"Contested at elite level around the globe..."
Dressage, which is currently the only Equestrian discipline included in the Paralympic Games, was originally developed for mounted battle training.
Although the discipline dates back around 2000 years, it was during a wider cultivation of the arts in the 15th century that it developed into a recreational activity.
It is now contested at elite level around the globe, including 27 nations at a Paralympic Games. Although Dressage is the Paralympic discipline, various styles of horse riding are thought to help improve mobility and coordination.
At the Paralympic Games, Equestrian competitions are open to visually impaired riders or those with a physical impairment – men and women all compete together. The competition consists of both a traditional Dressage event and Freestyle (or ‘kur’) test, where the riders perform to music. There is also a team event for groups comprising three or four riders from different grades.
The classification system puts riders into five grades from Ia to IV:
- Grades Ia and Ib incorporate the most severely impaired riders with poor trunk balance or impairment of balance in all four limbs.
- Grade II is for riders with severe locomotive impairment involving the trunk, with reasonable balance and abdominal control, or severe unilateral impairment.
- Grade III riders are mainly able to walk without support, with severe arm impairment or moderate unilateral impairment. This also includes riders with a total loss of vision in both eyes.
- Grade IV riders will have an impairment in one or two limbs, or some degree of visual impairment.
At an non-elite level Equestrian can be practiced by riders with almost any impairment, including a learning disability.
Additional information and useful links
History of Equestrian
History of Equestrian
Dressage was originally developed for the purposes of battle, as it allowed soldiers on horse-back to skilfully manoeuvre their horses.
The practise largely died out during medieval times when soldiers began wearing heavy armour thus making it difficult to move fluidly, but was revived when soldiers later began using firearms in battle.
During the 15th Century artistry in riding became popular and as it coincided with a general cultivation of the arts, dressage became a popular practise.
Equestrianism for disabled people was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation as it helped to improve physical skills, and it was not until the 1970s that Equestrianism for athletes with an impairment developed as a competitive sport.
International Dressage competitions for riders with an impairment first took place at the 1984 World Games in New York before being added to the Paralympic program in Atlanta in 1996.
National Governing Body
British Equestrian Federation (BEF)
The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is the national governing body for horse sports in the UK, affiliated to the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body of equestrian sports. It exists to provide leadership, vision and purpose in steering the direction of equestrianism.
The BEF is an umbrella organisation representing the interests of 4.2 million riders, vaulters and carriage drivers in Great Britain via 16 independent member bodies. Established in 1972 it is the largest representative body within the equestrian industry and together with the British Horse Racing Board and the Thoroughbred Breeders Association forms the British Horse Industry Confederation. (BHIC)