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 and the Paralympic Games.
In para-equestrian dressage each rider is classified as a particular grade (Ia, Ib, II, III or IV) depending on their disability, with grade IV being the least disabled – this provides fair competition. The competitors find different ways to communicate with their horses, sometimes various additional aids are allowed, dependent on the level and type of disability. The compulsory movements within the tests differ depending on the grade of the rider.
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.
At each Championship, a set of team medals is available together with two sets of medals in each of the grades, a championship test and a freestyle test. Teams are made up of a maximum of four combinations per nation, the three best scores from the competitor’s combined percentages in the Team and Championship competitions are totalled to give the team score – the highest score wins. Team members are also eligible for individual medals.
Team tests: Each team member completes the team test, a predetermined set of movements that varies for each grade.
Championship tests: Each grade has a competition where each rider in that grade performs the same test – this completes the scoring for the team competition and decides the individual championship medals. The highest percentage in each grade is the winner.
Freestyle tests: Each grade has a competition where the riders perform a set of movements that they have designed with accompanying music. These tests include some compulsory movements depending on the grade. The highest percentage in each grade is the winner.
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.
Meet the British para-equestrian team