Para-Equestrian sport has been steadily developing over the past 25 years and is practiced by equestrians with a wide variety of disabilities. Dressage competitions for riders with disabilities began in Scandinavia and in Great Britain in the 1970s. In 1987, the first dressage World Championship was held in Sweden. Nine years later a big step forward was made, with the inclusion of dressage on the program at the 1996 Paralympic Games held in Atlanta, USA.
Para-Equestrian sport was recognized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in 1991 and was governed until 2005 by the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee (IPEC). The IPEC ran competitions and developed equestrian sport for the disabled world-wide. A significant change came in 2006, when regulation of the sport moved from the IPC to the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), becoming the eighth equestrian discipline governed by the FEI.
This also made the FEI the first International Federation to govern and regulate a sport for both able-bodied and disabled athletes. All rules and regulations with regards to Para-Equestrian competition venues and organization are governed by the same principles as the other seven disciplines. As the sport has developed so has the number of countries and regions taking part in international competitions. At the 2008 Beijing Games, a total nearing 30,000 spectators came to watch throughout the Honk Kong para equestrian classes.
In 2005 Michel became UK Para-Equestrian Dressage Squad Coach and has so far taken his Team GB riders to win team gold medals at the 2005 European Championships, the 2007 World Championships, the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, the 2009 European Championships, the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky and the 2011 FEI Europeans in Moorsele, Belgium. At the Beijing Games which took place in Honk Kong all 3 counting scores in the team competition were well above 70% and the riders won a total of 5 gold and 5 silver medals.
At the London 2012 Games Michel's Team won Gold on 468 points ahead of Germany (440 points). The British Team largest margin ever, 5 Gold medals (incl. Team Gold), 5 Silver and 1 Bronze which is a Paralympic record. Sophie Christiansen had another record too of 84.75% and all scores were above 71% including 4 tests above 80%! Individual rider Natasha Baker also set another record of 82.80% in the Grade II Freestyle a massive 5% lead over Britta Napel of Germany! Well it was simply amazing!
You can get involved in the sport of para equestrian dressage by selling or loaning your horse to a successful athlete. Do not hesitate to contact Michel to have your horse assessed and find a suitable rider.
For more information on all Para-Equestrian Sport activities click through the links below:
Anne Dunham/ Team Gold Medallist, individual Gold Medallist at the Beijing Paralympic Games. Quote to Michel Assouline, team coach, after receiving her medals :
'Dear Michel I just have to say thank you so much for all your help and belief in me and my horse Teddy. Your daily support in Honk Kong meant I could achieve my dream of that individual gold medal.'
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