Getting Started

If you don’t have your own horse or pony you could go riding with RDA or a local riding centre where you will can learn how to ride and care for horses and then start to do the basics of dressage. RDA has nearly 500 Groups across the UK who organizes activities for a big community of 28,000 riders and carriage drivers all made possible by around 18,000 volunteers you can find your local group using the link below:

Once you have gained experience and confidence in riding you may want to take part in a competition just for fun, to assess your skill or you may even have Paralympic ambitions yourself. I have tried to collate information into a step by step guide to the different levels of competition and the processes you may have to go through, which hopefully will help you on your own Journey.

Want to start competing? here's what to do next...


To start competing, you will first need to be classified by a specialist physiotherapist, to decide which class you can compete in. There are five grades, from 1a, the most impaired, to IV, the least impaired – this means you can compete on equal terms against other disabled riders, or you can take part in able-bodied classes if you choose. Contact RDA Dressage and National Championships Secretary Sara Hadley or more information about classification on 01926 405 967 More details on classification can be obtained from the Para Dressage Officer at British Dressage:

Para Entry Level

As part of the 2013-2017 British Equestrian Federation Excel funding from the National Lottery through Sport England, British Dressage (BD) and British Equestrian Federation (BEF) have introduced a new competition series of Para Equestrian Dressage Competitions. This competition series helps ‘bridge the gap’ between competing at Riding for the Disabled dressage competitions and affiliated British Dressage competitions. The aim is to break down some of the perceived barriers that stop riders starting in what is now one of the best competition pathways in the World. The first steps are often the most difficult ones to take and the initiative will help riders to take those steps in to the British Dressage competition structure. Riders do not have to be members of British Dressage to compete at these shows, but are encouraged to become British Dressage Associate member, which is free to join, as this means any results and scores achieved at these competitions will be listed on the British Dressage database. More information for Intro can be found at

At this level you can begin to access training through the BEF Entry level Programme which gives you access to 2 days training a year if you meet the criteria which can be found below

British Dressage Competition

Initially you may not need to become a member of British Dressage to compete, for example, if you enter restricted classes you can do so as a non-member with a class ticket. However if you wish to start climbing the ranks you will need to join as a member British Dressage competitions are split into Restricted and Open sections, You would usually begin as a restricted rider using the easier tests for your grade, the competitions are winter and summer qualifiers during which you gain points which hopefully will qualify you and your horse to compete at the Championships.

The Open section can be entered by all however these are the more difficult tests and the more advanced riders have to compete in this section once they have competed at a 3* International competition. There is also the opportunity to compete at Home Internationals which are a great way to get a taste of what it is like to compete as a team and under the rules of International competition. Also through your BD membership there are training days which are subsidised which you can attend Again more information on BD and the training and competitions available are here

At this stage if you have met the criteria you may want to consider applying for: The Excel Talent Programme which aims to produce a pool of up and coming talented young riders across the England Regions who are not currently on the BEF's World Class Programme. Now in its third year, the Programme has been developed to extend the rider talent pathway below the UK Sport funded World Class Programme, to identify and nurture pool of up and coming riders who have the potential to go on and win medals in the future. It provides support to selected riders from the three Olympic and one Paralympic equestrian disciplines (dressage, eventing, showjumping and paraequestrian dressage) Details:                                                 and if you are in full time education you may also be eligible for a grant towards your training through TASS and Sport England                                                                                        

Competing Internationally

International competitions are run under FEI rules and at this level all Riders and horses must be BD and FEI registered to compete at International level. International classification All riders competing in international para-equestrian dressage competitions need an FEI International Para-Equestrian Classification Card (IPEC ID Card). It involves seeing a specially-trained physio or doctor, who will ensure you are in a grade which provides fair competition. If you need to be internationally classified, please email the BD Para Dressage Officer, Rachel, or call her on 02476 698837 There are several competitions held in the UK throughout the year to give you your first taste of competing Internationally and there are several levels at each competition 1,2 and 3* which again allows you to compete against riders of similar ability and experience which can be found:

Remember if you are competing abroad though your horse will need an FEI passport too!

Once at this level you may be eligible to apply for the World Class Programme

The programme's mission is to: Identify talent, Maximise potential and Deliver success. and fits into three conjoined areas: the Equine Pathway, Podium Potential and Podium.  For more information on selection policy and how the process works please visit:          

You can also compete at able bodied competitions in both unaffiliated and affiliated, and can also use some of your aids during these competitions by obtaining a dispensation certificate:                               Any BD member with a physical disability preventing them from riding the test in accordance with the rules or who requires compensating aids should apply to the Dispensation Panel through the BD Para Officer for a Dispensation Certificate.