Para-Equestrian Explained

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This rider is using compensating rein aids. This rider is using compensating rein aids.
Para-Equestrian (often called PE) is the eighth discipline of the FEI. It has been included in the Paralympic Games since 1996, and is the second-largest sporting event in the world after the Olympic Games.

At the moment it’s the only equestrian discipline in the Paralympic Games.

Para-Driving, while not an Olympic discipline, is a World Championship Sport.

The first dressage competitions for riders with disabilities were held in Great Britain and Scandinavia during the 1970’s with the first World Championships in Sweden in 1987.

There’s three Para-Equestrian events riders can compete in:

• Individual–riding a set dressage test.

• Freestyle–riding a choreographed test to music.

• Team event–where countries compete against one another using their top three riders.

The tests vary according to the riders’ PE grade, which is based on their various physical or visual impairment and riders only compete against others with a similar level of impairment.

There are four grades and each competitor’s strength, mobility, co-ordination or eyesight are assessed by an accredited FEI classifier to establish which grade they are suited to, in what’s known as ‘PE Classification’.

Profiles are grouped into competition Grades, ranging from severely impaired, to Grade IV for the least impaired.

Some conditions are not accepted, including obesity, psychiatric conditions, skin diseases, haemophilia, epilepsy, vertigo, cardiac conditions and wear and tear due to advancing age.

The competition within each Grade is judged on the skill of the individual rider on their horse, regardless of their disability.

Grade 1a and 1b–mainly wheelchair users with poor trunk balance and/or impairment of function in all four limbs, or no trunk balance and good upper limb function. Grade 1a is walk only. Grade 1B is walk and some trot.

Grade II–Mainly wheelchair users or those with severe physical disability involving the trunk and with mild to good upper limb function, or severe unilateral impairment. The dressage test for this grade involves walk and more complicated trot pattern, and includes a canter in Freestyle.

Great Britain Great Britain's Lee Pearson (Grade 1b) won triple gold medals in Sydney, Athens and Beijing and now has his sights set on London!

Grade III–Mainly able to walk without support, with moderate unilateral impairment, moderate impairment in four limbs or severe arm impairment. May require a wheelchair for longer distances or due to lack of stamina. Total loss of sight in both eyes. The test includes a walk, trot and canter.

Grade IV–Impairment in one or two limbs or some degree of visual impairment. Test includes walk, trot and canter including lateral work, and medium paces.

Grades I, II and III compete in a 40 x 20 metre arena with Grade IV the only grade riding in a 60 x 20 metre arena.

When necessary, riders can use compensating aids approved by FEI, such as a special saddle, adapted reins, elastic bands, two whips, enclosed stirrups, use of voice etc.

Dr Angelika Trabet (Grade II) won gold at the Para-Equestrian Championships. Dr Angelika Trabet (Grade II) won gold at the Para-Equestrian Championships.

Saddles can be of any type…English, Western or sidesaddle (with legs to the left or right). It’s permissible to use no stirrups.

Compensating aids can be used when they compete in both able bodied and Para Equestrian events.

Riders are encouraged to be as able as possible and to also ride in regular competitions, where they are judged the same as for a regular rider.

Photos FEI.

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