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Para dressage Laureen Johnson is the US Equestrian (USEF) Director of Para Dressage and Vaulting. EQ AM had the chance to talk with her about what qualifies someone for a para equestrian classification and the organization’s new Para Centers of Excellence (COEs).

First, can you educate our readers a bit about para

disability. There are five grades, I - V. Grade V is the

dressage in general? How long has it been a USEF sport?

least disabled and Grade I is the most disabled. Athletes

Laureen: To give a little history, the first para

within a grade compete against each other on a level

dressage competition was at the first Paralympic Games

playing field.

in Atlanta in 1996. So it’s been around for a while. How does a rider become qualified, and at what Would you agree though that, for the average equestrian, it’s not really on their radar? I had no idea it had been around that long.

grade? To get a national classification, you only need one classifier within your country, the U.S., to give you a

That is one of our issues. There’s very little known

bench evaluation and observe you riding. They determine

about the program. I am constantly hearing, “I had no

what grade you’re put in. Classifiers are either physical

idea there was such a program. I’d love to get involved.

therapists or doctors.

Can you tell me more about it?”

Of course, you can’t compete in international shows without an international classification, so for

So let’s work on that… What qualifies someone for

an international classification, they’re done at the

the para program?

CPDI 3* shows. These are our domestic international

You have to have a permanent, measurable, physical 56 | EQ AM MAGAZINE

competitions, and we will invite a classifier from Europe

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