Event guide: Para-dressage

The event

Para-equestrian dressage joins the World Equestrian Games for the first time in 2010. The event is largely the same as able-bodied dressage but makes allowances for a growing number of riders with disabilities who compete at an international level. The competition is divided into grades based on competitors' levels of mobility, strength and coordination. The grades range from Ia and Ib for the most severely impaired, to IV for the least impaired. The competition within each grade can therefore be judged on the skill of the individual competitor on the horse, regardless of the competitor's disability.

H ow it ' s s c ored

As in dressage, five judges mark the prescribed movements in each test independently of one another. The horse and rider achieving the highest score win. There are three classes in which riders compete:

Individual: Riding a prescribed test.

Freestyle: Riding an individually choreographed performance that includes prescribed movements to music.

Team: Nations compete against one another using their best three riders.

W h at to watch

Each horse-rider combination will be performing the same routine, so it's important to pay close attention to discern subtle differences. Each rider may or may not have what is called a compensating aid. For example, a rider who does not have arms might guide the horse with her feet. The reins would run through a D ring from the pommel of the saddle to the stirrup iron to allow her to use the reins in this manner. Similarly, a paralyzed rider might have the stirrups tied to the girth that holds the saddle in place to prevent too much movement. For blind riders, people call out the letters set around the dressage ring so the riders know where they are and which movement is required.

classification process

Para-dressage riders have many different types of impairments or disabilities. People with similar levels of impairment compete against one another and ride tests suited to their level of impairment.

Here are the grades at which athletes compete:

Grade Ia and Ib: 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 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.

Grade III: Mainly able to walk without support, with moderate unilateral impairment, moderate impairment in four limbs or severe arm impairment. Might require a wheelchair for longer distances or due to lack of stamina. Total loss of sight in both eyes.Grade IV: Impairment in one or two limbs or some degree of visual impairment.

Spectat o r etiquette

As concentration is key for both horse and rider, spectators are expected to conduct themselves in a manner similar to fans watching golfers putt. Running, shouting and sudden movements should be avoided when a horse is in the ring, and applause is appropriate only after the test is completed. The announcer will notify the audience to hold their applause if requested by the rider.

Fast facts

■ Dressage competitions for riders with disabilities started in Scandinavia and Great Britain in the 1970s. In 1987, the first para- dressage world championship was held in Sweden.

■ Para-dressage is the only equestrian discipline that is included in the Paralympic Games.

■ In the team competition, the highest three scores from each team are used to determine the winner.

■ Grades I-III compete in a 20-by-40-meter arena (about 65 feet by about 131 feet.). Grade IV competes in the standard 20-by-60-meter arena (about 65 feet by about 197 feet.)


Countries competing (based on preliminary nominations): 19 countries have para-dressage teams; eight countries will be represented by individuals.

Individuals competing: 106 athletes have been nominated to compete in para-dressage.

Medals: There are 11 gold medals, one for the team competition and one in each of the five grades in two competitions — individual and freestyle.


Individual team tests, 8:30 a.m.

Individual championship tests, 8:30 a.m.

Individual championship tests, 8:30 a.m.

Individual freestyle tests, 8:30 a.m.

Individual freestyle tests, 8:30 a.m.

Individual freestyle tests, 8:30 a.m.