British Equestrian is responsible for managing National Classification on behalf of British Dressage, Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and British Carriagedriving, allowing athletes to participate in para equestrian competitions within their chosen discipline. We work closely with the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) to ensure the classification system is compliant with their wider rules and regulations.
National Classification is made possible by a group of volunteers who form our National Classification Panel and Classifiers. They are fully qualified physiotherapists who have been trained in Para Equestrian Classification.
The classification system is designed to enable disabled riders and drivers to compete on equal terms against each other in para dressage and para driving. Athletes are classified according to their disability across a range of grades, which determine the complexity of the movements that they perform with their horses.
The British Paralypmic Association explains classfication and its purpose in this short video:
There are five Grades – Grade 1 is for athletes whose impairment has the greatest impact on their ability to ride, while Grade 5 for athletes whose impairment has the least impact on their ability to ride.
There are two Grades – Grade 1 is for the most impaired drivers and Grade 2 is allocated to those least impacted by their impairment.
To start competing in para equestrian competitions, you will need to be classified to determine which Grade you can compete in. In order to be classified, you must be medically diagnosed as having a permanent, physical impairment that can be measured objectively by a physiotherapist or medical doctor trained in the Para Equestrian Classification system.
The British Equestrian Classification Coordinator is Felicity Towers.
Please note that due to the coronavirus outbreak, all Para Classification Evaluations have been suspended until further notice. Further information about revised dates and locations will be published soon.
Once your application to be classified has been reviewed and you have an eligible medical diagnosis, you will be invited to attend an Athlete Evaluation (physical assessment) at one of our National Classification Hubs, which are held in various locations throughout the year.
You can select your preferred location on your application, and we will do our best to accommodate you. However, there are a limited number of appointments at each Hub.
N.B. If you are eligible for an Athlete Evaluation, you must submit your application a minimum of six weeks in advance of the evaluation date you would like to attend.
In order to process your application, you will need to complete the below forms and send them to the British Equestrian Classification Coordinator, Felicity Towers...
Please refer to National Classification Rules to find out if your disability is eligible for classification.
Please view the National Classification Application Process document for a break-down of the classification process.
No, you do not need to bring your horse with you. The Athlete Evaluation is carried out by two Classifiers in a clinical environment, and you will be asked to carry out a variety of movements and exercises.
The Athlete Evaluation can take up to around an hour and we recommend you wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
Athletes with a vision impairment need to contact British Blind Sport and go through their classification process. You can then send your classification certificate to the British Equestrian Classification Coordinator, Felicity Towers, so it can be converted into a para equestrian grade.
The Grade conversions can be viewed in National Classification Rules.
You must complete and submit the National Classification Review Form and Consent Form to the British Equestrian Classification Coordinator.
Compensating Aids are special pieces of equipment to aid an athlete in para competitions, but don’t give them an advantage over other athletes in the same grade – for example, an athlete who struggles to grip the reins could use looped reins as a compensating aid. Athletes are encouraged to use as few aids as possible.
A list has been compiled to maintain consistency for Para Dressage and Para Driving:
These aids, other than approved saddlery or equipment as outlined in the British Dressage, RDA or British Carriagedriving rules, may be used by all graded para athletes in para competitions. They do not need to be listed on the athlete’s classification card.
Other than approved saddlery, these aids may be used by athletes with the corresponding Profiles and Grades as outlined in the Compensating Aids document. These must be listed on the athlete’s classification card.
These aids are required by an individual athlete and are not listed or described specifically in the rules. These aids may include modifications to a Standard or Profile-Specific Compensating Aid, or a piece of non-standard equipment that’s been custom-made for an athlete.
Please note: all the equipment and aids must comply with Para Dressage and Para Driving rules and regulations.
To apply for compensating aids, you need to complete the National Request Form for Compensating Aids and submit with the supporting documentation to the British Equestrian Classification Coordinator, Felicity Towers.
Unfortunately, intellectual disabilities are not currently eligible for para equestrian classification. However, British Dressage and Riding for the Disabled Association have collaborated and now run an Intellectual Disability Championships – please contact British Dressage for more information. There are also some other options, outlined below, that are available to you.
Riding for the Disabled Association support and develop riders, as well as providing opportunities for achievement. Please visit the RDA website or contact their main office for more information.
British Dressage offer dispensation for athletes to use compensating aids in able-bodied competitions. There is an application process for this, please contact British Dressage Para Officer, Natasha Pearce, via email or phone 02477 087803 for more information.
For advice on how to get involved or progress in Carriagedriving, please contact British Carriagedriving’s Para Liaison, Julie Camm, via email.
An FEI International Classification will allow you to participate in International Para Equestrian Competitions. It is important that you ensure you familiarise yourself with the FEI Para Equestrian Classification Rules. All the relevant documents for Para Dressage and Para Driving can be found on the FEI website.
As the National Federation of Great Britain, the BEF acts as the contact to liaise between the FEI and yourself. To apply for FEI International classification, you need to submit the following documents from the FEI website, using the link above, to Felicity Towers...
The applications need to be sent in six to eight weeks prior to the show you would like to be classified at. Please be aware that the FEI doesn't allow electronic signatures, so please ensure you sign the forms manually.