Para Dressage is a FEI disciple for people with physical and sight disabilities, and international competitions that are run by the FEI include the Olympic Games and Equestrian World Games. Deaf people decided to compete internationally in able-bodied competition. People with learning and intellectual disabilities may compete in Dressage for Special Needs, which has its own rules and governing body.
A person is assessed by a classifier, and must be a physiotherapist who has done the FEI training and has been qualified by the FEI to do assessments locally in South Africa or internationally. Using strength and range of motion tests and the person’s medical records, the classifier will give a person a profile which is applicable to any sport. FEI Para Dressage has put some of the profiles into five grades, and excluded some profiles. Each grade has three competition tests, with a Team test, an Individual test, and a Freestyle test, similar to other FEI international dressage levels. Each grade has Novice tests that may be ridden by new competitors, or by people schooling a new horse. Novice tests are ridden locally and not in major competitions.
The FEI website has documentation on the profiles, and which profiles fall into each grade. Quotes in the text below are from the FEI document.
Grade 5 FEI tests are DSA Medium level tests with 2 track work in trot and canter. Flying changes can be shown in freestyle, but no canter pirouettes or Piaffer or Passage. Grade 5 profiles are “Impairment in one or two limbs or some visual Impairment”.
Grade 4 has tests at an elementary dressage level. Grade 4 profiles are “Usually able to walk without support. Moderate unilateral Impairment or moderate Impairment in four limbs or severe arm Impairment. Athlete may need a wheelchair for longer distances or due to lack of stamina. Total loss of sight in both eyes”.
Grade 3 tests are walk and trot only with shoulder-in and turn on the haunches. Grade 3 profiles are “Mainly wheelchair users or those with severe movement and mobility Impairment involving the trunk and with good to mild upper limb function, those with severe arm Impairment and slight leg Impairment or severe unilateral Impairment”.
Grade 2 are walk and trot tests with leg yield and quarter turn on the haunches. Grade 2 profiles are “Mainly wheelchair users with poor trunk balance and or Impairment of function in all four limbs, or no trunk balance and good upper limb function, or moderate trunk balance with severe Impairment of all 4 limbs.
Grade 1 tests are walk only. Grade 1 profiles are “Mainly wheelchair users with Impairment of all 4 limbs, may be able to walk with an unsteady gait, however trunk and balance are severely impaired”.
Classifications are submitted to the FEI and are listed on the FEI website. Competitors are allocated a “sport category”.
“N” or “New” is a local classification but will need to be reclassified by an international classifier.
“C” or “Confirmed” is a permanent classification.
“R” or “Review” is for people with fluctuating or progressive conditions, or who are borderline in a grade.
Riders are referred to as “Athletes” by SASCOC and the FEI. Athletes are allowed “Compensating Aids” and an athlete’s classification and compensating aids are listed on the FEI website. When competing locally, especially in a DSA test, an athlete should print out the compensating aids that they have been allocated, and present this print out, or a scan of their classification card, to the judge’s scribe so that the judge knows that they are allowed use of voice, or 2 dressage whips, or an extra-long whip, as per their allocation. Athletes should send a copy of their compensating aids when they send the proof of payment for their entries.