Para Dressage

Para-Equestrian Dressage is the only Equestrian discipline that is included in the Paralympic Games, where it has been a regular fixture since 1996. With the idea of creating opportunities for all people with disabilities to compete and achieve their goals in equestrian sport, athletes are classified according to the level of their disability/impairment so as to provide for meaningful competition.

In 2006, the Para-Equestrian sport joined the ranks of the other seven disciplines regulated by the FEI, with national and international competitions for Dressage and Driving for individuals with a disability. This led to the FEI becoming the first, and still the only, International Federation to govern and regulate a sport for both the able bodied and disabled athletes.

Para equestrian is open to men and women with a physical or visually impaired disability. Its classification system puts riders into four grades;

  • Grade I Athletes in Grade I have severe impairments affecting all limbs and trunk. The Athlete usually requires the use of a wheelchair. They may be able to walk with an unsteady gait. Trunk and balance are severely impaired.
  • Grade II Athletes in Grade II have either a severe impairment of the trunk and minimal impairment of the upper limbs or moderate impairment of the trunk, upper and lower limbs. Most athletes in this Grade use a wheelchair in daily life.
  • Grade III Athletes in Grade III have severe impairments in both lower limbs with minimal or no impairment of the trunk or moderate impairment of the upper and lower limbs and trunk. Some athletes in this Grade may use a wheelchair in daily life.
  • Grade IV Athletes have a severe impairment or deficiency of both upper limbs or a moderate impairment of all four limbs or short stature.  Athletes in Grade IV are able to walk and generally do not require a wheelchair in daily life. Grade IV also includes athletes having a visual impairment equivalent to B1 with very low visual acuity and/ or no light perception.
  • Grade V Athletes have a mild impairment of movement or muscle strength or a deficiency of one limb or mild deficiency of two limbs. Grade V also includes athletes with visual impairment equivalent to B2 with a higher visual acuity than visually impaired athletes competing in Grade IV and/or a visual field of less than 5 degrees radius.

Para-Equestrian Dressage has been steadily developing for the past twenty five years and riders with a wide variety of disabilities participate in the sport. Riders are classified by certified physiotherapists according to the level of their disability or impairment to ensure competition is fair. Classification is a process in which the rider’s physical ability is assessed resulting in a Grade between I and IV being allocated. Once the rider has been classified they can then compete in Para-Equestrian (PE) competitions against riders of the same grade.