German Olympic Dressage – Just Sublime but Dujardin Stops Their Clean Sweep

The Olympic Games have started with yet another spectacular opening ceremony and all the razzmatazz necessary to show the host country off at its best. That done, the equestrian games began with the dressage, firstly the team and individual Grand Prix, run simultaneously, that’s the first two days, then a day off before the second part of the competition for the qualifying teams, The Grand Prix Special and finally the final day for the dressage – The Grand Prix Freestyle to decide the individual medals

Baji Koen Park. Equine Olympic venue

The competitors were divided into six groups, three to compete on day one and the other three the following day. The top two combinations from each group automatically qualify to go through to the Grand Prix Freestyle plus the next six best scores from the whole list of competitors. The team medals will be decided at the end of the Grand Prix Special for the qualified top eight teams of the original fifteen. For the team event, all three riders in each team will count and the team collectively with the biggest score will be declared the gold medal winners. The individual medals will be decided from the top 18 riders from the Grand Prix and they will dance their way in the Grand Prix Freestyle.

Day one of the Grand Prix

Before the first horse entered the arena, sadly for Austrian rider Victoria Max Theurer had to withdraw because her horse Abegglen NWR had an abscess on its tooth and was spun by the vets in the morning pre-competition trot up. The first of sixty horses to compete over the two days was Joao Marcari Oliva riding Escorial. He was given 70.419% by the seven judges. At C and the judge’s president was from the Netherlands – Francis Verbeek. He was accompanied by Susan Hoevvenaars from Australia, Katrina Wurst from Germany, Janet Foy from the United States, Andrew Gardiner from Great Britain Hans-Christian Matthhiesen from Denmark and finally Magnus Ringmark from Sweden.

Charlotte Fry -gave GB a great start

After the first of the six groups consisting of ten combinations, the highest mark of 77.096% was awarded to Charlotte Fry of Great Britain riding Everdale. So she and Sweden’s Therese Nilshagen riding Dante Weltino OLD (75.140%) automatically qualified. The other eight would have to wait until the end of the Grand Prix the next day to see whether they would also qualify. The next nearest to the top two was Nana Skodborg Marrald riding for Denmark.

In group two, the first to go was one of the considered hotshots – Edward Gal for The Netherlands riding Total Us. He immediately impressed the judges and came away with 78.649% putting him in the overall lead. However, Cathrine Dufour from Denmark, who has been very competitive in recent competitions came in shortly afterwards and put the Gal score in the shade by a further 2% – riding Bohemian she was the second qualifier from the group on 81.056%.

Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl – rides brilliantly for Germany

In the third group, the competition was certainly ‘hotting up’. The second in was Carl Hester from Great Britain riding En Vogue. The group had the first of the American riders, Sabine Schut-Kery riding Sanceo, another from The Netherlands, Hans Peter Minderhoud on Dream Boy and the first of the German team, the inform and current world number two, Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl riding TSF Delera. The group was taken by the German rider with 84.379% with Sabine Schit-Kery behind on 78.416%, who were the two qualifiers from the group. Hans Peter Minderhoud was third and Carl Hester just behind in fourth, so both had a nervous wait for 24 hours to see whether they qualified.

So at the end of the first day, the results were much as expected. The German was well in the overall lead with Cathrine Dufour in second and Edward Gal for the Netherlands holding third place. Perhaps Carl Hester was one of the more disappointed riders after his performance; he would probably have expected at least another percent or two at this stage.

Day Two of the Grand Prix

Carina Cassoe Kruth for Denmark

Again on a hot sultry day in Japan at the equestrian Park, the second day continued with the final three sections of the Grand Prix with the same judges in the same seats they occupied on day one. In the first section of the day, (section four of the competition) Denmark’s Carina Cassoe Kruth riding Heiline’s Danceira won the section with 76.677% and therefore qualified for the later classes. Also qualified was Adrienne Lyle from the United States riding Salvino with 74.876%. The rest of the group did not score particularly well and it would be unlikely for any of the other eight for further qualification.

The penultimate section of this Grand Prix was arguably the weakest of all the six sections. However, the last to go was top German rider Dorothee Schneider riding Showtime FRH who finished as expected – the winner of the group with 78.820%. She qualified along with Sweden’s Juliet Ramel riding Buriel KH with 73.369%. Marlies Van Baalen from the Netherlands was third in the section riding Go Legend with what for her was a disappointing score of 71% which would almost certainly rule her out of riding in the Freestyle as an individual.

