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Two for Three: Competing in Dressage Championships Brings Added Bonus

HUNTINGTON, NY—June 13, 2002—It’s an offer that’s hard to refuse: compete in two classes in the upcoming schooling show and the third class is free! Then you read the fine print. The third class—for free—is a challenge for sighted riders to perform the same dressage test as blind visually impaired and physically disabled riders who are participating in the first-of-its kind competition.

The competition will be held July 9-13 at Willow Tree Farm at Caumsett State Historic Park in Huntington, NY.

"Few have accepted ‘The Able Challenge,’ that we are offering" says Denise Avolio, chairman of the organizing committee for the Inner Vision Championships for Riders with a Disability. "Riders don’t have to be blindfolded or impaired in any way. They just have to ride the test, but few accept the challenge."

Avolio is determined to change misconceptions: physically challenged people are able and capable. "There is a misconception that people with disabilities aren't as capable. ‘The Able Challenge’ is a fun attempt to bring awareness to the challenges and determination of people with physical disabilities."

"The Able Challenge" will be held during an open schooling show as part of the Inner Vision Championships (IVC), the first international dressage competition for riders who are blind or visually impaired. Thirty-plus top equestrians from 10 countries will arrive in New York for a championship dressage competition that will bring together horses and riders when they compete on borrowed horses after just three days of training together!

The Inner Vision Championships, approved and recognized by the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee, will bring together riders from Canada, France, Ireland, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Portugal, Russia and the United States to compete in team and individual tests, which include , Freestyle to Music tests

Equal to USA Equestrian fourth level for sighted riders, the tests are written specifically for riders with disabilities, and the musical freestyles are compulsory. The only concession for blind and visually impaired riders is the use of "living letters," trained volunteers who call out their assigned letter so that the riders are able to visualize where they are in the arena.

However, unlike sighted riders who train for years on familiar horses, these visually impaired competitors will ride horses borrowed from local or regional horse owners and allocated through a draw. Riders will have assigned training times July 9-11 to prepare for a warm-up competition on July 12.

Individual championship competition will begin at 8:00 a.m., Saturday, July 13; musical freestyle competition will follow at 1:00 p.m. The five-day event takes place at Willow Tree Farm at Caumsett State Historic Park in Huntington, NY. Admission is free and the public is invited.

In addition to the 24 international competitors, Avolio says between six and eight US riders will compete in their own National Division. And there is also a special division for novice riders who are blind or visually impaired.

"We are thrilled to have such a positive response to the championships. We’ve seen increased numbers of events and organizations initiating opportunities for riders with disabilities," Avolio said, speculating that an event of this magnitude may be hosted every two years. "But we don't claim title to the IVC. It’d be wonderful if other countries step up to host this international event for riders who are blind and visually impaired."

During this summer’s competition, those non-disabled equestrians who accept "The Able Challenge" will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the challenges physically disabled riders face. "It’s just remarkable what these gifted riders have accomplished," she added. "I have no doubt we will all have a different view—a more enlightened understanding of the challenges and achievements of people with disabilities."

A first-of-its-kind competition, the Inner Vision Championships is co-hosted by the National Disability Sports Alliance (NDSA) and Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, Inc. Both are 501(c)3 organizations.

NDSA is recognized as the national governing body for equestrian sport for riders with disabilities. NDSA is responsible for the development and selection of riders for national championship and international competitions, including the Paralympic Games, and provides training, competition and advocacy for riders with physical disabilities.

Pal-O-Mine Equestrian Inc. is a therapeutic riding program located at Huntington, NY, that provides therapeutic, recreational and competitive horseback riding opportunities for people with physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities.

For more information on the Championships, contact Denise Avolio at (914) 949-8166 or or Lisa A. Gatti, competition manager, at (631) 427-6105 or

The website address for the Inner Vision Championships is

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