• Phil Packer

Great Britain Para Dressage rider, Erin Orford, supports the BRIT Ambassador family

We are delighted that Erin is part of our BRIT Ambassador family to support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK.

Erin is a World Silver medallist, Double European medallist and a leading International Para Dressage Rider for Team GBR. A member of the World Class Podium Squad, Erin has competed both nationally and internationally for over 10 years.

Erin Orford - Great Britain Para Dressage rider (Photo credited to Kevin Sparrow)

“Having lived with a disability and been part of high-performance sport for a number of years, I know how challenging life and sport can be for so many young adults and the pressure we put ourselves under. Social media can play a part in this as it can give a filtered view on real life, which we are then tempted to compare our own to. Mental health is an important issue for everyone to be aware of, understand and feel confident talking about and COVID-19 has amplified the existing mental health challenges faced by many young people and students. Their wellbeing needs to be looked after now, in order to avoid long-term effects on their mental health.

Support from charities is vital to help improve young adult mental health. I applaud the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) for their collaborative approach and am thrilled that every university and college team taking part in the BRIT Challenge are invited to choose a second charity to raise funds for, alongside BRIT, to support local, regional and national charities.

The annual BRIT Challenge is an inspiring and inclusive opportunity for students and young adults throughout the UK to unite wherever they are (at home or on campus) and take part in a feel-good February fundraising challenge. The BRIT Challenge has been designed to be inclusive and is enabling young adults and students of all abilities to take part in an inclusive activity to improve mental health and fitness with many ways to take part; by hand-cycling, cycling, wheelchair pushing, swimming, walking, jogging, running, rowing or paddling (canoeing, kayaking or paddle-boarding).

I am delighted to be part of the BRIT Ambassador family and urge fellow Paralympians, Olympians and athletes to join me so that together, we can inspire universities and colleges throughout the UK to embrace the BRIT Challenge, destigmatise mental health and champion equality, diversity and inclusion. I look forward to encouraging and supporting students and staff at the University of Birmingham as they take on the BRIT Challenge”.

Erin Orford

Great Britain Para Dressage rider

Erin Orford - Great Britain Para Dressage rider (Photo credited to Ruth Ellen Photography)

When Erin was born the bones in her lower legs hadn't formed properly and she was missing the radius in both her arms, meaning she has shorter lower arms and only four fingers on each hand. Due to the missing bones in her legs, she would never be able to walk and that she would either be wheelchair bound or they could opt to have both of her legs amputated. At the age of one she had the operation and learned to walk in prosthetic legs.

Erin started riding aged two at Bank Farm RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association). She’d always attended a mainstream school, tried every sport she could but everything changed in 2004 when she went out to Athens to watch the Paralympics.

In 2006, strong National and International results led to being selected onto the Team GBR World Class Podium Squad, which she remained on for almost 10 years before being promoted onto the Podium Squad. Between 2007 and 2011, Erin combined her Dressage career with completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management at the University of Birmingham.

After several years of coming close and being selected as first reserve for the team, Erin’s dream of bringing home an individual medal was realised in 2017 at the FEI European Championships in Sweden where she finally made her Championship debut and returned home with Team Gold and Individual Bronze medals. In 2018 a successful season led to her selection for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, USA, where Team GBR won Team Silver.

In September 2021, Erin represented Great Britain at the British Dressage National Championships and in October 2021, competed at the Keysoe International where she completed a hattrick of first places on Loki.

Erin now has her sights set on qualifying to represent Great Britain at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

Erin is a qualified UKCC Level 2 Dressage coach and alongside her riding and coaching commitments, Erin is an Athlete Mentor for the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and since 2012, has been a Motivational Speaker with Legacy Activation. She visiting schools and organisations to talking to them about her experiences; inspiring people to achieve and enlightening them to the requirements of a top athlete.

Since 2015, Erin has been a Programmes and Social Media Assistant at the COINS Foundation. The Foundation supports a wide range of social initiatives. They influence people to think differently about poverty, disability and injustice. They also look to influence others to start social enterprises and to commit equity from the outset into foundations and charities. At the heart of COINS Foundation is a desire to see real and positive change in individual lives, communities and business.

For more information about Erin, please visit her website.

For more information on Para Dressage, please visit the British Dressage website.

You can follow Erin on Twitter and Instagram.