Equestrians with Disabilities

This competition is open to people with physical or cognitive disabilities that love competing. EWD classes may be held at NSBA approved shows, US Para-Equestrian events, or can be stand-alone events. In order to participate in EWD events, a Special Diagnosis Form and Special Adaptive Equipment & Independent Riding Ability Form must be completed. To offer these NSBA approved classes, an NSBA Show application must be completed and submitted to NSBA office 90 days prior to the show.



In order to participate, an exhibitor must have a medically diagnosed condition that causes a permanent impairment that can be measured objectively. Examples of conditions, diseases or disorders that may lead to permanent impairment are: paresis, amputation (partial to full joint), ankylosis, upper motor neuron lesions, vision impairment, and intellectual disability. Eligible conditions include: amputation, arthrogryposis, Asperger syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, Batten disease, cerebrovascular accident (stroke), cerebellar ataxia, cerebral palsy, Coffin-Lowry syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, dwarfism, fragile X syndrome, Friedreich’s ataxia, Guillain-Barre syndrome, hearing impairment, Hunter syndrome, microcephaly, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Rett syndrome, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, trisomy disorders and visual impairment. Additional diagnosis will be considered upon request.

  1. Diagnosis Form and Acceptable Adaptive Equipment Form

            In order to participate in EWD events, a licensed medical physician must sign a NSBA diagnosis form. Also, a NSBA acceptable adaptive equipment form and riding ability form completed and signed by a certified instructor or coach of Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), Special Olympics, US Para-Equestrian, Certified Horsemanship Association or IRD or a certified therapeutic riding instructor who is also a member in good standing of NSBA, indicating the riding ability and adaptive equipment that is required. A valid NSBA membership number or NSBA membership application must be submitted to NSBA. Upon receipt of the forms the EWD membership card will be noted with EWD endorsement. Forms must be updated every two years.


Horse and exhibitor eligibility requirements must be met.

  1. Neither the exhibitor or their immediate family is required to own the horse. However the exhibitor must be a NSBA member, in good standing, in order to compete and earn points.
  2. Stallions are not eligible to be shown in any EWD activities.
  3. The welfare of the horse is outlined in the rulebook, however, horses with a slight disability or lameness may be used at the discretion of the judge.
  4. Any breed of horse may be shown at the same event, providing it is registered with one of the alliance breed associations. Unregistered stock horses may be registered for NSBA competition per NSBA rules.


Tack and Equipment

English and western equipment and attire will follow rules as set forth in the rulebook with the exception of EWD acceptable adaptation equipment.

  1. Helmet: Exhibitors must wear a properly fitted and fastened with harness, ASTM approved protective helmet. A western hat may be affixed over the helmet in western events. Equipment should conform to the riding ability of the competitor and be suitable for the horse.
  2. Halter: All horses when ridden must wear a halter in a manner that does not interfere with reining of the horse. A halter must be on the horse either over or under the bridle for use by the handler if needed. All exhibitors should be able to hold reins.
  3. Bits or Bosal: A snaffle bit, curb bit or bosal/hackamore may be used, no matter the age of the horse.
  4. Except for snaffle or hackamore entries, only one hand may be used on the reins and the hand may not be changed. However, use of two hands will not be cause for disqualification, but will be scored according to severity.
  5. Exhibitors are allowed to hold the saddle with either hand without penalty.
  6. Outside assistance will be penalized at the judge’s discretion.
  7. EWD Acceptable adaptive equipment includes but not limited to:
    1. SADDLE
      1. Raised pommel
      2. Raised cantle
      3. Hard hand holds
      4. Soft hand holds
      5. Seat saver
      6. Knee rolls/blocks
      7. Thigh rolls/blocks
      8. Padded saddle flaps
      1. Rubber bands around foot and stirrup
      2. Enclosed stirrups
      3. Strap from stirrup leather to girth/cinch
      4. Strap from stirrup to girth/cinch
      5. No stirrups
      6. One stirrup
      1. Looped rein(s)
      2. Connecting bar reins
      3. Bridging rein
      4. Ladder reins
      5. Rein guides (rein through ring on saddle)
      6. Elastic insert in reins
      7. Side pulls
    4. WHIPS
      1. One or two whips
      2. Strap attaching whip to hand
      1. No boots if using safety stirrups (Peacock, S-shaped irons or Devonshire stirrups)
      2. Modified riding boots
      3. Gaiters
      4. Half chaps
      5. Off set spurs
      6. Safety vest
      1. L or R Arm sling
      2. Neck collar
      3. Ankle foot orthoses
      4. Prosthesis
      5. Wrist brace
      6. Back support
      7. Trunk support
      8. Gait belt
      1. Commander using sign language
      2. Enlarged arena letters
      3. Audio Communications (for hearing impaired)
      4. Voice
      5. Bareback Pads
      6. Surcingles
      7. Other equipment will be considered upon request



