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Para-equestrian is a parasport involving the equestrian disciplines of dressage and driving. Dressage involves a horse and rider performing a specific sequence of patterned movements. Competitors are judged based on how well they can complete the movements while committing minimal errors. Driving involves precise and controlled movements in which the horse and carriage have to navigate a variety of obstacles. Adaptations for the events are based on disability requirements and can include hand holds and the use of voice for assistance. At the elite level, riders are classified as follows: Grade 1, require use of wheelchair and impairment of all four limbs, able to walk at certain points; Grade 2, require a wheelchair with poor trunk balance and/or impairment of function in all four limbs; Grade 3, require a wheelchair or has little locomotive ability with some limb function; Grade 4, able to walk without support, with minimal use of limbs or loss of sight; Grade 5, impairment in one or two limbs or a visual impairment. Hippotherapy is a form of recreational therapy, in which participants are able to use horse riding as a form of therapeutic assistance.

Is this activity known by any other names?

Para-dressage; Para-driving; Hippotherapy 

What are the origins of the activity abroad and in Canada?

The use of horses as a means of physical therapy ("hippotherapy") emerged after 1952, when Liz Hartel, a polio-survivor, medaled at the Olympics. Hippotherapy came to Canada in 1987, when a group of Canadian and American doctors went to Germany to receive training on the discipline. Dressage and driving have generally been available to participants with disabilities, however in 1996, adaptions were accepted, which increased accessibility. 

Who takes part?

Males and females of diverse ages and ethnocultural backgrounds with a range of visual impairments and physical disabilities.

When does it occur / How often do you take part?

Para-equestrian competitions and training occur year round in the GTA.

Are there any organized clubs, groups, organizations or leagues?

Riding Academy; Saddle Up for Success; Community Association for Riding for the Disabled

Cultural Significance


Is there anything else we should know?



  • Riding Academy
    15 Nova Scotia Avenue
    Toronto, ON M6K 3C3
  • Community Association for Riding for the Disabled (CARD)
    4777 Dufferin St
    Toronto, ON, ON M3H5T3
  • Saddle Up for Success
    5734 Yonge Street
    Suite 104
    Toronto, ON, ON M2M4E7

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