Talloaks, how are you? There is a good link to Para-Equestrian on the FEI site, www.horsesport.org. IIRC, there are four grades of disability in para dressage. British rider Lee Pearson has been a wonderful example of success, and you will find very successful disabled riders winning at the top levels of non-para shows as well. Talk about amazing harmony between horse and rider.
Dressagedaily.com has some good coverage of the recent CPEI (like a CDI, but for para-equestrians) and the Para-Equestrian National Championships.
One of the riders mentioned in the articles, James Dwyer, often shows (and wins) against the able-bodied riders at PSG here in Region 1. It's pretty incredible to see him ride.
Amateur rider, professional braider.
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Many of our para-athletes compete at the FEI levels against able bodied riders on a pretty even basis. This is a photo of my horse at the 2006 Beijing Olympic qualifiers, being ridden by a one handed athlete from Australia. At home, she competes her own horse at 4th level. She uses a special rein loop to replace her hand. I had previously trained the horse to be ridden one handed for convenience for me, so it was not hard for him to adapt!
Less than a year after it was formed the British Para Show Jumping Association (BPSJA) has integrated with the British Show Jumping Association (BSJA).
The BPSJA will run affiliated and unaffiliated competitions for its members as part of the BSJA ó in the same way as the British Para Dressage Trust is part of British Dressage.
The BSJA's new para equestrian jumping committee, chaired by Michael Mac, has approved rules and grades for the newly affiliated sport.
BPSJA members now receive a discounted BSJA membership fee of £40 for a rider and one horse. Adult BSJA membership normally costs from £118 and £69 per horse.
BPSJA chairman Andy Lawes told H&H: "This is the first step towards us becoming an FEI (International Equestrian Association) sport, which is our aim.
"The BSJA will send rules to the British Equestrian Federation who will pass them to the FEI as a possible foundation for an international sport."
The BPSJA has 35 members but Mr Mac said he envisaged 300 riders taking part within three years.
I have a disability (Cauda Equina Syndrome from a spinal cord injury) and have always wondered if my riding would come along better if my instructor and I had access to an instructor who had some experience in adaptive techniques for riders like me.
I feel very lucky to have found an instructor that was willing to take me on as it is, but I am sure she gets frustrated as well.
Are there any more training sessions being held? How do we get more information about them? I would love to audit one... I'm not in a position to seriously pursue this type of competition right now, but it's definitely something I think about for the future if I have the horse to do it on. On another note, how does the evaluation process work for determining what levels people ride at?
This is a good link to answer basic questions about paraequestrian, and here's the link for learning more about the US Paraequestrian Team, clinics, etc.
The next clinic is June 10-11 at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, Woodinville, Washington, and some riders may be able to participate on borrowed horses. Other future Para Equestrian Dressage Training Dates (subject to change)
July 19 Gladstone, NJ (own horse)
September 11 Gladstone, NJ (own horse)
November 14-15 San Juan Capistrano, CA
I do not compete in paraequestrian myself, but I am lucky enough to train with many of the current team members. They are all very dedicated riders and horsemen in a sport that has become increasingly competitive over the years. With riders now providing their own horses for international competition, the challenge isn't just improving one's own riding but finding a horse who is fancy enough to hold its own on the international stage.
As someone mentioned, two of the top para riders in the country right now, James Dwyer (grade IV) and Becca Hart (grade II), train together at Missy and Jessica Ransehousen's farm and compete at PSG in able-bodied shows. There was an article about Becca in April's Practical Horseman that also gives an idea about the overall para program.
The team is always looking for new talent, both human and equine (several riders compete on donated horses), and the people actually involved in the program could not be any nicer or more accommodating.
The grades are based on the type and severity of the disability. I had the pleasure of watching a para demonstration at Aachen in '05, which was deeply humbling and very moving. They could kick almost all of our asses but good.
Would someone be kind enough to explain to me the different types of disabilities at each category. I understand the rider must have a permanent disability, but I would like examples to understand better. Would it be loss of limb, an asthmatic, spinal cord injuries or ???? I think of disabled riders as those in the theraputic riding centers who need help to stay on the horse at a walk. What are the differences please.
http://www.talloaksfarm.net ---"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." --- Winston Churchill
I just went through the Classification process in England and am a Grade IV Profile 19b rider. I have a partially paralyzed left leg related to an incomplete spinal cord injury (car accident in 2008). Dr. Chris Meaden, who developed the disabled rider profiling system, classified me, herself, during the same time I had a nice visit with my friend in England.
I plan on competing starting next month with my mare in the Grade IV tests which are roughly equivalent to "M" Level (Third). I have had several contacts with Pam Lane (USEF), the International High Performance Director of ParaEquestrian & Vaulting, and she has been incredibly patient and helpful in answering all of my questions.
