Paralympic riders go for gold

  • Six British paralympic dressage riders are currently in Moorsele, Belgium gearing up for the 5th International Paralympic Committee Dressage World Championships (5-7 September).

    The riders representing Britain are:

    • Lee Pearson
    • Michelle Crunkhorn
    • Anne Dunham
    • Debbie Criddle
    • Nicola Tustain
    • Ricky Balshaw

    British Dressage spokesperson Jo Bagnall was confident of the squad’s chances: “They are aiming to win medals and they have a very good chance of doing it.”

    Each of the British competitors will ride three tests, one on each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some paralympic dressage competitions use “pool horses” but this is an own horse competition, as will be next year’s Athens Paralympic competition for the first time.

    Jo explained: “The last British riders flew out to Belgium today, while most of the riders and the horses arrived at the weekend and they are ready to ride their first tests on Friday.”

    Paralympic dressage riders first competed at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games when there were 16 nations taking part in the sport. This figure has now grown to 40 nations with 120 riders expected to compete at this year’s World Championships.

    Of the 36 nations entered for the World Championships, the Netherlands and France are strong contenders as well as the Germans who, Jo says, “are just as prevalent as in able-bodied dressage”.

    The rules of paralympic dressage are based on the FEI rules for able-bodied riders but are adjusted to cater for riders with disabilities. For example, riders can use specially adjusted saddlery, carry two whips and have tests commanded depending on their needs.

    The World Championships, which are under the patronage of Princess Astrid of Belgium, aims to showcase the high standards that have been built up under the motto of the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee: “It’s ability that counts – not disability”.

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