About Para Dressage

Para Dressage is similar to able bodied dressage, as both require the horse and rider combination to complete dressage tests which are performed in an arena surrounded by  letters, which are used as markers for required movements and patterns within the tests. Each test is designed to assess, control, communication and athletic prowess, with each  movement scoring points between 1 and 10 by a judge, giving a final overall mark as a percentage.

Para riders are classified based upon their functional ability. Doctors and physiotherapists evaluate a rider's muscular strength and/or co ordination and determine that riders functional profile. This profile decides the grade in which the rider will compete. There are five grades in para dressage 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, with 1 being the most disabled and grade 5 the least.

The Tests

The level of difficulty within the test varies per Grade, there is a Novice test, a team test and a championship test in addition to the freestyle test. The Championships have Bronze, silver and gold sections much like able bodied dressage. Silver riders tend to ride the novice tests, and the Gold riders ride the championship tests, the KBIS National Championships and International competitions are Open.

Grades 1,2 and 3 tests are always ridden in a 20X40m arena, generally the Novice grade 4 and 5 are ridden in a 20X40m arena, and the open are in a 20X60m.

Grade 1 - Walk only                                                                                                                                                 Grade 2 - Walk with some trot                                                                                                                               Grade 3  - Walk and more complicated trot patterns, canter in freestyle                                                           Grade 4 - Walk, trot and canter                                                                                                                                Grade 5 - Walk, trot and canter, including lateral work and medium paces


The first competitions specifically for disabled riders began in Britain and Scandinavia in the 1970's, with the first dressage World Championships being held in Sweden in 1987. Just 9 years later(1996) para dressage was included in the Paralympic games at Atlanta and had been a feature of the Paralympic games ever since. in Britain para dressage is regulated by the National governing body British Dressage (BD) and internationally by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The rules and regualtions are governed by the same principles as the other disciplines under the FEI.