Bienvenue en 2024 – The Paralympics Paris Series with Angela Lyons

Today we start another new article series this time covering the Paralympics in Paris and this wonderfully innovative series is brought you you by the one and only Angela Lyons. Throughout this series Angela will Educate us, Inspire us and show us the behind the scenes journey of a Para Rider trying to get to the Paralympics. What we love about this is Angela isn’t just going to share her own story, there will be a range of article interviews with other para riders and some people in leadership in and around the team as the prepare to compete and get on the final team for the Paralympics. (Angela may be looking for a sponsor of this article series for any businesses out there who want to support her journey). To the business owners out there, don’t forget the theme of International Women’s Day (March 8th) is #InspireInclusion – this could be a fantastic series to sponsor aligning to Inspiring Inclusion.

Now we will hand it over to Angela for the first article of this series.

I’m Angela Lyons, A creaky equestrian and dressage lover.

I’ve been part of Para Equestrian Ireland since 2010. I’m here to give you an insight into Para Dressage as Team Ireland get ready to send their team to compete amongst the world’s best in the incredible venue of Versaille.

Firstly, let me briefly explain the grading system: 

  • There are five grades ranging from Grade I where riders have the most severe disability to Grade V those with lesser disabilities. Each Grade is made-up of different Profiles-Depending on which body part is affected and the range of power and movement.
  • To be graded you apply through Para Equestrian Ireland , the national classifier will examine you to a specific scale and then will apply you with a Grade and Profile that fit the examination results.  Balance, power and joint movement range is examined during the Classification. If a rider wants to compete internationally, you have to attend an CPEDI  Para Equestrian Events and see the classifying panel there. The panel will also watch you ride at the event before  confirming the Grading.
  • Some Classification are Fixed, meaning the rider will stay at the Grade.  There is also a Review Status, which is for disabilities which are changeable or Progressive. 
  • There are also Profiles for Visually Challenged riders. These riders will sometimes wear blackout glasses and will always wear an armband to alert other riders in the warm up arena.

In my case, I am a Grade IV Profile 26a-“4 limbs reduced in function, with trunk affected”,

As my disease is progressive and my joints strength and power have reduced so I have moved Profiles. I initially was a Grade 5 spot as I fell apart more, I’m now a Grade 4. I am continually on a 2 year Review, where the Classifiers monitor any degeneration. 


Each competition is over 3 days.

First day is Team  Test  ( Grand Prix A)

Second day is Individual  ( Grand Prix B)

Third day is freestyle- My favourite! But only the top 8 can compete in freestyle.

Grade 1 riders compete at walk only. Grade 2 riders compete at walk and trot. Grade 3 riders  Compete at walk and trot with some lateral work. Grade 4 riders compete at medium level. Grade 5 riders compete at advanced medium level. Freestyles may include certain more difficult movements to add degree of difficulty to the test, which can give higher marks.

The dressage quality is very high. Tests are judged by top level, often list one Grand Prix Judges. These judges expect the same principles of dressage that would be in able bodied competition. The horse and test are judged as in able-bodied dressage and no” pity “is taken on the rider.

In order to assist riders there are many Compensatory Aids available depending again on your Grade and Profile.

Coming back to myself, I have a few compensatory aides. 2 whips(Essential at times!), A handhold (or “Jesus Strap”), Split reins (a bit like Pelham joiners), Loop Reins (gives me a more secure grip), Velcro Strap from stirrup to girth (to control a wayward leg).

I hope this gives you a little more insight into the ins and outs of Para Dressage.For me and I’m sure for other Para Equestrian riders, it’s about our abilities and not are disabilities.


Bienvenue en 2024 – The Paralympics Paris Series with Angela Lyons

Sign Up To Ireland’s First Ever Grassroots Equine Magazine!

Written by Grassroots Members for Grassroots Members!!

Your subscription is 100% Free for our first year, No credit card details required.