Para-equestrian dressage is the equestrian competition that features in the Paralympic Games; from 2010, it was included within the World Equestrian Games format and will now run on a four-year cycle of Championships with European Championships in the years between the World Championships and the Paralympic Games.
As in dressage, the horses and riders complete sets of movements in an arena, this is either 40m x 20m or 60m x 20m depending on the grade. As with dressage, sometimes these movements are predetermined and all riders ride the same ‘test’, and sometimes they are decided by the rider and set to music.
Grading: The athletes are classified according to their disability across five grades, which determine the complexity of the movements that riders perform with their horses. Grade Ia is for athletes whose impairment has the greatest impact on their ability to ride, through to Grade IV for athletes whose impairment has the least impact on their ability to ride.
The grading ensures that the tests can be judged on the skill of the rider, regardless of their disability. Riders may use permitted assistive devices such as dressage whips, connecting rein bars, looped reins, and the like; visually impaired riders are permitted to use ‘callers’ to help them navigate around the arena.
AT A PARALYMPIC GAMES
All athletes compete in three dressage tests: a Team Test (with three to four riders per team), an Individual Championship Test and a Freestyle Test (where athletes choose their own routine and set it to music).
The results of the Team and Individual Championship Tests are added together to arrive at the overall Team score, with the best three scores (from a team of four) counting.
Individual medals are also awarded on the merit of both the Individual Championship Test and the Freestyle Test. All riders, whether competing in a team or not, may ride in the Team Test.
AT A WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES & EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP
TEAM & CHAMPIONSHIP TEST:
Five riders compete at a WEG and at a Europeans. Teams are made up of a maximum of four combinations per nation; a team must include at least one Grade Ia, Ib or II rider and cannot include more than three riders in any one Grade. The other rider competes as an individual (they can compete in the Team test as a warm-up, but their score is not counted).
After the athletes have competed the Team test, all five riders then compete the Individual Championship test. The overall team result is calculated using the best three scores (out of the four team members), combined from the Team and Individual Championship tests – the highest total team score wins.
After the Individual Championship tests (per grade) have been completed, the combination with the highest percentage score is crowned world champion, within their grade.
INDIVIDUAL FREESTYLE TEST:
The final day of the competition sees a percentage of athletes per grade contest the freestyle. Here riders complete a set of movements set to their choice of music; the highest percentage in each grade wins, no scores are carried forward from the previous tests.