Able-bodied or disabled? Hard to tell, isn't it? This is Grade IV Paralympic dressage rider Sophie Wells of Great Britain. Photo by FEI/Liz Gregg. 

Do I feel sorry for a person with a limp, a missing limb, or some other physical challenge? Yeah, I do — until that person climbs in the saddle and proceeds to kick my able-bodied dressage-riding butt.

That’s about the size of it when it comes to the elite riders whose physical disabilities disappear as if by magic when they’re on horseback. The world’s best dressage riders and other athletes who happen to have physical disabilities are currently vying for medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Make no mistake: These are not a kinder, gentler Olympic Games. Paralympic athletes are tough, serious, and competitive. Here’s a look at the Paralympic equestrian competition.

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