Sophie Wells is one of several British Paralympic champions competing this weekend ©Getty Images

Para-dressage riders will return to action this weekend as they compete at the Pole International du Cheval, the first major international competition of the year.

Among the riders set to compete in Deauville in France will be Great Britain's Paralympic champions Sophie Wells and Sophie Christiansen, due to compete in the grade V and grade I categories respectively.

Alongside Wells and Christiansen, winners of both team and individual Paralympic gold medals at Rio 2016, will be compatriot Lee Pearson, who boasts 11 Paralympic gold medals.

The Netherlands are also sending a strong team to France with their team featuring International Equestrian Federation (FEI) European Championship 2017 medallist Nicole Den Dulk and Demi Vermeulen, scheduled to take part in the grade II and III categories respectively.

Host nation France will field 10 athletes, including veterans Jose Letartre, Vladimir Vinchon, Thibault Stoclin and Celine Gerny.

Celine Gerny is on the team for host nation France ©Getty Images
Celine Gerny is on the team for host nation France ©Getty Images

Gerny said she is looking forward to the event.

"Deauville is an important competition," she said to the International Paralympic Committee website.

"It will allow us to test ourselves in relation to the other competitors, and I'll be able to see how my new mare behaves and if she is liked by the judges.

"I really enjoy the competition at Deauville as it's at home, and is a very well-orchestrated show where it's like being in a cocoon."

The Pole International du Cheval will also include a "Scholars Day" when pupils from local schools will be invited to watch the action - something Gerny is excited about.

"As a primary school teacher, I find it's great that the schools come to the competition," she said.

"It's important that children are not frightened of disability and that they can put words on it."

The competition is due to take place until Sunday (April 8) and will see a total of 43 athletes from 11 countries take part.