Learn about this Summer Paralympic sport

May 15, 2012

Philippa Johnson of South Africa competes with her horse Benedict in the Paralympic Equestrian Individual Freestyle Test, in Hong Kong, China, in 2008.

Equestrian events have been available for athletes with disabilities since Para-Equestrian Dressage developed in the 1970s. Dressage is the art of training a horse in obedience and in performing precise movements. The Paralympics have featured this graceful sport at every Games since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Para-equestrian events are open to athletes with any type of physical or visual impairment. Athletes are grouped into five different classification grades according to the level of their impairment.

Rules of the Game

There are currently 11 dressage medal events at the Paralympics: one team test, and individual championship and freestyle tests for each of the five classification grades. Men and women compete together. The tests require the horse and rider to be in perfect harmony. Judges score the competitor based on his or her horsemanship skills in the overall routine and in the individual movements.

Visually impaired riders may use callers to help them navigate the arena. Other special aids are allowed as well, such as saddles designed with extra support and rubber bands to help keep a rider’s feet in the stirrups.


Click here to read about powerlifting at the Paralympic Games.

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