Dressage kicks off Olympic 2020 equestrian events

Individual Freestyle medalists at Rio 2016, from left Isabell Werth, Charlotte Dujardin and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe.
Individual Freestyle medalists at Rio 2016, from left Isabell Werth, Charlotte Dujardin and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe. © FEI

Dressage is the first equestrian event at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Here’s what you need to know.

If track record is anything to go by, Germany is the hot favourite to take out Gold in the team dressage competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Since 1928, German teams have won 13 of the 20 Olympic team contests.

The first events for the dressage competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics get under way on July 24 and 25, with the FEI Grand Prix test, in which all combinations must participate.

This test is a qualifier for both the team and individual competitions. The qualification ranking will be decided by the results of all three team members. Combinations compete in six groups, with three groups competing on each day. The composition of the groups is based on the FEI World Ranking list position of the athlete/horse combination on the date of definite entries on July 5.

The FEI Grand Prix Freestyle test is the Individual Final Competition (July 28) which is open to 18 combinations qualified from the FEI Grand Prix. Those qualified will be the top two combinations from each of the six groups and the combinations with the six next highest scores. The top eight teams in the Grand Prix (and those tied for eighth place) on July 24-25 will qualify for the FEI Grand Prix Special on July 27.

Team prospects

The three-per team format introduced for this year’s Games could prove highly influential. An off day for just one team member means that every ride will be critical.

Germany’s loss to Great Britain at London in 2012 was the only blip in an otherwise seamless run that began in Los Angeles in 1984 when the great Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich led the victory gallop.

Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich, individual and team gold medalists at the 1984 Olympic Games.
Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich, individual and team gold medalists at the 1984 Olympic. © FEI

Despite all the disruption of the last 18 months because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) outbreak in mainland Europe, Germany arrives at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as defending champions and strong favourites to do it all over again.

Isabell Werth heads the line-up with the mare Bella Rose and holding the World No.1 slot. And, underpinning the sheer strength of the German challenge, she will be joined by World No.2 Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with TSF Dalera BB, and World No.4 Dorothee Schneider with Showtime FRH. With Helen Langehanenberg and her mare Annabelle in reserve, they seem like an unstoppable force.

Celebrating Germany’s 13th Olympic Dressage team gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games: (L to R) Isabell Werth, Dorothee Schneider, Sönke Rothenberger and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe.
Celebrating Germany’s 13th Olympic Dressage team gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, from left, Isabell Werth, Dorothee Schneider, Sönke Rothenberger and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe. © FEI/Richard Juilliart
Britain’s “new horses”

Defending individual champion is Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, who scooped back-to-back gold with the great Valegro at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games. At Rio, Britain claimed team silver.

This time around, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester are joined by first-time Olympian Charlotte Fry with Everdale.

Dujardin’s decision to take the 10-year-old Gio instead of her considerably more experienced 12-year-old mare Mount St John Freestyle who was in great form at Hagen (GER) in April came as a surprise. It will be Hester’s sixth Olympics, and he will ride En Vogue.

Edward Gal with Total US and Hans Peter Minderhoud with Dream Boy headline the Dutch team, Patrik Kittel (Well Done de la Roche) leads the Swedish contingent and Steffen Peters (Suppenkasper) will be a strong anchor for Team USA. And Belgium will be making a little bit of Olympic history as they make their first appearance since 1928.

Australia’s Mary Hanna with Calanta, pictured in 2018. © FEI/Stephen Mowbray
Sixth Olympics for Australia’s Mary Hanna

When the Olympic Games roll around, the show-stealers are often the less obvious. Australia’s Mary Hanna, whose horse Calanta was the very first to arrive into the stables at Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Tokyo earlier this week, is a case in point. Because equestrian fans all around the world are already putting their hearts behind this mother of two and grandmother of four who, at the age of 66, is tackling her sixth Olympics.

Apart from the Beijing Games in 2008, she has been a member of every Australian Olympic Dressage team since 1996, and that’s quite some record. She is joined by US based Kelly Layne riding Samhitas and Simone Pearce with Destano, who are based in Europe.

The last time Olympic Games were staged in Tokyo in 1964, Baji Koen was the venue for dressage which was a very different sport back then.

Reiner Klimke, riding Dux, helped Germany to team dressage gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964.
Reiner Klimke, riding Dux, helped Germany to team dressage gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. © FEI

In the Grand Prix the scores were announced after each ride and after the ride-off – which was filmed and then mulled over by judges Frantisek Jandl, Gustaf Nyblaeus and Georges Margot – the public, the teams and the media had to wait for two hours before the final results were announced.

Swiss supremo Henri Chammartin with Woerman, was eventually deemed the Individual champion, and the team title went to Germany’s Harry Boldt with Remus, Josef Neckermann with Antoinette and Reiner Klimke with Dux.

Facts and figures

Dressage Ground Jury President is Germany’s Katrina Wuest.

Dressage Ground Jury members are: Andrew Gardner (GBR), Francis Verbeek (NED), Hans-Christian Matthiesen (DEN), Janet Foy (USA), Susie Hoevenaars (AUS) and Magnus Ringmark (SWE).

