Para-Equestrians Test Ride London 2012 Greenwich Venue

14 Jul 2011

London 2012 has successfully hosted its first major sports events in Greenwich Park, as preparations continue for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Greenwich Park, which dates back to 1433, offers spectacular views across London and is the British capital's oldest enclosed Royal Park. The World Heritage Site is home to many historic buildings including the Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College and the National Maritime Museum.

As part of the ‘London Prepares’ series of events, the Park welcomed stars from the Para-equestrian world from 4 to 6 July. The events, which gave the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) the chance to test crucial aspects of its operations before next year’s Games, have been hailed as a success by competitors, organisers and spectators alike.

Five British Para-Dressage riders – Alison Moore riding Just Z, Natalie Povey (Westpoint First Lady), Natasha Baker (Cabral), Nicky Thompson (Welt Santa Cruz), and Rosie Andrews (Tango V) – took part in a demonstration, the objective of which was to test the test key aspects of the Greenwich logistics and operations in preparation for the 2012 Paralympic Games, including the field of play, timing and scoring technology, venue installation and workforce.

The arena in use for the demonstration was approximately three-quarters the size of the one that will be in use in 2012. The arena floor or ‘decking’ was a plywood platform supported by a steel and aluminium frame. Not only is this quick to install, lightweight and reusable, it can also be installed without any digging taking place. That is because the adjustable 'legs' for the platform can be placed directly onto the ground, although some sand may be used to ensure the decking is level. Because of the ecological and archaeological sensitivities of the Park, the usual cut and fill process, which is often used when building for equestrian events, will not be used.

All five para-equestrian competition grades were represented at the demonstration. In para-Dressage, the competitor’s mobility, strength and coordination are assessed in order to establish their Classification Profile. People with similar functional ability Profiles are grouped into competition Grades. The Grades range from Grade Ia for the most severely impaired, to Grade IV for the least impaired. The competition within each Grade can therefore be judged on the skill of the individual competitor on their horse, regardless of the competitor’s disability.

All British athletes will be under pressure when competing on their home turf next year, but the ones under the most scrutiny however may be the Para-Dressage riders. "We've won gold so many times that there huge expectations out there!" commented Amanda Bond, Chief Executive of British Dressage and Paralympic Advisor for LOCOG, at the test event. "The spectators were amazed to see our riders in action. They coped really well in the arena and it was great to have visibility like this for our sport," she said.

Para-equestrian Dressage is the only equestrian discipline that is included in the Paralympic Games, where it has been a regular fixture since 1996.

In total there will be 20 sports played at the London 2012 Paralympic Games which get underway on 29 August 2012.