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National Disability Sports Alliance Conducts Successful Forum on Judging Dressage Riders With Physical Disabilities

Kingston, RI—November 13, 2002—The United States Equestrian Team (USET) Olympic Training Center in Gladstone played host to a forum on judging Dressage riders with physical disabilities, November 1-3. The forum was conducted by the National Disability Sports Alliance (NDSA) in association with USA Equestrian (USAE).

The forum was designed to promote a better awareness of the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee (IPEC) dressage tests and classes through education. It was open to all USAE judges on the roster. Judges with an “r” or above participated free of charge, while there was a nominal fee for judges at the lower levels. Close to 30 judges participated making the forum a tremendous success.

The moderator of the forum was Inger Bryant of England, a member of the IPEC Committee and an international judge. Bryant is deeply involved with the disabled rider program in England and feels the United States needs a boost in promoting the sport.

“There are over 25,000 riders with disabilities competing in England compared to only 70 active participants in the US,” said Bryant “The judges who were at the forum are already good able-bodied judges, they only need to know the differences to make themselves able to judge IPEC classes.”

In IPEC classes, the riders with disabilities are judged with able-bodied rules, but allowances are given for compensating aids. For example, in an IPEC class, special reins that can be held in one hand would not be penalized.

Bryant read the scores aloud as the riders negotiated a test, and then reviewed the test afterwards. Other times the judges scored the riders on their own and then discussed the test.

“Before coming here they really didn’t know what to expect,” said Bryant. “After each ride we’d discuss the movements and marks and give the judges a foundation so that they can then become able to do it on their own.”

Denise Avolio, Equestrian Sports Manager for NDSA, felt the forum was the type of program that is integral to the future of the sport.

“This forum was helpful on so many levels,” said Avolio. “The judges here not only learned more about the sport, but also got to see how good the riders are. They can now spread the word to show managers across the country and encourage them to hold more of our classes during their shows for able-bodies riders.”

The judges were not the only ones to reap rewards. The ten advanced level riders that were invited to participate in the forum benefited not only from being exposed to the judges, but also from a special training session earlier in the week with Jerry Schwartz and Missy Ransehousen, the trainers of NDSA national and international teams.

Chris Lipe, 18, of Atlanta, GA was one of the riders who participated in the clinic. Lipe was the Individual Gold Medalist at the 2001 North American Young Riders Championships’ Mills Team Challenge where riders with disabilities competed. He was happy to take part in the clinic, but found it a little overwhelming.

“It was a little intimidating to have 40 judges pick you apart, but it was an awesome learning experience,” said Lipe. “I’m very grateful that they took the time to come. It shows they care and want to work with us”.

Some of the top judges in the country who were present included Jessica Ransehousen, USET Vice President of Dressage, who felt the forum was a most worthwhile endeavor.

“I really feel the movement needs some support,” said Ransehousen. “In order to make riding as good as possible, you need good judges. The better the judges, the stronger the pressure will be on riders to excel.”

One other purpose of the forum was to encourage horse show managers to include a division for riders with disabilities in their events. In the past, managers were reluctant to hold IPEC classes because of their unfamiliarity with them and their possible impact on their competitions. For that reason, Klaus Fraessdorf, manager of several Dressage shows in Florida, felt it was important for him to attend the forum.

“For my own benefit, the education I am getting here as manager, judge and TD helps me to learn what to look for and compare the standards,” said Fraessdorf. “The riders need to learn to ride correctly so as not to receive sympathy points and they need to be judged fairly and not receive handouts. This forum will help me want to push for IPEC classes in our shows now.”

The NDSA is the national governing body for equestrian sport for riders with disabilities. The non-profit organization is responsible for the development and selection of riders for national championships and international competitions, including the Paralympic Games, and provides training, competition and advocacy for riders of all levels with physical disabilities. For more information about the NDSA and opportunities to support the programs, please contact Denise Avolio at (914) 949-8166 or


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