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Para-dressage star Erin Orford sees out the year with some strong performances and a tumble on foot – and looks ahead to her goal of Paralympic selection… 

“Happy New Year everyone – 2016 has officially arrived!

Last year finished with a new International show for us at Bury Farm, a convenient 20 minutes away from where I am based. I was looking forward to taking Pimms out again, following her performance at the Nationals the month before, and she was definitely excited to be back out again!

Feeling fresh, she put in three strong performances to win the Team and the Freestyle classes, and despite coming second in the Individual by the smallest of margins to Dutch rider Demi, we won the overall Grade 2 title. She gave me such a fantastic feeling and has grown so much both in strength and confidence over the year so I really couldn’t be more proud of her. It’s always a good opportunity to catch up with the other riders too and a particular conversation about the benefits of Derriere Equestrian underwear in the local pub over dinner ensured our arrival was acknowledged!

As a result of our performances, we finished the year ranked 26th in the World (across all grades) and 6th highest Brit behind the five European team members, so it was a great way to end the season. Sadly my improved core stability didn’t quite extend to outside the arena as I spectacularly stacked it on my way to the prizegiving, getting stuck on my back in the mud like a beetle, wearing full competition attire – RIP white breeches, you were always my favourite.

December saw our last Team GBR Squad session of 2015 and the emphasis for me was on ‘marginal gains.’ Over the years S&C (strength and conditioning) has had a huge impact on my core and position and it’s always good to keep monitoring any changes or any areas that could be improved. We looked at some position analysis during the walk pirouette and noticed a slight asymmetry, so new exercises have been devised in the gym, all of which leave me with the shakes, which I’m told is a good sign!

That evening we had a mock press conference, where questions ranged from standard ones about the squad and why you ride, to the allocation of lottery funding. A great practise exercise, I spent the 10 minutes before helping one of the younger riders rehearse her answers, and so was totally unprepared for the question “Why should you receive funding over the NHS” to be directed straight to me!

So after the festivities of Christmas and New Year (yes, I did train on Christmas Day but I expect I was just on autopilot) all talk is on Rio. I remember four years ago, being shortlisted for London 2012, where I was lucky enough to have behind the scenes access to the Athlete’s village and other venues, a scheme to try and prepare future Paralympians. An amazing experience, I couldn’t help but wish that I was competing alongside my friends and competitors and I’ve been working hard ever since to try to ensure that this time I’m there to compete too.

So this is it, my competition plan for the year is complete, training has commenced and I will be doing everything in my power to try and make the necessary improvement that will help me to gain selection. A HUGE thank you to my sponsors and support team and everyone following my journey – 2016 has arrived…whether I’m ready for it or not!”

Erin

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