Last week at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Equestrian Sport Productions CEO Mark Bellissimo donated US$10,000 to the United States Para-Dressage Team and an additional US$10,000 to the Equine Canada Para-Dressage Team.
U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt was quoted by United States Para-Equestrian Association (USPEA) as saying of the donation, “The money will help us a lot. Capital is the bigger struggle in this business. We may be the most expensive sport that the Olympic Committee has. For some sports they need some shoes or clothing. For equestrian you need a lot more. Credentials will be tight this year for the Paralympics and we have a huge support staff. That includes a groom, a trainer, an assistant, a Physiologist, and so much more. We drag a few more people along then everyone else. So this will help us a lot with some of the burden of the Paralympic costs to go over there.”
Equine Canada Para-Dressage Chef d’Equipe Elizabeth Robinson was quoted by USPEA as saying, “These donations were just wonderful. I appreciate the fact that he did it for both teams. That was really special. We have a lot of items to check off right now. We need a horse for Ashley, which the donation may contribute to a lease or purchase. We have to fly all over the world. Since we are up in Canada and we don’t have any competitions in our country, we have to fly people in constantly. That includes coaches and trainers. The donation will be extremely helpful with all of those expenses. We will be spending it wisely.”
Internationally, both countries are ranked in the middle of the pack in team para-dressage. The United States is ranked 10th in the world in the FEI World Team Para-Dressage Ranking while Canada is ranked 12th. The rankings for Para-Equestrian Dressage – FEI Para-Dressage Paralympic Team Ranking are a bit different, with Canada ahead of the United States with an 8th place ranking. The United States is ranked 10th.
Equestrian is one of the most expensive Paralympic sports for competitors to participate in. This related to the costs of owning or using a horse, equipment to ride the horse, and the need to transport the horse to international competitions. Many elite riders outside North America or Europe struggle to find funds to compete, or need to relocate to have better access to events. Even then, funding is a struggle as many NPCs do not target equestrian sports for medals and provide much funding for elite competitors. While there are a number of prizes available at Olympic caliber equestrian events that assist in defraying some costs, prizes for winning elite para-dressage events are much smaller or non-existent.