The Paralympic Games are one of humanity’s greatest inventions, empowering those considered to be broken by society. Did you know that there are para-equestrian sports as well? In 1996, para-equestrian games were added to the list of Paralympic Games, which was quite the development. Of course, in 1996, only horse dressage was introduced into the games, but by 2006, riding was also introduced. This enabled riders with visual impairment and physical disabilities to take part in equestrian sports as well.
The riders are classified into Grade 1A, 1B and Grade 2. The dressage events in the Paralympics have multiple levels of eligibility and tests, depending on the riders. Grade 1A only includes walk tests. The 1B grade riders would have to pass walk and trot tests, and finally, grade 2 riders have to pass a dressage test that includes “walk and trot but canter allowed in Freestyle”. Grade 3 includes walking, trotting, cantering and Freestyle, with some lateral work. Finally, at the Grade 4 level, the riders would have to walk, trot, canter, show lateral work, and canter half pirouettes, with at least 3 or 4 changes of sequences.
As for horse riding, each team can have three riders, and one of the three riders must belong to Grade 1A, 1B or 2. The para-equestrian sports have enabled paralysed, disabled and people who are developmentally challenged to compete in competitive sports. The riders are divided into different grades on the basis of their disability, and the severity of the same.
The classification and other rules regarding horse riding and the riders is handled by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI). Currently, the International Paralympic Committee is trying to improve the classification of the para-equestrian sport to a more evidence-based system instead of the current performance based system.