Sport Week: Five para-equestrian storylines at Rio

Rivalries renewed, London 2012 champions returning and new riders rising — these are just a few storylines to watch for at Rio. 25 Mar 2016
Sanne Voets

Sanne Voets is a member of the Dutch para-equestrian team.

By Rob Howell | For the IPC

Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.


Much has happened between the last Paralympic Games in London that will make the para-equestrian dressage competition in Rio 2016 even more interesting.


Here are the top five storylines to keep watch on:

1. The Netherlands dethrone Great Britain as the sport’s powerhouse nation

Since the sport made its Paralympic debut at Atlanta 1996, Team GBR has consistently topped the medal table and won the team competition. However, in the past two years the Netherlands has emerged as a real force to be reckoned with, winning numerous golds, silvers and bronze medals at world and European level, and topping the medal table at last year’s FEI Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships in Deauville, France. Rio 2016 could be their year.


2. Great Britain’s Lee Pearson regains his Paralympic titles

Pearson, the godfather of the sport, won team and both individual titles at every Games since his debut in Sydney 2000 through to Beijing 2008. At his home Games however, at London 2012, he was denied the chance of becoming one of his country’s most decorated Paralympians, picking up team gold, but silver and bronze in the individual and freestyle competitions. Pearson will be hungrier than ever to regain his titles. His new ride Zion proved unstoppable at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014, picking up team and both individual titles, but two silvers at last year’s Europeans show that a Pearson victory is not guaranteed.


3. Bringing the sport outside Europe

While the top nations – Great Britain and the Netherlands for example – are in Europe, the Rio 2016 Paralympics Games could widen the awareness outside the continent. The stadium was filled with spectators watching para-equestrian in London 2012, and that has only helped support their Great British team. But now, with the sport coming to the Americas for Rio 2016, riders in the West may get encouraged and inspired to take up the sport.


4. 2016 - The year the bridesmaids became the brides

The Paralympic Games and other major international competitions often see many familiar faces. Fans of the sport are used to seeing the same people win gold more often than not, followed by well-known faces in silver and bronze. But, with the surge of the Netherlands and the rise of one or two other riders, 2016 could be the year we see a big change. Take the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar for example. In the grade IV competition, he was always a sure fire bet for the podium, but not necessarily right at the top. That changed at last years’ European Championships when he took both individual titles. Could Hosmar be on the verge of a major breakthrough? Belgium’s Michele George - the reigning Paralympic and world champion - will have something to say about that, as will Great Britain’s Sophie Wells, who will be determined to go one better than she did at her home Games in 2012.

5. Still here after 20 years

With equestrianism being a sport that does not have a shelf life on age for its competitors, 2016 - the 20th anniversary of para-equestrian dressage at the Paralympic Games - could see appearances from riders who were there at the very beginning. Great Britain’s Anne Dunham, for example, sits comfortably in the top 10 world rankings and could be at the Games just shy of her 69th birthday. Likewise, Germany’s Angelika Trabert took a bronze medal in Atlanta 1996 and was part of the German team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 two years ago.




Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).


The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.


Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.