Doubles All Round,One Triple at Hartpury’s Para Dressage

The Hartpury Festival of Dressage, which takes place each year at the world famous equestrian college in Gloucestershire, is the best and most important international competition for disabled riders in the UK. In the UK there is very little opportunity each year for these remarkable riders to compete with only two other smaller international competitions held in the year.

Nicky Greenhill.

Those who compete in Para Dressage have a range of disabilities. Many do not have any use of their legs, some have little use of their arms, or have no hands, and even possibly, to me the most remarkable is Nicky Greenhill, who is completely blind. However, whatever the disability may be, these riders compete with poise and professionalism. So much so, that when watching, it is very often not easy to see what their individual disability is. I think it rather sad these remarkable riders get so little publicity and recognition for their efforts, particularly in this ‘disabled friendly society’ in which we now live.

Erin Orford. Winner of All three sections in the Grade III

The most consistent combination here, was the winner of the Grade 3 section, Erin Orford riding Dior from Buckinghamshire representing Great Britain, who won all three parts of this FEI competition.

In the Grade 1, Brazil’s Sergio Oliva riding Coco  Chanel M won both the team and individual; as did Grade 2 rider, Great Britain’s Georgia Wilson riding Midnight Z. Both were unable to complete the hat trick by adding the freestyle to their medal haul. In the Grade 4, Rodolpho Riskalla from the Brazil riding Don Henrico and Great Britain’s Sophie Wells riding C Fatal Attraction both also won their respective individual and team sections, but then failed to achieve anything much in the freestyle.

Rodolpho Riskalla double winner of Grade IV from Brazil

There are many different levels of Para Dressage, and classes are representative of the level of disability a rider has. In general, there are five grades. Grade 1 is for the most disabled and Grade 5 is for the least. There were competitors from six different countries, from as far away as the USA and Hartpury The FEI competition is over three days, the first day the riders compete in the team test for Gold, Silver and Bronze. The second day, the riders ride a different test from day 1, but this time as individuals. The final test of the three is the music freestyle, when riders choose their own music and their own movements, some of which are compulsory.

The Para dressage competition was started at the Paralympics in 1988 in Seoul. Great Britain has consistently produced a very high international winning class of rider; particularly the likes of Sir Lee Pearson, born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenital, (which basically means he has never been able to walk or stand without aids.)  Now there are several world championships which are for disabled riders.

Sophie Wells riding C Fatal Attraction. Another double winner. Grade V

The first thing that is so noticeable now is how the standard of para dressage has improved so much in such a short time. Apart from the Grade 1, which is for the most disabled riders, who only walk during all three 4.5.minute tests, the standard in the other grades have all gone up massively. This is shown by the removal of dominance in this sport by Great Britain as riders from other countries, particularly Brazil and The USA with representatives here who were positioned in the top ranks. Further evidence of how the para dressage has improved in standard world-wide is that at last year’s World Equestrian Games, unusually, Great Britain took Silver beaten by the team from Holland. Also, Belgium, Denmark and Germany now provide teams in international events who are quite capable of taking the top spot in any competition.

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