An initiative to help develop more para dressage riders, due to launch next year, has won the backing of double London 2012 medallist Natasha Baker (pictured).

The para dressage intro competition has been set up to “bridge the gap” between attending a local Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) centre and British Dressage (BD) competitions.

RDA centres will host classes with the new intro test, which will be open to all ages. BD membership is not required to compete and riders will compete on RDA horses.
British Paralympic gold medallist Natasha Baker told H&H it was a “fantastic idea” and a “massive step forward” for the sport.

“When I started in para dressage, I had a huge jump from RDA to competing against some of the most experienced riders in the world when I was just 13,” she said.

“This way, people can gain confidence and experience and make the transition more gradual.

“There are so many RDA riders out there who would love the opportunity to compete more — it’s the perfect introduction to para dressage.”

The move comes thanks to the 2013-17 Excel funding from the National Lottery through Sport England. The funding will pay for the costs of judges, rosettes and scoresheets. It means entry will be “very reduced” at £5-8, according to the British Equestrian Federation (BEF).

The entry fee will go directly to the RDA centre.

The BEF’s David Hamer said: “By developing a level of BD competition within regional RDA centres, we will hopefully break down some of the perceived barriers that stop riders starting in what is now one of the best competition pathways in the world.”

The Diamond Centre in Surrey was due to pilot the project on Sunday 3 November to test the new competition format and structure. Four centres are to host competitions next year.