By Christine Ross, CanTRA President, CanTRA Coach 

Summertime is show season for all riders across Canada, and riders with disabilities are no exception. Many riders with disabilities enjoy the chance to compete and ride with others to show their horse-riding abilities. There are many different kinds of opportunities for riders with special needs to enjoy competition including in-house shows, local schooling shows, and Para-Equestrian Canada video competitions. 

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The smile says it all. Photo: Rainbow Riders

In-House Shows

Several CanTRA-accredited therapeutic riding programs hold annual horse shows at their own facilities. Some are exclusive to riders with disabilities and some include local able-bodied riders as well as riders with special needs. This provides the safety and comfort of competing in a familiar environment, together with the fun and atmosphere of a show, and allows parents and families to see the progression and abilities of the riders. It also allows the riders to develop confidence about competing while riding in a very safe environment. creston valley therapeutic riding, cantra therapeutic riding program, cantra riding shows

Frances Collison riding Magnum at the Creston Valley Society for Therapeutic Horsemanship Open Benefit Show.  Photo: Tanya Symons 

Local Schooling Shows

Riders with disabilities may have the opportunity to compete at local schooling shows. The staff at the CanTRA-accredited program can coordinate with the local show organizers and have discussions with them to find ways for riders with special needs to compete and be included. Examples where inclusion in regular competition can take place are leadline, walk/trot, trot pole, and showmanship classes. Due to the high standard of teaching in CanTRA Programs, riders with disabilities are well equipped with technical riding skills.

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Erin Millar (left) and Logan Hammond with horse Kit showing their ribbons from the Horse Association of Central Kootenay show in Creston, BC. Photo: Michelle Whiteaway 

Para-Dressage Canada Video Competitions

The Equestrian Canada Para-Dressage web page describes Para-Dressage as: “For individuals with a disability, para-equestrian sport can represent an opportunity to enjoy freedom and movement by learning to ride a horse, competing alongside peers, and progressing to high-level competitions such as the Paralympic and World Equestrian Games.” Throughout the season Para-Dressage Canada holds video competitions where riders can enter and compete in dressage competitions in their familiar facility while riding a horse they know well. This provides a great opportunity for riders with disabilities to grow into the world of Para-Dressage competition. The information about Para-Dressage video competitions is on the Equestrian Canada website.


There is opportunity for riders with disabilities to compete at many levels and be included. As with any journey, this begins with the first step of perhaps competing at an in-house show and starting to learn about what it means to ride a horse in competition. The CanTRA coaches and CanTRA senior instructors are qualified as Equestrian Canada coaches or instructors (or qualifications from a similar international organization). They are also specifically trained in how to assist riders with special needs to learn to ride. CanTRA wants to see riders with a disability have successful riding experiences, be included, and take part in the Canadian show season. 

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Jacqueline Doublet riding Emma achieved first place in an Equestrian Canada Para-Dressage Video Competition. Photo: Michelle Whiteaway