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Para Equestrian - 2016 Rio Olympics

Event to Run September 13-16

  • Author: canpubco
  • Number of views: 3561
Para Equestrian -  2016 Rio Olympics
By:  Sarah Milicia


The Para Equestrian competition for Rio 2016 commenced on Sunday, September 11, with medal events taking place September 13-16, 2016.


Most Para riders begin with physiotherapy riding. Physiotherapy riding is mainly conducted in a group setting led by a riding instructor. Working closely together they use equine movement with the active riding component. The instructor can assist with optimal mounting/dismounting, manual handling issues, and individually tailored stretches and exercises for the rider. Another form of physiotherapy is hippotherapy, which utilizes the horse’s movement to achieve the desired responses in a rider. The goal is not to teach horse-riding skills, but rather to use the horse as a dynamic base of support for the rider to learn to control and coordinate their own responses. Oftentimes specialist equipment is used to maximize the transfer of the horse’s movement and warmth to the client, such as a soft sheepskin sitting pad as opposed to a saddle.

Once a rider develops the foundation and skillset, they can go on to train as a Para Equestrian. Such is the case of Stinna Tange Kaastrup, the Danish grade 1b rider who will be competing in Rio 2016. Kaastrup, who was born without legs, will be making her Paralympic debut, with high hopes and expectations of a gold medal. After her horse Snoevs tragically died before the London games, Kaastrup is ready to ride for Denmark with her horse Smarties

Para Equestrian debuted in 1984, and became a regular competition since the Atlanta games in 1996. The equestrian competition consists purely of dressage. There are various tests with varying difficulties. These include a team test, consisting of 3-4 riders per team, an individual championship test made up of predetermined movements in a specific order, and a freestyle test where competitors choose their own movements and music.

Men and women compete against each other on equal terms, and some riders are allowed special equipment. Para equestrians compete in 1 of 5 grades based on classifications. These grades assess their impairment. The classifications are: 1a, 1b, II, III, and IV. The level of difficulty on the test they perform is relative to their allocated grade.

Riders compete for medals in the individual championship test and the freestyle test. Team medals are decided by adding results of the team test and individual test. The best 3 scores of each team count for medals.
The horse and rider perform a series of movements in front of a panel of judges. The movements and overall aesthetic are judged on a scale of 0-10. Dressage showcases horse and rider in perfect harmony.

Sydney Collier, who suffers from Wyburn-Mason Syndrome, will represent the USA. Collier is one of the youngest competitors of the games, and is making her Paralympic Debut. Collier suffered a stroke in 2009, and was discouraged that she may not be able to compete at a high level ever again, but in 2010 watched Para dressage at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. This changed everything. She said in an interview with the Paralympic Movement that Jonathan Wentz is her biggest inspiration and her mentor. Wentz, born with Cerebral Palsy, competed in the London 2012 Paralympics and earned the highest placement overall of any United States Equestrian that competed in London. He passed away in September of 2012 at the age of 21. Wentz is responsible for introducing Collier to the president of USPEA (United States Para Equestrian Association) who got Collier classified while she was in Kentucky. Collier also mentioned in her interview that Great Britain, Denmark, and Germany are her biggest rivals for Rio 2016.

Of the past Paralympic Games, the USA has seen gold medalists including Kurt Krueger (1984), Steve Roloff (1984), Tim Saxton (1984), Wendy Shugal (1984), and Vicki Sweigart (1996). Additionally, USPEA is very important for all Para equestrian athletes. Its mission is to help develop, promote, support, and sustain all USA Para Equestrian athletes for regional, national, and international competitions.



The Para Equestrian competition for Rio 2016 commenced on Sunday, September 11, with medal events taking place September 13-16.

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