Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi, I’m Tegan! I’m 21 years old and have Cerebral Palsy which is a physical disability caused by damage to the brain. It makes my muscles tight, rigid, and spasm involuntarily. That being said I’m also a student in Film & Media Production and a Para-Dressage Rider from Bristol currently competing with two horses on my quest and journey to get to the Paralympics.
Could you explain what Para-Dressage is?
Dressage is the art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance. You’re judged on how well/accurately you ride the movements, the horse’s way of going and your partnership. Para-dressage is essentially the same thing just with a few alterations to suit disabled riders. The main changes are that the riders are classified and put into a group based on their physical ability, so you’re competing against those with similar abilities.
Do you have to have your own horse to compete?
You definitely don’t need your own to compete, there are many options out there! I’ve been competing for 13 years and only on my own horse for the last 5 months. RDA are awesome as they have a variety of horses suited to different disabilities and abilities or riding. It’s a great place to start as you get to enjoy riding and competing without the responsibility of a horse or pony. Other options are to part loan/share, which is a great introduction to the responsibility of horse ownership, you also can build a better bond between rider and horse. You could then also work with owners, for example, the lovely chestnut ROR I rode last year is owned by my coach but I offered to ride him.
If you are looking to get your own I do recommend you seriously research the costs and add 10% more! As with para riders depending on your disability you may require extra support and someone to exercise/care for your horse if you're unable to. With para riders, we often need more support than able-bodied riders - which is ok - but something to consider.
It’s taken me 15 years for me as a rider and my family to be in a place to have a horse. It’s a lot of responsibility and money! Advice that I got from many Olympic coaches is “don’t rush into it when there are other options that are cheaper and equally as rewarding”!
How do you get classified/what makes you eligible for the classes?
I started through the RDA where you can get nationally classified to be able to compete. This classification will allow you to compete RDA, BD & Unaffiliated. If you do want to compete unaffiliated without being classified but need specialised tack, a companion horse, a sighted caller, etc… you can apply for compensatory aids which allows you to have everything you need and compete in able-bodied competition. You are eligible for classification if you have a diagnosed disability, physical or intellectual. If you are unsure if you qualify still contact RDA (if you’re in one) or BD and they’ll be able to help.
If you have an RDA/BD classification already and want to compete internationally you need to be classified again by FEI, which you can apply for by completing a few documents, sending them to the contact suggested online and being put on the waitlist for the next assessment appointment.
Link to FEI classification & Compensatory Aids list and documents: https://inside.fei.org/fei/disc/para-dressage/classification/documentation
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to start their Para-Dressage journey?
Enjoy every moment and remember to breathe (I forget, but it really helps)! Dressage is about improvement, not perfection, not even Charlotte Dujardin is perfect! Every improvement and success should be celebrated, and every downfall is just something to improve on for next time.