Equestrian is one of the newest sports on the Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport programme. It was added in 2016.
Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport manages the eligibility for athletes who wish to compete in the sport. This means that all athletes registered with Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport on its masterlist have a recognised impairment. It organises competitions exclusively for athletes with an intellectual impairment.
Athletes interested in competing at a high level first need to contact their National Federation.
Equestrian is a sport of skill and control, creating the perfect synergy between animals and humans.
After Denmark’s Liz Hartel, a rider with physical impairments as a result of polio, won Olympic silver in 1952 a new generation of riders were inspired and Para equestrian was born.
Riders with intellectual impairments were included in Grade 3 competition when the sport was introduced to the Paralympic programme at Atlanta 1996. However four years later they were taken off following the removal of athletes with intellectual impairments from the Paralympics. They have not returned since the re-inclusion of athletes from other sports at London 2012.
In 2015 at the Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI) Congress in Taiwan, a Task Force was established with Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport to begin to reinvigorate equestrian for athletes with intellectual impairments.
Riders, now competing in the Grade 5 Novice A Test for dressage, took part in the first competition under this partnership in 2017. An innovative video competition was held where countries submitted footage of their athletes according to strict regulations. This was designed to make the sport more accessible for teams and saw 14 equestrians from four countries compete.