This week British Dressage (BD) announced the launch of the new freestyle to music tests for bronze and silver para riders. The organisation said this “remarkable step forward” is key for developing athletes as they provide the foundations for international competition, as well as giving riders a new aim, and more opportunities.
“The tests have been developed by the BD para technical committee as a bridge to the technically demanding FEI freestyle tests which, up to now, have been the only freestyle on offer,” said a BD spokesman.
“The tests are pitched at a level that combines the technical elements of the bronze and silver tests, and while designed to allow for some innovation in displaying ability to perform more technical movements, they also list prohibited movements to protect our bronze and silver rider groups. Importantly, to encourage athletes to prepare for the gold test, the timings, arena size, and guidelines, mirror the FEI tests as closely as possible.”
There will be a national para freestyle for each of the para grades I to IV, but riders can opt which section they ride in, bronze or silver, subject to eligibility.
The spokesman added that BD para committee member and multi-medallist Sophie Wells contributed to the project by riding through the tests at home with her clients to make sure they worked, and that para selector Joyce Wood was “heavily involved” throughout.
Grade IV rider Joanne Dagley-Cleworth said the new series is “exciting” for para riders, especially for lower grades who may now have their first chance to do a freestyle.
“It’s another step forward on BD’s journey making sure it really is an inclusive sport, enabling bronze and silver para riders to have the same competition opportunity as their able-bodied counterparts,” she said. “I hope riders are keen to make a floor plan and have a go.”
BD para director Julie Frizzel said she was delighted that the determination of the committee and the headquarters team had enabled BD to create, scrutinise, develop and release the tests, during the Covid pandemic.
“For some time, we’ve had an ambition to have a national freestyle test, pitched at the appropriate technical difficulty level, but now our competing community has surpassed 220 athletes, there is no better time for us to launch this superb initiative,” she said.
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BD para judge John Robinson said he was delighted to work on the project.
“It is so richly deserved for riders at these levels to have the opportunity to progress and the new freestyle tests will make this possible,” he said.
The first opportunity to ride the national para freestyle test will be at the para winter championships at Myerscough, Preston (23-25 May).
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