Unlike the Olympic Games, which features three equestrian disciplines, the Paralympic programme includes dressage only. Para dressage is a sport where rider and horse become one. Riders are judged on the accuracy and quality of their riding, their horse’s behaviour at the different gaits, halts, artistic finesse, as well as other aspects of their performance.
Para dressage was originally a means of therapy – with participants benefiting from interacting with horses – and a leisure activity. The first competitions were held in the 1970s. However, it was not until the Atlanta 1996 Games that dressage was added to the Paralympic programme. All events are mixed, with all riders competing together across the five classes.
Brief overview of the rules
The para dressage competition programme includes the individual championship test, the team test set to music (in which riders perform a set routine) and the individual freestyle test (which is unique to each rider, as they choose their own routine and music). Individual freestyle is open to the top eight athletes from each class based on the results of the individual test.
Depending on their needs, riders are allowed to use special equipment, such as modified saddles, straps and spurs.
Orthopaedic impairments, paraplegia, quadriplegia, hemiplegia, cerebral palsy, degenerative neurological disorders, neurological disabilities, vision impairments.
Fédération équestre internationale (FEI): www.fei.org
© Jamie McDonald/Getty Images