Equestrian Canada upholds rule barring legally blind 10-year-old from competing

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News Hour follow-up: young blind equestrian wants to compete
WATCH: Young blind equestrian in B.C. wants to compete – Aug 26, 2019

A 10-year-old legally blind B.C. girl has been told there will be no change to the rules that have barred her from competing in an upcoming equestrian event — at least in the short term.

Kyra Barrett has been legally blind since birth but has discovered a love of horseback riding and competition thanks to the use of a guide horse and rider, which help her navigate the course.

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Kyra’s mother, Hayley Barrett, said Equestrian Canada approved the use of the guide horse earlier this year, which allowed her to compete in cross-country, jump and dressage events this spring.

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Kyra had planned to compete in an event in Chilliwack this weekend, but her mother now says Equestrian Canada has reversed course, barring the use of a guide horse and limiting Kyra to competing in dressage events.

Equestrian Canada says the guide horse rule is necessary for safety and that no other country permits their use in competition on cross-country courses.

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“Our key concern as a sport governing body is the safety of athletes that compete in events. And having a lead horse that is leading the way for a horse and rider that has impaired vision is at a risk level that our rules don’t allow for at this time,” said Equestrian Canada CEO Richard Mongeau.

Disability Alliance BC called the decision “discouraging and unfair” and said the dispute shows that there is still work to do on issues of accessibility.

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Mongeau didn’t rule out a possible rule change in the future but said there will be no exception made in time for Kyra to participate in the upcoming weekend’s event.

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