Used for many years for rehabilitation and recreation, equestrian was included in the Paralympic Games for the first time in Atlanta in 1996. It is a multi-disability sport, open to athletes with a physical disability or a visual impairment.
Events are grouped according to their functional profiles. Individual riders compete in two Dressage events; a Championship Test of set movements and a Freestyle Test to music. The Team Test is an event for teams of three to four riders per team. Competitors are judged on their horsemanship skills as they ride using a series of commands for walk, trot and canter.
Riders may use assistive devices such as dressage crops, a connecting rein bar, rubber bands or other aids. Since 2006, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) is the governing body for equestrian.
At the London Paralympics
In London, 78 men and women compete together in equestrian across 11 medal events. Australia has a team of four athletes, three women and one man competing in London.
Thursday 30 August - Tuesday 4 September, 2012
Championship test – Individual and Team
Freestyle test – Individual
Equestrian is open to athletes with a:
- Vision impairment who have little or no vision
- Physical impairment such as limb loss, cerebral palsy, brain injury, joint restrictions, short stature, spinal injury or nerve damage
Grade Ia - Riders with a physical impairment in their arms, legs and trunk. Riders use a wheelchair in everyday life.
Grade Ib - Riders with a physical impairment in their arms, legs and trunk who have more trunk control than Grade 1a riders. Riders generally use a wheelchair in everyday life.
Grade II - Riders with a physical impairment with some trunk and arm movement, or severe unilateral impairment. Riders generally use a wheelchair in everyday life.
Grade III - Riders with a physical impairment down one side of their body, or significant impairment in one arm. Most riders are able to walk. Riders who are completely blind also compete in this class.
Grade IV - Riders have a physical impairment in only one or two limbs, or have low vision.
Combined class events
Riders can elect to compete up a grade with riders with less impairment. If riders compete up a class, they must complete the dressage tests that apply to the new class. For example a Grade 1b rider may chose to compete in the Grade 2 class, and complete the more difficult dressage tests that apply to Grade 2. There are no special rules that apply should a rider choose to do this, and they will be treated as equal to all other riders in Grade 2.
How can I get a classification?
You can request a classification using the APC Get classified form.
Rules & Equipment
Clothing - the rider's basic items of clothing include a riding hat of international safety standard, breeches or jodhpurs, riding boots or stout riding shoes with heels and a short, dark-coloured jacket. Both male and female riders wear a shirt, a stock (hunting tie) and gloves - if possible. Spurs are optional.
Saddle - the saddle was designed to help the rider maintain balance while sitting on the horse. Saddle types vary for different equestrian activities. There is an inner saddletree, which is made of steel, glass fibre or wood and the external part of the saddle is usually made of leather. Padding is used between the inner and the external parts of the saddle. It is very important that the saddle fits the horse and the rider. Riders may not be tied to the saddle and there must be at least 3cm between any means of support and the rider's trunk.
Bridle and Bit - the bridle and bit provides a means of contact and communication between horse and rider. Grade I and II athletes use a snaffle bit, while Grade III and IV athletes may use either a snaffle or a double bridle.
Compensating aids - Riders have an IPEC/FEI ID card, which state their grade and the compensating aids that they may use, such as a whip instead of a leg, ladder reins, elastic bands, special stirrups, etc. A small amount of velcro may be used. Any compensating aid used must allow the rider to fall free of the horse if necessary.