I also have a dispensation certificate from the USEF to compete in open classes (can use a whip in my left hand and have strap to keep my left foot in stirrup).
Here is a link to the Classification Manual and should contain everything you wanted know about this process!
Para Equestrian is Dressage Competitions
for Riders with Disabilities.
Para Equestrian is the only Paralympic sport where man and animal are team mates, and one of the few events where men & women compete on equal terms. Plus age is not a factor.
In Para Equestrian, each rider is classified to determine their level of disability, and once classified, riders are given a Functional Profile Number and a Grade.
Each riderís disability needs to be classified so that people with similar levels of ability can be grouped into Grades in which they compete. In Para Equestrian, there are five grades that riders are put in. Each Grade reflects the riderís physical ability.
Grade 1 being for the riders with the most significantly reduced physical ability, thru to Grade 4 being for riders who have a more increased physical ability.
The movements performed in each Grade's tests vary.
For example, riders who ride in Grade 1a, perform dressage tests in walk only. Whereas riders who ride in Grade 4 perform dressage tests which are of medium/advanced standard.
..A brief view of Para Equestrian Grades and..
..level of Movements performed..
Walk Only Tests
Walk & Trot Tests, & may show some lateral work in Freestyles
Walk and Trot Tests, but Canter allowed in Freestyle and may
show some lateral work in Freestyle
Walk, Trot and Canter Tests and may show lateral work in Freestyle
Walk, Trot, Canter Tests, Canter Half-Pirouettes, 3 and 4 sequence changes and lateral work
Major Para Equestrian Competitions involve a
Team Test, Championship Test & Freestyle Test for all Grades
These are usually scheduled over 3 days.
Grades I, II and III compete in a 40 x 20 metre arena.
And currently, Grade IV is the only grade riding in
a 60 x 20 metre arena
When necessary, Para Equestrian riders can use compensating aids approved by FEI PE, such as a special saddle,
adapted reins, elastic bands, two whips etc.
All Para-Equestrian riders are encouraged to ride
in EFA Dressage Competitions
Some riders will carry an EFA RDA Exemption Card, if they need specialist equipment that does not comply with EFA Rules. Riders can also mention to Judges that they carry Exemptions for specific needs i.e. reins in two hands for saluting, two whips etc as they present their EFA RDA Exemption Card.
Though some para-equestrian athletes are introduced to the sport through therapeutic riding (ie, first got on a horse for therapeutic purposes, enjoyed it, showed athletic potential and had the desire and dedication to keep going up the levels), the two are NOT the same. For starters, para-equestrians ride independently, regardless of grade level. And while the focus of therapeutic riding is therapy (the horse is a "tool" to help improve the person), the focus of paraequestrian is competition (the person is the "tool" to improve the horse). Even in a walk-only test, the focus is on getting the best, most correct walk from the horse, executing accurate figures, etc.
Some of the folks involved are professional riders and trainers, while others (the majority, I think) are amateurs who have to ride around day jobs and other commitments. Most spend a good portion of the year competing in able-bodied shows, where they can compete in both USEF levels and do the FEI para tests (as long as the two aren't more than one - or two? can't remember - level apart, based on the equivalencies below).
Another way to look at the levels is these rough equivalencies:
Grades Ia and Ib are equivalent to Intro Level.
Grade II is equivalent to Training Level.
Grade III is equivalent to First Level.
Grade IV is equivalent to Third Level.
Here's another good article that gives some background on several members of this year's team, beginning Pg. 16.
SRG - Good luck to you! Many of the riders live or train very near you and you are quite close to the Gladstone training sessions, the coaches, etc. Don't be shy about reaching out to them as well with any athlete-to-athlete questions.
There's a big Paralympic community here (Andrea Taylor and Sandra Verda train out of a facility around the corner from me). It's really something watching these riders.
Some were accomplished equestrians before an accident (like Karen Brain or Lauren Barwick (although please correct me if I'm wrong about Lauren; didn't she have a hay bale land on her and do significant damage??)). Others came to it through therapeutic riding. There's one young girl who is significantly more mobile on horseback than she is on the ground.
In the depths of time, the words uttered by early man as they leaped for the first time onto a prey animal with a brain the size of a golf ball, were undoubtedly, "Hold my beer and watch this...!"
Another distinction to make: Paralympic athletes have a physical disability but not a cognitive disability; Special Olympics athletes have cognitive disabilities and may also have some physical disabilities. So a person with Down Syndrome would participate in Special Olympics, but a person with a spinal cord injury or amputation would participate in Paralympics.