Paralympic Dressage

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The object of Dressage is the development of the Horse into a happy Athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the Horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confidant, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with the Athlete.

These qualities are demonstrated by:

The freedom and regularity of the paces.

The harmony, lightness and ease of the movements.

The lightness of the forehand and the engagement of the hindquarters, originating from a lively impulsion.

The acceptance of the bit, with submissiveness/throughness (Durchlässigkeit) without any tension or resistance.

Equestrian became a part of the Paralympic Games for the first time in 1996 in Atlanta.

It is open to athletes with any type of physical or visual impairment. Events are mixed and grouped according to their functional profiles.

Athletes can compete in dressage events, a championship test of set movements and a freestyle test to music. There is also a team test that involves three to four members.

Riders are judged on their display of horsemanship skills and are permitted to use devices such as dressage crops, connecting rein bars, rubber bands and other aids.

At the London 2012 Games, 78 athletes competed in 11 events.


This involves assessing an athlete according to a variety of issues. They will be assigned a profile (sometimes 2 profiles, there are about 40) and this will result in their allocation of one of 5 Grade Classifications.

Medical Definitions

Locomotor Impairment

Sensory Impairment

Intellectual Impairment

Other Impairment

Able Bodied

Profiles: 1-31

Profiles: 36-38

Profile: 39

Profile: 42

Profile: 48

Dressage classifications


Mainly wheelchair users with impairment of all 4 limbs, may be able to walk with an unsteady gait, however trunk and balance are severely impaired.


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, or moderate trunk balance with severe impairment of all 4 limbs.

Grade Ia and Grade Ib may be combined (each rides own Grade Dressage test).


Mainly wheelchair users, or those with severe locomotor impairment involving the trunk and with good to mild upper limb function, those with severe arm impairment and slight leg impairment or severe unilateral impairment.


Usually able to walk without support. Moderate unilateral impairment, or moderate impairment in four limbs, severe arm impairment. May need a wheelchair for longer distances or due to lack of stamina. Total loss of sight in both eyes, or intellectually impaired. Blacked out glasses or blindfold must be worn by Profile 36 Athletes.


Impairment in one or two limbs or some visual impairment.


Not eligible.

Intellectual Disability

The Para Equestrian Committee and the International Classifiers appreciate that an intellectual impairment is a handicap to Dressage tests, but, at this time (2013) the International Paralympic Committee refuses to accept this disability for Paralympic Events until INAS-FID have found a consistent robust method of classification, so Para Equestrian is unable to accept people with only an intellectual impairment until INAS-FID can produce this consistent and robust method of classification. This is now under test by some sports.

Para Equestrian Compensating Aids

If a rider has a unique aid, they are instructed in writing to show the aid to the TD or steward for confirmation of the use of that aid. Aids may be physical (hand hold) or that the rider my use their voice, or that nominated people (callers, commanders) may call instructions to the rider (ie, for visually impaired, intellectually disabled, or those with short term memory issues. The aids available to a rider depend upon their Grade Profile.

The list of allowed aids includes:

hand hold or neck strap

rubber bands to stirrup

strap from stirrup leather or stirrup to girth

loop reins

raised pommel and /or cantle away from the body

salute with head only

1 or 2 whips

use of voice

seat saver

no stirrups

enclosed stirrups

may ride with one hand only.

connecting rein bar

reins through ring attached to saddle

callers at letters

commander allowed.

Side Saddle

All Athletes may ride side saddle with the leg(s) to the left or right side.

An Impaired Arm

When a rider is unable to use an impaired arm, it may be strapped to the body, or worn in a sling.


For Para Equestrian Competitions, hats must not be removed at the salute, and contact must be maintained on the reins. If necessary, the rider may salute with the head only. In Competitions for able-bodied Athletes, only those Athletes whose PE. ID Cards state that they may salute with the head only, may do so.


For all IPE Competitions, Athletes in Grade Ia, Grade Ib and Grade II may use their voice as an aid, provided that they do so in moderation. In Competitions for able-bodied Athletes, only those Athletes who have this noted on their FEI PE ID Card may use their voice. Athletes in Grade III and Grade IV may only use their voice if it is stated on their FEI PE ID card.


For Para Equestrian Competitions, one or two whips of max 120 cm may be carried if required. The use of the whip(s) must be stated on the IPEC PE ID Card. For all Competitions, whips may only be carried by Athletes who are able to control their hand movements. At the salute, the rider must either carry the whip(s) in the non-saluting hand, or salute with the head only.


Spurs are optional for Para Equestrian Competitions. In all Competitions, spurs may only be used by Athletes able to control their leg movements. In those Competitions for able-bodied Athletes where spurs are compulsory, Athletes who cannot control their leg movements should have this noted on their FEI PEID Card. Apply to Para Equestrian ID card officer for any necessary alteration.


These may be enclosed to prevent the foot from sliding through the stirrup. If the rider uses no stirrup, this must be recorded on the ID card.


An instructor is allowed to relay instructions to the rider from the judge during the Competition by sign language.


No saddle must be deeper in the seat than 12 centimetres (with the seat pressed down) measured from the middle of a line from the top of the pommel - to the top of the cantle. The highest point of a fixed handle (if allowed) must be no higher than 10 centimetres above the highest point of the pommel. No handle must be any wider across the pommel than 30 centimetres. Any other modification must be supported by photographs and submitted to the NF who will submit them to FEI. Rings on saddle to alter angle of reins to mouth of horse are only allowed for those with ' hands' that can only be held at nipple line or above. Rings must be loose, and not fixed.


Velcro up to a limit of 50 sq cm to assist the rider in the saddle. Velcro may also be used to attach the stirrup irons to the girth strap. Velcro, or similar materials, must in all cases allow the rider to fall free of the horse.

The Arena

The Dressage Arena must be 60m x 20m and be predominantly of sand.

An arena of 40m by 20m must be provided for PE Grade Ia, Ib, and II athletes.


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