Dressage competitions for riders with disabilities started in Scandinavia and in Great Britain in the 1970s. The first dressage World Championship was held in 1987 in Sweden, and Australia first took part in the Paralympic Games in 1996.

Para Equestrian Driving is a World Championship Sport. In 1991, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) appointed IPEC (the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee) to run competitions and develop equestrian sport all over the world. In 2005, 38 nations competed from five continents. IPEC has now joined the FEI as Para Equestrian, their 8th discipline, moving governance from a general sports organisation (IPC) to one specialising in equestrian sport (FEI).

In 2006 the FEI, in agreement with the International Paralympic Committee, added Equestrian competition for Riders with a Disability. Now known as Para-Equestrian, it is the 8th Discipline of the FEI.

Five Grades of Competition are offered. Each Grade reflects the rider’s physical ability:


Grade 1a - Walk Only Tests
Grade 1b - Walk and Trot
Grade II - Walk and Trot but Canter allowed in Freestyle
Grade III - Walk, Trot and Canter and may show lateral work in Freestyle
Grade IV - Walk, Trot, Canter, Canter Half-Pirouettes, sequence changes & lateral work

Major Competitions involve a Team Test, Championship Test and Freestyle for all Grades.

Classification of Riders - Grades I to IV
To provide meaningful competition for such athletes, each rider's disability needs to be classified so that people with similar levels of ability can be grouped into Grades in which they compete together.

  • Riders with significantly reduced physical ability ride in (Grade 1a) tests in walk only.
  • Riders classified in (Grade 1V) have increased physical ability and ride tests which are of medium/advanced standard.

Once classified, riders are given a functional profile number and a Grade.

  • When necessary riders can use compensating aids approved by FEI PE, such as a special saddle, adapted reins, elastic bands, two whips etc.
  • All Para-Equestrian riders are encouraged to ride in EFA Dressage Competitions.
  • All Para-Equestrian Riders in EFA Competitions are judged in exactly the same way as all other Competitors.

International riders and drivers need to have access to a suitable horse/horses trained to the required standard on which to train and compete. The rider needs to have access to and lessons from a specialist trainer on a regular basis. Riders in Grades III and IV should compete in national dressage competitions for the able-bodied, and riders in Grades Ia, Ib and II should compete whenever and where ever possible. Drivers should compete in competitions for the able-bodied.