg Warnecke congratulated Duncan.

"She has developed hugely as an athlete over the past year in the Para Sport Collective… it really shows in her performances. And 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."

Duncan had meningitis as a teen, which led to a series of strokes, leaving her with temporary paralysis from the neck down.

As a result, she gets aura migraines if she sits to the trot for too long. All four of her limbs are reduced in function, and as her trunk is impaired, her balance and coordination are also affected.

"My dexterity is not good and I get shivers in my legs sometimes when I am riding, which leads to a loss of power."

The Levin local tried to make it to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, but Covid-19 and other obstacles put a halt to that.

She is still relatively new to Para sport, only being classified in 2017. When PNZ first approached her about coming on board, Duncan said she simply was not 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."

Duncan's mother Frankie Webb bought Showcase BC as a surprise last year after they decided previous mount 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 percent. He is very athletic, has wonderful paces and is one of the most sensitive horses I have ridden."

Duncan and Showcase had instant success together, winning the Dressage Central Districts Championship Show at their first outing.

They were reserve at Waikato and Northern Hawke's Bay, and won the Horse of the Year Grade IV.

A win at the National Championships gave Duncan the encouragement she needed to hunt down Paris 2024 selection.

Duncan joins five Para athletes and Paralympians already named to the NZ Paralympic Team in the sports of Para athletics and Para table tennis.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.