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Britain’s first Para show jumping event takes place in East Sussex this August. The unaffiliated competition at Crockstead Equestrian Centre is a huge step forward for the discipline participants hope will one day be included in the Paralympic Games.

“This event has come about due to Para riders wanting to expand their experiences,” said organiser Andy Lawes, who appeals to any interested riders to attend and “try something new”.

Tony Bott, co-ordinator of Para show jumping in Britain, told H&H: “We’ve taken a team of riders to jump in France for the past few years. France is the only country until now to hold Paralympic show jumping events, though we know there are Para show jumpers competing in able-bodied classes in Germany, Holland, France, Belgium and Argentina.”

Mr Bott is a a BSJA judge and a Paralympic dressage steward for the International Equestrian Federation.

“Para show jumping is very much in its infancy, and though it’s taken time to find a venue, Crockstead is ideal,” he said. “We hope some French riders will come and have invited riders from Germany and Belgium.”

The discipline is so new that rules are still in draft form. Classifications for Paralympic dressage are currently being used, but Mr Bott said they needed a few changes and there was “still plenty of work to be done”.

The Crockstead competition will be held 14-15 August and will feature unaffiliated show jumping, Paralympic dressage and combined training.

Para show jumper Louise Hacker injured her leg while eventing several years ago. She has been part of the British team competing in France for the past two years and described the fixture as “fantastic”.

“We’ve been trying for a while to get a competition here,” she said. “I think people are being slow to catch on to Para show jumping because they’re nervous of it — they don’t want people falling off. But people with a disability can still jump — and we really want to get it going.”

International Para equestrian chairman Jonquil Solt agreed.

“People around the world are riding in able-bodied competition, but they’re not fulfilling their potential,” she said. “This competition is a big step forward. Many thanks to Tony and Andy.”

Mrs Solt hopes Para show jumping gains momentum. For inclusion on the International Paralympic Committee, a sport must have 24 countries on three continents taking part, with each country holding a national championship.

She said: “These things do tend to start rolling — with Paralympic dressage, we went from 16 to 30 countries in three years. It’s a matter of spreading the word — everywhere.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (10 May, ’07)