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The International Equestrian Federation will take over the day-to-day running of the equestrian Paralympic sports from next year.

Until now, equestrian Paralympics were managed by the IPEC — a member of the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) — through IPC’s local offices. But a handover has been in the offing since the FEI recognised the Paralympics a few years ago.

“We have been working on this for almost two years,” says Ian Williams of the FEI. “What happened is that, back in Paris in 2004, the FEI put a legal structure in place to have the Paralympics as an equestrian discipline.”

Members of IPEC and the FEI then set up a working group to work out how the Paralympics could be best brought into the equestrian federation. The group laboured throughout 2005, and IPC and the FEI have now agreed the content of the Formal Transfer of Governance, which will be signed in late November or early December.

“The management of the Paralympics fully resides with the FEI from January,” says Williams.

Under the new regime, equestrian Paralympics will become the FEI’s eighth equestrian discipline, while the FEI will become a member of IPC.

This means that Paralympic competitors will now deal with national equestrian federations, rather than with their local office of the IPC. “This already happens in the UK,” Williams points out, “so that won’t be much of a change for British athletes.”

Paralympic dressage riders and drivers will compete under a set of rules, which the FEI is now finalising and which will be as close as possible to its rules for able-bodied dressage and driving.

“Basically, the sports will use the existing rules for dressage and driving and these booklets we are producing detail where we are going away from these rules to meet Paralympic requirements,” explains Williams. “And we will have a technical committee just like the other disciplines.”

The first Paralympics technical committee will be formed in April 2006. In the meantime, the FEI Bureau will appoint a temporary committee and will seek committee membership applications from national federations. At the same time, the joint working group between IPEC and the FEI will cease to exist, although the two organisations will meet regularly for the next two years to ensure a smooth handover.

“We will use the base created by IPEC and their technical committee to work the sport forward,” says Williams. “In general terms, we will run the Paralympics as a mirror image to what happens to able-bodied sports.”

In the long run, however, the FEI hopes to absorb the appropriate Paralympics competitions under each of its seven disciplines, just like it happens with the Olympics.

“At the moment, Paralympics concentrate on dressage and driving. We hope to extend it to endurance and maybe jumping,” says Williams. “I believe this transfer of governance can only better the sport and can only be the next step on in terms of its development. We are all very excited and enthusiastic about it.”