As the second day of the Grand Prix at the Tokyo Olympics finished, one thing remained clear: Germany is dominating the dressage. German riders fill out three of the top five individual slots, earning first, second and fourth, and the country easily topped the qualifying class with a combined score of 7911.5 over the British (7508.5) and Danish (7435.0) teams.
The two days of competition served only as a qualifier—the top eight teams will move on to the Grand Prix Special to contest team medals on Monday and Tuesday, while the top 18 individual riders will participate in the freestyle on July 28 to determine individual medals.
Six-time Olympic gold medalist Isabell Werth was the final rider in today’s class with Bella Rose 2, and she finished second individually (82.50%) behind her teammate Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on TSF Dalera. (Von Bredow-Werndl rode Saturday and earned an 84.37%.)
“’Bella’ is my dream horse, and when Bella is in top shape, for me she’s the best,” Werth said. “With her you have the feeling there’s always something more possible.”
Behind her, Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin rode Gio to an 80.96%. Dujardin elected to bring the less experienced horse over her more established Mount St. John Freestyle because she felt the chestnut gelding would do better in the Tokyo heat and humidity.
“I was so happy,” she said of her ride. “He’s a very green and inexperienced horse; I think he’s done six or seven Grand Prix, at the most. It’s a bit of an unknown really, not knowing what to expect in there under the floodlights, in an arena like that. I couldn’t ask any more from him tonight. He went in, and he tried his absolute heart out. He’s just unbelievable. He gives me everything he’s got, even though he still needs to get stronger and a bit more confident in everything, but he still gives more than he’s capable of giving at the moment, and I’m able to just help him out here and there.”
The U.S. team finished fourth in this competition, which secures them a slot in the team final. Steffen Peters on Supperkasper was today’s highest-placed U.S. rider with a score of 76.19%. (Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo earned a 78.41% yesterday.)
“It was good,” Peters said. “We were a bit conservative. We had some trouble spots in the flying changes in the warm-up, so I rode those really carefully, but the rest I rode really forward and had a super relaxed walk tour. For ‘Mopsie’ to come in an arena like this and be that relaxed is a wonderful feeling.
“I think today I really wanted to go for a clean test and get a decent score, which he did,” he added. “I think it’s really hard to dig yourself out of a really low position. But with a 76, it’s a very good place to go into the Special with.”
Fellow U.S. rider Adrienne Lyle piloted Betsy Juliano’s Salvino to a score of 74.87%, which also secured them a slot in the freestyle final, though Lyle said the test didn’t go as well as she’d hoped.
“He was unfortunately far from what he is capable of,” she said. “I was hoping to pull out close to a personal best score. He can get up to 80 [percent]; he’s broken 80 on a time or two. And so, of course, I wanted that really bad for my teammates, but it just wasn’t the animal that came out today. And so we’ll go back and look at what we can tweak and carry on.
“He always has great talent for the piaffe and passage, unfortunately some tension and balance issues kind got in the way of showing off what he’s really capable of today,” she continued. “I know there’s so much more in there.”
This is the second Olympic Games for Lyle; she also competed at the 2012 London Olympics with Wizard.
“It’s the second Olympics but definitely very different with COVID,” she said. “Everything is a little different, and the format is completely different, so in a lot of ways it’s all new, even though I’ve done it before. But I’ve been on a fair amount of teams as well, and we have a wonderful team with wonderful teammates—very supportive of everyone.”
There was one elimination in tonight’s test: The judges rang out Singapore’s Caroline Chew on Tribiani for blood in the horse’s mouth about halfway through their test.
The top eight teams move on to the Grand Prix Special on Tuesday, July 27, after a rest day. They start on a blank slate there, and team medals will be decided from that test. The teams that qualified for the Special are:
• Great Britain
• United States
• the Netherlands
Then one day later, July 28, the top 18 from this Grand Prix class—the best two from each group, plus the next six highest scorers—will contest the freestyle for individual medals.
The pairs who qualified for the Grand Prix freestyle are:
• Isabell Werth and Bella Rose II (Germany)
• Dorothee Schneider and Showtime FRH (Germany)
• Charlotte Dujardin and Gio (Great Britain)
• Adrienne Lyle and Salvino (United States)
• Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper (United States)
• Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo (United States)
• Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera (Germany)
• Charlotte Fry and Everdale (Great Britain)
• Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Zack (Denmark)
• Therese Nilshagen and Dante Weltino OLD (Sweden)
• Edward Gal and Total US (the Netherlands)
• Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian (Denmark)
• Carina Cassoe Kruth and Heiline’s Danciera (Denmark)
• Juliette Ramel and Buriel K.H. (Sweden)
• Hans Peter Minderhoud with Dream Boy (the Netherlands)
• Carl Hester with En Vogue (Great Britain)
• Rodrigo Torres with Fogoso (Portugal)
• Beatriz Ferrer-Salat with Elegance (Spain)