In all Paralympic sport, competitors are classified according to their disability to provide meaningful competition. In equestrian there are five classes, 1a, 1b, II, III, IV, with Grade 1a for riders with the greatest impairments and Grade IV for the least impaired.
The competitor’s mobility, strength and coordination are assessed in order to establish their Classification Profile. People with similar functional ability are grouped into competition Grades. The competition within each Grade can therefore be judged on the skill of the individual competitor on their horse, regardless of the competitor’s disability.
In order to compete at national competitions riders must be classified by a national Para Equestrian classifier and Paralympics Ireland organise this. To compete at international competition two internationally accredited classifiers must classify riders.
Para Equestrian athletes are permitted to use certain compensating aids and they will be approved at the time of classification. For example, athletes with reduced leg strength might be allowed to use 1 or 2 whips while athletes with reduced hand-to-eye co-ordination might be allowed to use looped reins.