The Pathway from Therapeutic Riding to Para-Equestrian

By Christine Ross, CanTRA Vice President

The term “para” means parallel and para-equestrian refers to equestrian sport for riders who have a disability. Para-Dressage is a Paralympic sport and Canada has a strong team competing on the world stage. 

For a person with a disability, riding often begins at one of CanTRA’s therapeutic riding centres that are spread across Canada. CanTRA’s instructors and coaches are able to introduce riding to those with disabilities in a way that is both safe and knowledgeable, on horses that are well-trained and good-natured. 

Many riders with disabilities ride for many years at therapeutic riding centres and, over time, become very accomplished. For some of these riders, the opportunity to be able to move on to para-equestrian is very important. The therapeutic riders of today become the para-equestrian riders of the future, if they wish to take that route. It takes longer for a rider with a disability to progress their riding, but with the right help and assistance they can see steady progress and skill development. 

Para-Dressage Canada has a video competition series, which will continue throughout 2021, that allows a rider to compete and experience riding in a competition in the comfort of their home stable and on a familiar horse. This is a wonderful opportunity for riders with a disability who have competitive riding goals and a strong competitive drive.

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Rider Keely Vokey aboard Boone (owned by Marsha Clarke) at Rainbow Riders Therapeutic Riding Centre. Photo: Erin O’Reilly

Rainbow Riders

During 2021, the BC Therapeutic Riding Association will also be holding a para-equestrian video competition with classes in pole bending, barrel racing, obstacles, para-jumping, equitation, horsemanship, para-reining, and para-driving. This will be another opportunity for riders with a disability to make the progression from therapeutic riding to para-equestrian in a broad range of equestrian disciplines.

Riders with disabilities can also request to take part in local horse shows. Many organizers will make a concerted effort to be inclusive and to offer opportunities for para-equestrians. 

The pathway from therapeutic riding to para-equestrian and onwards to competition can begin with a video competition or participation in a local show. Encouragement for riders with disabilities from the wider equestrian community is of great value and helps riders move from disability to ability. 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. — Lao Tzu.

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Main Photo: Nathan Chaulk rides Arwen (owned by Jayne Carter) at Rainbow Riders Therapeutic Riding Centre in St. John’s, NL. Support crew (L-R): Erin O’Reilly (instructor), Emily MacGregor (leader), Madison James (side walker), Jaiden Green (side walker). Credit: Charlotte Ackerman



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