We’re back to another week of Technical(ly) Tuesday!
Let me back up a little first. What is a compensating aid? “Compensating aids” are used by riders to compensate for the physical or sensory limitation resulting from their impairment, thereby enabling them to ride a horse.
Athletes with physical disabilities who want to compete and need to use any sort of a compensating aid must apply for a USEF Dispensation Certificate and go through a process called classification. After submitting an application and medical documentation, the classification is scheduled. The athlete meets with a USEF or FEI classifier who performs a physical evaluation. If the athlete is determined to be eligible for para equestrian, then the classifier establishes their profile and grade, based on the FEI profile system, and goes over the list of compensating aids that goes along with the specific grade, as well as any non-traditional aids that may be necessary.
The goal of the para equestrian sport is a framework of fair competition. The goal of classification is to ensure that competitive success is determined by athletes’ strategies, skills, and abilities, not by their disabilities. Therefore, the classification process must be robust, transparent, and fair.
Now, let’s back up to our focus of this week’s compensating aid. It’s a very simple one, but something that makes a big impact in each and every ride. It’s also one of the most common aids that I see almost every rider use: rubber bands!
In order to hold my foot into the stirrup, I use a simple band that loops from the back of my foot, under the stirrup, and over my toe. One thing about any compensating aid that must be considered is that it must be safe for both horse and rider. In the event of a fall, it must break so that I can fall free from my horse. It doesn’t look like it, but these bands DO break in the event of a fall.
There are other aids that other riders use such as magnetic stirrups and toe cages, but this is what I have found works best for me. It’s important to find what equipment works for each individual, and always keep in mind that these do not give a rider an advantage over anyone else. Rather, the system is designed to best measure each person’s abilities and disabilities to create a fair playing field.