Getting Classified Warning: Word vomit follows

Remember when I went to the para dressage clinic in Texas? Well, it was mentioned to me there that perhaps I should be classified as a different grade than the profile for dwarfism. The reasoning being, that with my spinal fusion, I only have movement in a single vertebrae from my thoracic spine down.

My original classification took place in 2002 at the World Disabled Driving Championships in Germany. It was there that I was assigned the profile for dwarfism. Of course, I did not ride then, and was correctly classified as Grade 2 for driving. (Driving only has two grades versus the five grades for riding.)

Fifteen years later, the profile for dwarfism put me in Grade 4 for riding. (Grade 5 being the least disabled, grade 1 being the most.) I have been working on cantering for a while, and still want to work on it, but have been struggling for a while. I have a tendency to tip forward, I think because short legs + fused spine = really high center of balance. So I decided to pursue the reclassification and see what happened.

Dreamy. Grade 4 rider Annie Peavy competing at Global

What happened was a whole lot of paperwork!

First, I had to apply to the FEI to be reclassified.

Second, I had to get documentation of my physical/orthopedic issues beyond just simply being short. I ended up with 140 pages worth of readings from every X-ray and test I have had done at Johns Hopkins. I also got a note from my primary care doctor outlining some of my physical limitations.

Lastly, I had to get myself to one of the locations where I could be seen by the FEI classifiers. Getting all my medical records took some time, so I was not able to get reclassified during my trip in January. Luckily, there was a second CPEDI (international para dressage show) in Wellington in March.

So I snuck down sans pony to get reclassified and watch some of the rides.


Dale Dedrick

Meghan Benge

I was pretty nervous for this, mostly not knowing exactly what to expect and hoping this wasn’t a big waste of time.

The classifiers were really super nice and answered all of my questions. The classification itself was pretty simple. They test your range of motion and the power/strength. I think they difficult part is interpreting the results.

For me, the major things that stood out were the lack of flexibility in my left hip and leg. (I will end up getting it replaced.) Most notably, there is no movement in my pelvis really at all, as well as my spine.

All of the tests took about thirty minutes, after which they asked to privately discuss their findings. When I returned, they told me they agreed with others who indicated I had more physical limitations than simply “being short” but that they weren’t quite sure what to do! They said they needed to confer with other FEI classifiers to make sure they were on the right track.

So, I was slightly mystified by that, but at least they did not say outright that I am just a big wimp. This weekend happened to be Live Oak and so I had made plans to go cheer on Randy. So I drove up to Ocala.

Go Leyla!

Later that weekend, I got a message from one of the classifiers asking if I could submit a video of my riding for the classifiers to review. I am not sure if this is unprecedented or not, but I got a video together. It was an awful video too, definitely not Zoey’s or my day to say the least.

Friesian stallion

All that was left was to anxiously await their decision. A week or so passed and finally there was a decision!

Ultimately, the classifiers assigned me a new profile, which is typically still a grade 4. However, they decided that because my scores were so low for range of motion, to reassign me to Grade 3. They still want to see me ride in person at one of the shows before making it permanent, but seems pretty positive.

The Grade 3 tests are still going to challenge us, but don’t seem unattainable like the Grade 4 tests. So, our next big goal: qualify and compete at the para nationals in Tryon (two hours away!!) in September.

To be continued…

Many more photos from Live Oak and the CPEDI at Wellington

About Meghan

I am a photographer/graphic designer in Aiken, SC. I am owned by a herd of ponies. My dogs/best friends are Poppy and Amigo.