In this video above, USEF Head of Para-Equestrian Coach Development and High Performance Consultant Michel Assouline discusses the Paralympic sport of para-equestrian dressage (also know as para dressage). The “para” part of this demanding sport’s name refers to its being parallel to the sport of able-bodied dressage.
“It’s really a sport,” Assouline says of para dressage. “It’s the next transition up towards competitive sport, and that means you are basically competing as you would be as an able-bodied rider. You just have to learn how to deal with your disability on the horse.”
Top U.S. para dressage competitors Sydney Collier, Bea de Lavalette, Rebecca Hart, Kate Shoemaker, Cindy Screnci, and Roxanne Trunnell demonstrate some of the technical requirements of the sport’s levels as Assouline covers such topics as how the sport functions; the Grades system, which the sport employs to regulate how athletes compete against each other, in terms of their disabilities; the dressage skills required in each Grade level; coaching; and some of the attributes horses must have to be competitive in para dressage.
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About The Expert – Michel Assouline
USEF Head of Para-Equestrian Coach Development, USEF High Performance Consultant, and Chef d’Equipe,
US Equestrian appointed Michel Assouline Head of Para-Equestrian Coach Development and High Performance Consultant in May of 2017. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge about para-equestrian dressage and dressage trainer/coach development and in 2019 launched the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage Coaches Program.
Assouline continues to work closely with the US Equestrian/USPEA Para Centers of Excellence on seminars and coaching sessions. His work with the Centers of Excellence directly ties in with the aim to grow and develop para-equestrian dressage in the U.S. Prior to joining US Equestrian, he spent nearly 12 years as head coach to the multi-medal-winning British para-equestrian dressage program where he led the Great Britain athletes to four silver and seven gold medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, a record-breaking result for Great Britain para dressage athletes. In that role Michel was awarded the Mussabini Medal, a sports award recognizing British coaches, and was inducted into the UK Coaching Hall of Fame.
This video also features the following U.S. para-equestrian dressage athletes (listed alphabetically):
Sydney Collier: 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympian and member of the U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ Normandy 2014. USEF’s 2014 Junior Equestrian of the Year, she more recently won the 2020 Adequan®/USEF Para Dressage National Championship in the Grade I division. She rides Going for Gold LLC’s All In One.
Beatrice “Bea” de Lavalette: 2020 Tokyo Paralympian who rode Clarc to sweep the Grade II division in the CPEDI3* at Adequan® Global Dressage Festival 3 in 2021. She appears in this video on Clarc, whom she owns with her parents, Elizabeth and Nicolas de Lavalette.
Rebecca Hart: Four-time Paralympian (2020 Tokyo, 2016 Rio de Janeiro, 2012 London, and 2008 Beijing Games), three-time FEI World Equestrian Games™ U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team member (Tryon 2018, Normandy 2014, and Lexington 2010), and eight-time USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion. She rides Rowan O’Riley’s El Corona Texel and Fortune 500.
Cynthia “Cindy” Screnci: 2020 Adequan®/USEF Grade V Para-Dressage National Champion and a Development Athlete on the Para-Dressage Pathway list. A recipient of the 2020 Lloyd Landkamer Memorial Sportsmanship Award, she rides her own Eragon VF.
Kate Shoemaker: 2020 Tokyo Paralympian and member U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team that earned an individual freestyle bronze medal at the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018. She rides Solitaer 40, whom she owns with Craig and Deena Shoemaker.
Roxanne Trunnell: Two-time Paralympian (2020 Tokyo and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games) and two-time FEI World Equestrian Games U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team member (Normandy 2014 and Tryon 2018). She rides Karin Flint and Flintwoode Farms LLC’s Dolton.