CSRC Trustee, Victoria Everall, pays tribute to Lynn Lawford, who played a massive part of the Centre's journey over the last 40 years.
Very sadly we said goodbye to Lynn on 18 December 2022, aged 72. I would like to combine some of the words shared with me over the first few months of 2023 in this special tribute to Lynn. I am writing this as a trustee of Clwyd Special Riding Centre and as a family friend. I am combining my thoughts with words written by her husband and children (Kyran, Nick and Liam), some of the organisations that she was involved with (RDA UK, FEI Para Dressage, British Dressage), the Horse and Hound, and from her close friends and colleagues (Cecilia Kwok-Rosser, Judy Leigh, Kerri Sowers).
Words used to describe Lynn include “instrumental, caring, kind, supportive, unfailing passion, role model, encouraging, enthusiastic, selfless”.
After she finished school, Lynn studied Remedial Gymnastics, before training to become a fully Chartered Physiotherapist and working at several different cities around the UK. In 1973, Lynn moved to the Ceiriog Valley and started work at the Spinal Unit of the Orthopaedic hospital in Gobowen, Oswestry. Lynn’s profession as a Community Physiotherapist, her ambition to help others and her love of horses saw her become a strong supporter of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA). In the early 1970’s she started a lifelong friendship with my mother Anne Sopwith, and together they formed the Dyffryn Ceiriog RDA group. Lynn and my mother were both pioneering in establishing this local RDA group in Glyn Ceiriog using some of my family's ponies. Lynn later became chair of this RDA group, and my mother went on to found the Clwyd Special Riding Centre (CSRC). Lynn has been a massive part of the Centre's journey over the last 40 years.
Lynn was a regional physio for North Wales. She was a member of the RDA Dressage Committee and was a British Equestrian Federation (BEF) course tutor, as well as a representative on the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) Classification Working Group and Compensating Aids Panel. Following retirement from full time work as a Community Physio, she continued to serve the equestrian community by becoming a Para Equestrian Classifier in dressage and driving. Lynn championed Great Britain at FEI level for two decades and she was instrumental in the creation of the current National Classification system, leading to the formal process that our athletes benefit from today and will for many years to come. Her tireless service, much of it in a volunteer capacity, has given many the opportunity to experience and thrive in para equestrian sport. In her role as a Classifier, Lynn travelled the world to all major Para Equestrian competitions, including several Paralympic Games, and only retired in 2022, leaving them as a Chief Classifier.
I spoke to Lynn in August 2022, as at CSRC we had wanted her to be presented to HRH Princess Anne on our special Race Day in September 2022. We wanted to recognise and celebrate the huge amount she has done for the Centre, the Dyffryn Ceiriog group, and RDA over so many years. That presentation with HRH was not possible in terms of Lynn’s illness at the time, but she felt "honoured" to have been thought of. However, in November 2022, Lynn’s “immeasurable contribution” to para sport was recognised when she was awarded with prestigious medals of honour from both British Dressage and the British Equestrian organisations. Lynn and her family were rightly incredibly proud of this honour.
Lynn’s colleagues, who also became lifelong friends, wrote to me to share some of their memories about Lynn. Kerri Sowers, Cecilia Kwok-Rosser, and Judy Leigh were all supported and mentored by Lynn to become Classifiers. Each of them travelled the world with Lynn who was “always so caring for the new inexperienced classifiers”. Lynn supported confidence and she promoted classification experience opportunities; she was a huge source of knowledge. Judy comments that riders knew they could rely on Lynn and “her determination that there is a place for all sorts of disabilities to compete on a level playing field with their able-bodied colleagues”. Cecilia’s comment to me says it all: “Hats off to Lynn for her unfailing passion and energy to the para equestrian sport and riders. She was our role model and will be forever!” And Kerri says that Lynn “never liked the limelight...but she more than deserves the recognition for her dedication and efforts over so many years!”
Lynn very kindly told me and her husband, Kyr, that she wanted charitable donations to go to the Clwyd Special Riding Centre. Thank you Lynn, as the Centre has received some very generous donations.
And thank you, Lynn, for everything that you have given; you are greatly missed by so many who gained from your skills, knowledge, encouragement, love and friendship.