Para-Equestrian Dressage is the same as standard Dressage except that competitors are categorised into Grades according to their disability in order to ensure a fair competition.
Lee Pearson, Sophie Christiansen, Natasha Baker, Ricky Balshaw, and Sophie Wells will all represent Team GBR in this year’s World Equestrian Games.
What is Para-Equestrian Dressage?
In Para-Equestrian Dressage there are five Grades (Ia, Ib, II, III or IV) and riders are graded depending on the severity of their disability. For example, a rider in Grade Ia has a disability that impacts greatly on their riding. A rider in Grade IV has a disability that has a low impact on their ability to ride.
The grading allows riders to be judged on their riding skill rather than their disability. Riders are allowed to use assistive devices such as whips, connecting reins, and looped reins. If a rider is visually impaired they may also use a “caller” to help them navigate around the arena.
What happens at the World Equestrian Games?
Teams are made of four horse and rider combinations with the top three scores combining to make the overall team score.
A team must include a grade Ia, Ib, or II rider and cannot be made up of more than three riders from one grade. The fourth rider in the team competes as an individual and their score is not counted towards the overall score.
In the individual competition the combination with the highest score after completing their test is crowned best rider in their grade. On the final day of competition a third of the riders in each grade compete in the freestyle test.
To qualify the riders must have a percentage score of over 58%. They will ride a freestyle test to their choice of music and then the highest scoring rider in each grade will be awarded a medal.
Lee Pearson & Zion: Lee is a Grade Ib rider and is currently the only rider to have won a title at the British Dressage National Championships when competing against able bodied riders. He has received an MBE, OBE, and CBE for his sporting achievements and services to equestrianism and disability.
Natasha Baker & Cabral: Natasha is a Grade II rider, MBE, and Paralympic gold medal winner. This is her second Team GBR appearance and she’ll be partnering Cabral, her Paralympic Games horse.
Ricky Balshaw & LJT Engaards Solitaire: Ricky is a Grade Ib rider and is coming to the World Equestrian Games after an impressive season with horse LJT Engaards Solitaire, his European Championships ride.
Sophie Cristiansen & Janeiro 6: Sophie is a Grade Ib rider and former Paralympic, European, and World champion. She was awarded an MBE and then OBE in 2012 for services to disabled sport.
Sophie Wells & Valerius: the second Sophie on the team, Sophie Wells is a Grade IV rider and regularly competes in able bodied Dressage classes. She rides Valerius, a 17.2hh, 12 year old gelding.