Required for all independent exhibitor classes: one handler per entry to facilitate the safety of the exhibitor. The handler must be 16 years of age or older. The handler must have a lead line without a chain in their hand, in case of safety issues.

  1. Handlers shall stand quietly in a designated area, not obscuring the judge’s line of vision, unless their assistance is required and requested by the judge or ring steward, in the event of a safety issue. The handler may either take a position behind, beside or in front of their respective exhibitor’s horse, or quietly walk forward and snap onto the horse’s halter, after the exhibitor’s pattern is completed, or the class has come in to line up.
  2. A blind or deaf exhibitor may have an assistant who communicates via verbal or sign language or cue cards to the competitor, so they may hear the judge’s directives or pattern instructions. This assistant will be outside the ring, and their position known to the judge and ring steward.
  3. Leaders and sidewalkers: The supported exhibitor must have a leader with a loose lead without a chain, attached to the halter in a manner that does not interfere with reining of the horse. The supported exhibitor may need the assistance of one or two side walkers. Once the class has started, unauthorized assistance from horse leaders, spotters and side walkers will result in penalties. Side walkers may not give verbal commands or extra physical prompting, except in case of emergency.
  4. Handlers, leaders, sidewalkers, or extra spotters, other than the required horse handler, are not considered tack or equipment.


General Show Rules

  1. To provide show management with the option to include equestrians with disabilities competition, NSBA has adopted these rules. In doing so, NSBA does not assume responsibility for safety of participants. Since it is show management, which conducts these events and controls both the physical facility and all aspects of the events, responsibility for participant’s safety remains solely with show management.
  2. Each participant, or their parent or guardian by allowing participation, assumes all risk of personal injury or property damage occurring as a result of the participation, and does hereby release and discharge the NSBA and show management, their respective officers, directors, representatives and employees from any and all liability, whenever or however arising, from such participation, except for the negligent act or omission, if any, of indemnities. Further, as parent or legal guardian, they agree to indemnify and hold harmless NSBA and show management from such liability to the minor.
  3. Attendance at an NSBA-approved event, in whatever capacity, shall constitute authorization for NSBA, its agents, designees, or assigns to photograph, video tape, televise, post to the web or record by other means (hereinafter referred to as “photographic material”) any person or animal on the premises of an NSBA approved event, and shall further constitute authorization for the use of such person’s name, voice and biography, or the name, pedigree and performance record of any animal on the premises (hereinafter referred to as “related information”) in conjunction with any photographic material.
  4. Show management applies for NSBA-approval of these events on a voluntary basis, and assumption of responsibility for safety by show management is required by NSBA, as an express condition for NSBA to grant approval for these events.
  5. To obtain tentative NSBA-approval, application must be submitted a minimum of 90 days prior to the event on forms either provided by, or acceptable to NSBA, stating the date and location of the desired events, along with the show approval fee.
  6. EWD classes may be held at NSBA-approved shows, US Para-Equestrian events or can be stand-alone events.
  7. An exhibitor may show more than one horse in individually worked classes as outlined in the rulebook; however, horses cannot be shown by more than one exhibitor in the same EWD class.
  8. All patterns must be posted one hour before the class. One of the suggested EWD pattern(s) may be used; however, a judge in concert with the show management may utilize a different pattern using the acceptable maneuvers.
  9. Classes may be split at the discretion of show management. If go-rounds are necessary, in the interest of successful implementation of the approved show, the number of go-rounds to be held, and the number of horses to be shown at each go-round, should be based on safety and/or physical constraints of show premises, when applied fairly and uniformly by a procedure in which all qualified entries are included in a random draw. When necessary to split large classes, by running more than one go-round, finalists must rework the specified class requirements. EXCEPTION: any scored class.
  10. Markers must be used and may be numbered or lettered. People shall not be used as markers.


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