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 Ireland 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.
- 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.
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 Ia, Ib, II, III, IV. Grade Ia riders are the most disabled, whilst Grade IV 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 Ia tests are in walk.
- FEI Grade Ib tests are mainly in walk with short pieces of trot.
- FEI Grade II tests are in walk and trot.
- FEI Grade III tests use walk, trot and canter.
- FEI Grade IV 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.
Competitions also have the option to use the FEI Novice dressage test for each grade.
The new 2013 FEI Para Equestrian Dressage tests can be downloaded from FEI 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 III test. Tests numbered below 10 are Grade Ia, whilst tests numbered from 10-19 would be Grade Ib. Tests numbered in the 40s are Grade IV in a 20x40 arena. Tests numbered in the 50s are Grade IV 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 IV. 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 medallists 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 086–228–3943). It is a growing sport, but not yet an FEI sport.