Tales from Gothenburg: ‘Because I can’t use my legs I need a fiery horse’

  • Erin Orford was just one when she had both her legs amputated, but this week she claimed an individual bronze medal in Gothenburg during her debut appearance at a European Para Dressage Championships.

    In addition, Erin has shortened lower arms and just four fingers on each hand, however, it has never stopped the British para dressage team member doing what she loves most.

    The 28-year-old finished with a podium spot following yesterday’s grade III championships (Monday, 21 August) riding Annabel Whittet’s 14-year-old Dimaggio mare Dior (Pimms).

    Unusually for a bilateral amputee, Erin rides with prosthetic legs during competitions.

    “I have no control over the lower part of my body, but riding with prosthetic legs is something I have always done and it would be a big change for me if I didn’t — it is just what I am used to,” says Erin.

    “Most bilateral amputees don’t ride with them because they are heavy and the weight of them can throw you off balance.”

    Erin works hard on her own fitness each week to help her maintain strength in the saddle.

    “I have particularly worked on my core strength and I do strength and conditioning sessions each week.”

    Continued below…

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    Erin’s only found out she was due to ride for the British team one week before the championships in Gothenburg kicked off.

    “I have been going through all the emotions this week, it has been a real whirlwind and I don’t think it has quite sunk in,” adds Erin, who is based with her trainer Stephen Moore and was non-travelling reserve for the Rio Olympics last year.

    “I found out I was reserve three weeks ago and then when Natasha Adkinson had to withdraw, I found out I was riding on the team last Monday.

    “I’m thrilled with how Pimms is going, she’s getting better and better — this is by far the biggest thing she’s ever done, but she seems to love these occasions.”

    Erin describes her Dimaggio-sired ride as “a hot horse and very sensitive”.

    “Pimms is just the type of horse I need, because I can’t use my legs I need a horse that is a bit fiery — but it’s all about finding the right balance. She’s grown in confidence so much this year and she’s really come into her own.”

    Erin starting riding as a child at her local Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) centre, but it was while watching the 2004 Athens Olympics that she was inspired to have a go at para dressage and she went on to juggle riding with university successfully.

    Her partnership with Pimms has blossomed since she started riding the mare in 2015.

    “She was competing at elementary with her owner Annabel and I was told she’d be a suitable para horse, so I followed her closely and fortunately, a few months later, I was offered her on loan.”

    Don’t miss the full report from the dressage, para dressage and showjumping action from this week’s European Championships in Horse & Hound — including analysis, expert comments, pictures and more — on sale Thursday, 31 August.

    Plus, keep up to date with all the latest news from the championships via horseandhound.co.uk and the H&H Facebook page.

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