FEI Paraequestrian Dressage
There are three main organisations dealing with disabled (actually all are very able!) riders:
- Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is dedicated to improving lives of people with disability, through providing opportunity for riding and/or carriage driving. They can be contacted on 0845 658 1082;
- Special Olympics whose mission is to provide year round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disability. Special Olympics Ireland can be contacted on www.specialolympics.ie;
- Para Equestrian Dressage (FEI PE). Is one of eight horse sports recognised and overseen by the FEI. The others are show jumping, eventing, reining, vaulting, dressage, driving and endurance. See Para Equestrian Ireland paraequestrian-ireland.com.
All Para Equestrian riders have some disability. It can be from birth, through an accident or through illness. All Para Equestrian riders are 'classified' into one of five grades. These are: Grade 1a, 1b,11,111,1V. Grade 1a riders are the most disabled, whilst Grade 1V riders are the least disabled.
To be classified means that the rider is assessed by a specially trained physiotherapist according to a very strict set of criteria.
After classification the rider will compete against other riders from the same grade.
Para riders begin their competition career nationally riding either at RDA or Dressage Ireland shows. They will ride RDA, DI or FEI PE tests.
- FEI Grade 1a tests are in walk.
- FEI Grade 1b tests are mainly in walk with short pieces of trot.
- FEI Grade 11 tests are in walk and trot.
- FEI Grade 111 tests use walk, trot and canter.
- FEI Grade 1V tests use all three paces and lateral work.
Once accomplished they can be selected to ride internationally for Ireland right up to Paralympic level.
International FEI competitions run over three to six days. Three tests are ridden by each rider. On day one they ride the Team Test in their grade, on day two the Individual Championship Test, and on day three the Freestyle to Music test.
* and ** competitions have the option to use the FEI Novice dressage test for each grade,
The new 2010 FEI Para Equestrian Dressage tests can be downloaded from FEI.org for general use.
— Info supplied by A Mastin Moore
It is easy to know the Grade of the riders by the test they ride. Test 31 starts with a 3 and is therefore a Grade 111 test. Tests numbered below 10 are Grade 1a, whilst tests numbered from 10-19 would be Grade 1b. Tests numbered in the 40's are Grade 1V in a 20x40 arena. Tests numbered in the 50's are |Grade 1V in a 20x60 arena.
Though the majority of riders will remain in one Grade throughout their lives, those with a degenerative disorder may start as an able bodied rider before being classified into Grade 1V. They may then need re classifying as their illness worsens.
Riders are judged purely on their ability to ride and produce pure dressage. Most Paralympic riders compete with able bodied riders within their own countries with great success. Sympathy marks are not used by the judges.
The standard of riding internationally is incredibly high, with medallist fighting it out at the top. Percentages as high as 84% were achieved at the Athens Paralympic Games in 2004.
Some countries have started Para Jumping. Ireland is one of them, (for more information contact Heather at 086 228 39 43). It is a growing sport, but not yet an FEI sport.