The 14 riders shortlisted for the U.S. Olympic Dressage Team will have their last chance to earn a ticket to Tokyo this week at a mandatory observation event. The final team will be announced by June 21.
This event is not a selection trial where top finishes determine a team. Selectors instead will look at each pair’s scores from 2020 and 2021 and how those scores are trending, as well as considering prior international experience and which horses are likely to fare best with the long journey to and expected heat and humidity at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
We’ll be on site at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center starting Wednesday to bring you coverage.
When: The event will be held from June 8-11 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Wellington, Florida, which is normally where top hunter and jumper competition takes place. It will be unfamiliar territory for many dressage riders, who show across the street at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival grounds.
Average temperatures are in the upper 80s and low 90s in Wellington in June with high humidity, which should mimic what’s expected in Tokyo in August.
How To Follow Along: USEF Network will be live streaming the event.
Tickets are available and include hospitality. There will be no walk-up ticket sales. Tickets must be purchased in advanced. For questions about ticket sales, contact Kay Lamour at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Horses and riders are short on European competition experience due to the pandemic, but AGDF went full steam ahead from January through March with plenty of CDI opportunities for riders. West Coast riders also had a handful of CDIs offered in California.
In an interview with the Chronicle in May, U.S. Chef d’Equipe Debbie McDonald said that lack of European experience may not be a disadvantage for riders.
“Right now, we have the strongest group of horses. This whole group coming into this observation event is probably one of the strongest that I’ve known since I’ve been doing dressage in the United States,” she said. “So, what it really proves, honestly, is that our pipeline more or less—from the young horses to the emerging to the youth to the young riders and the U25, and then the elite, pre-elite and the developing under that—it just proves that it’s taken years, yet we’re starting to see now how important this is.
“In a lot of ways, we have been very lucky here in the United States. We kept our whole show season open and going, and Europe has not,” she said, noting the number of competitions canceled or postponed there. “They’re having to travel some distances sometimes to get to that event so they can qualify. Yes, we would like to know how we stack up in person. That, we won’t know until we’re all in the ring. We did have several judges that are five-star judges and did score us quite well. And I think that that was very fortunate for us, that those scores were out there for the world to see.”
What’s Happening: A veterinary inspection, which is closed to the public will occur June 8. Combinations will perform a Grand Prix test under the lights around 8 p.m. June 9 in the international ring at PBIEC. The draw order is determined by the Fédération Equestre Internationale world rankings.
A Grand Prix Special test to music will be ridden on June 11, also under the lights. Riders will choose their own music.
The event will follow the USEF COVID-19 Action Plan.