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What it means to be a Para Equestrian

I thought I’d explain more in depth about the classification system I’m going through and what exactly it means to be a para-equestrian. Many might think the word “para” in para-equestrian or para-dressage may mean paralyzed. However, para-equestrians are made up of people of all sorts of disabilities. “Para” literally means parallel and as riders we go through the same exact training, rules, and regulations as any other person would. Para refers to the sport of dressage, so that we are able to show and compete alongside our peers no matter our physical disabilities. Para-dressage (and para-driving, the only other para-equestrian discipline currently at the FEI level) has a classification manual that is recognized at the national and international level that has a series of profiles determined by numerous physical tests that are used to place riders into what they call grades. To be classified as a para-athlete you MUST have a permanent and measurable physical disability that is classifiable according to this manual. Once you are deemed eligible to be classified according to physicians and medical reviews, exams are done by physical therapists trained and accredited by the FEI. All of these exams are performed off the horse. Classification is a statement of fact regarding an individual’s physical performance, not one’s skill. From here, a rider is assigned a grade from 4-1a of similar functions allowing them to compete at a parallel level. Therefore, a group of grade II riders may not have the same disability, but they fall into the same profile of function that allows them to compete against each other. Therefore, they are put on a level playing field in the ring. However, as para-equestrians we are not limited to only showing in para classes! We are merely classified at a grade to compete in para competitions, but we are able to show amongst our peers as well. Thanks again for all your continued support!

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