Equestrian Paralympic Competition Began Today

The equestrian competition of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games started this morning at Shatin Equestrian arena with a record number of participating riders.

A total of 73 riders from 28 delegations will vie in 11 dressage events. The competition is classified into Grades Ia and Ib and Grades II, III, and IV, according to the degree of the athletes' disability.

Gold medals are awarded to each grade winner in the individual championship test and to each grade winner in the individual freestyle test. There is also a gold medal for the overall winner in the team contest.

Thirteen Grade Ia riders will compete in walk-only tests, while 15 Grade Ib athletes also need to show their abilities at the walk and trot. Eighteen Grade II athletes will compete in more difficult walk and trot tests.

In the Grade III category, 11 riders need to walk, trot, and canter their horses, leaving 16 riders to compete in Grade IV's tests of walk, trot, and canter with lateral works.

Defending champion Britain, which has won three consecutive team gold medals since dressage became a Paralympic sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games, fielded the largest contingent of seven riders.

Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, and the United States sent five competitors each. China and China's Hong Kong are each represented by a single entrant, and another 11 teams also have only one rider.

In previous years, Para-equestrian athletes had to perform with horses provided by the host city, but for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games the entrants were allowed to bring their own horses.

Two of the four riders from Brazil and South Africa will be sharing horses, making a total of 71 horses competing during the five-day events.

All the 71 horses were passed fit for Paralympic Games competition.

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