FEI Delegate for Dressage is Australia’s Mary Seefried

The Judges Supervisory Panel (JSP) was introduced by the FEI in 2011 to provide an official back-up system to correct any marking errors at all major events, including Olympic Games.

The members of the JSP at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are: David Hunt (GBR), Liselotte Fore (USA) and Maribel Alonso (MEX).

Overall Chef Steward is Maria Hernek (SWE).

Dressage Chief Steward is Jacques van Daele (BEL)

One of the most identifiable officials on duty throughout the Games will be the colourful Arena Call-up/Steward and Ringmaster, Pedro Cebulka (CAN).

The Teams

Australia: Mary Hanna (Calanta), Kelly Layne (Samhitas), Simone Pearce (Destano).

Austria: Florian Bacher (Fidertraum), Victoria Max-Theurer (Abegglen NRW), Christian Schumach (Te Quiero SF).

Belgium: Laurence Roos (Fil Rouge), Domien Michiels (Intermezzo van het Meerdaalhof), Larissa Pauluis (Flambeau). Alternate: Alexa Fairchild (Dabanos D’O4).

Canada: Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu (All In), Lindsay Kellock (Sebastien), Chris von Martels (Eclips). Alternate: Naima Moreira Laliberte (Statesman).

Denmark: Cathrine Dufour (Bohemian), Carina Kassae Krüt (Heiline’s Danciera), Nanna Skodborg Merrald (Zack). Alternate: Charlotte Heering (Bufranco).

France: Alexandre Ayache (Zo What), Morgan Barbancon (Sir Donnerhall ll OLD), Maxime Collard (Cupido PB). Alternate: Isabelle Pinto (Hot Chocolat VD Kwaplas).

Germany: Isabell Werth (Bella Rose 2), Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (TSF Dalera BB), Dorothee Schneider (Showtime FRH). Alternate: Helen Langehanenberg (Annabelle 110).

Great Britain: Charlotte Dujardin (Gio), Charlotte Fry (Everdale), Carl Hester (En Vogue). Alternate: Gareth Hughes (Sintano van Hof Olympia).

Japan: Kazuki Sado (Ludwig Der Sonnenkoenig 2), Shingo Hayashi (Scolari 4), Hiroyuki Kitahara (Huracan 10). Alternate: Masanao Taahashi (Rubicon).

Netherlands: Marlies Van Baalen (Go Legend), Edward Gal (Total US), Hans Peter Minderhoud (Dream Boy). Alternate: Dinja van Liere (Haute Couture).

Portugal: Joao Miguel Torrao (Equador), Maria Caetano (Fenix de Tineo), Rodrigo Torres (Foqoso). Alternate: Carlos Pinro (Sultao Menezes).

ROC: Inessa Merkulova (Mister X), Tatyana Kosterina (Diavolessa VA), Aleksandra Maksakova (Bojengels). Alternate: Maria Shuvalova (Famous Cross).

Spain: Beatriz Ferrer-Salat (Elegance), Severo Jurado Lopez (Fendi T), Jose Antonio Garcia Mena (Sorento 15). Alternate: Jose Antonio Garcia Mena (Divina Royal).

Sweden: Patrik Kittel (Well Done De La Roche CHF), Therese Nilshagen (Dante Weltino OLD), Juliette Ramel (Buriel KH). Alternate: Antonia Ramel (Brother de Jeu).

USA: Adrienne Lyle (Salvino), Steffen Peters (Suppenkasper), Sabine Schut-Kery (Sanceo). Alternate: Nick Wagman (Don John).

The Individuals:

Brazil: Joao Victor Marcari Oliva (Escorial).

Chile: Virginia Yarur (Ronaldo).

Dominican Republic: Yvonne Losos de Muniz (Aquamarijn).

Estonia: Dina Ellermann (Donna Anna).

Finland: Henri Ruoste (Kontestro DB).

Ireland: Heike Holstein (Sambuca).

Italy: Francesco Zaza (Wispering Romance).

Korea: Dong Seon Kim (Belstaff).

Luxembourg: Nicolas Wagner Ehlinger (Quater Back Junior FRH).

Morocco: Yessin Rahmouni (All At Once).

Mexico: Martha Fernanda Del Valle Quirarte (Beduino Lam).

Republic of South Africa: Tanya Seymour (Ramoneur 6).

Singapore: Caroline Chew (Tribiani).

Switzerland: Estelle Wettstein (West Side Story OLD).

Ukraine: Inna Logutenkova (Fleraro).


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2 thoughts on “Dressage kicks off Olympic 2020 equestrian events

  • July 28, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    Someone needs to tell the female dressage commentator to shut up. Her constant, infuriating, egotistical nattering is ruining the competition for me. What’s the point in having music if she’s drowning it out with her love for the sound of her own voice??

    • July 29, 2021 at 4:22 pm

      And you can’t understand anything she’s saying as she seems to be muttering under her breath. She’s utterly pointless…. and annoying!!!


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