Isabell Werth on Bella Rose 2

The final of the six sections was potentially the strongest with world number one Isabel Werth riding Bella Rose 2 riding as the sixtieth and last competitor. Others in this section were Charlotte Dujardin on Gio, the first time Gio saw an Olympic stadium and Steffen Peters riding Suppenkasper for the United States. He has been riding really well prior to the Olympics and was expected to do well. Werth ended up with 82.500% which she would have found slightly disappointing as at the end of this Grand Prix, puts her in silver medal position individually. Dujardin was second with 80.963% which although put her just outside the medals individually at this stage. She must have been delighted with Gio or ‘Pumpkin’ as she calls him at his first major international appearance. Peters was third on 76.196%, and although was not in the first two of the section, qualified anyway as one of the six highest scorers in the class. At the head of the individual leader board at the end of the Grand Prix was German Von Brewdow-Werndl and in bronze position was Cathrine Dufour from Denmark.

In the team event after the Grand Prix, eight teams qualified for the Grand Prix Special. Germany were well out in front on 7911 points from their three riders with Great Britain in second with 7508 points and in third was Denmark on 7435. The other countries to qualify were the United States (7389), the Netherlands (7312), Sweden (6989) , Portugal (6862) and Spain on 6749 points.

Decision Time for The Dressage team Medals

Germany take Team Gold Medal

The third day of dressage consists of the three riders from the top eight teams as calculated following the Grand Prix. The team order is set by the team with the worst score going first and the best last. So basically, the first rider from Spain was first in followed by the first rider from Portugal, then Sweden followed by the Netherlands. Following them were the team from the United States, then Denmark, Great Britain and finally Germany. Once all the first riders have completed the Grand Prix Special test, the whole process started again with the second riders form each team and then finally again with the third.. No scores from the Grand Prix are taken into consideration. The judges for the Grand Prix Special were the same as for the Grand Prix except each judged sat in a different ‘judges’ box with Susan Hoevenaars from Australia at C. Each judge gives their score in points and not the usual percentages, which are all added together to give the final points score for each rider. The winning team is the one which collectively accrues the highest scores when added together from all the members on each team. Each team tend to run the weakest rider first and their best as the last of the three combinations.

Dorothee Schneider – the third team member for the unbeatable Germans

After the first riders from each team had completed their tests, Dorothee Schneider for Germany took her team into Gold medal position with 2652 points with Great Britain’s Carl Hester in Silver with a score of 2577, beating Adrienne Lyle for the United States into Bronze on 2504 points. By the time the next eight riders had completed, the medal order did not change. Isabel Werth rode a proper test getting 10s for many of her piaffe movements and ending on 2740 points. Charlotte Fry for great Britain did a decent test, but did not achieve quite the score she did in the Grand Pirx – but that score was a personal best for Charlotte – ending with 2528 points. The United States held onto Bronze medal position with Steffen Peters getting 2558.

Sabine Schut-Kery for the USA

Going into the final round Germany were in the lead with 5392 points with Great Britain in silver position with 5106 and the United States on 5062. At this stage, it was clear that Gold would go to Germany, but a battle was still to be fought for Silver and Bronze between Great Britain, The United States and Denmark who could just sneak up and get a medal as they had 4983 points after the first two rounds. Catherin Dufour came in for Denmark and did a lovely Grand Prix Special earning 2557 points, putting real pressure on both The United States and Great Britain. The Danish Team ended with a total score of 7540. Next came Sabine Schut-Kery who rode the test of her life. She scored 2684 which was 126 points above her countryman Steffen Peters. This really put the pressure of Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and her young and inexperienced horse Gio to keep the silver medal. In a really good test, but with a couple of minor errors, the pair received a final score of 2617, the best score for the British team, but not enough to keep the Americans out of the Silver medal place.

Charlotte Dujardin on Gio ‘Pumpkin’ helped secure Bronze Team for GB

The British ended with a final tally of 7723 to take Bronze medal with The United States gaining 7747 points to take Silver medal, but the Germans took Gold and were just simply unbelievable. Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl rode a magnificent test to take her personal score to 2785, the best of the magnificent German team. Isabel Werth had secured her eleventh medal, now seven of them Gold, at the Olympics Games. She now has a total of eleven Olympic medals having competed in the last seven Olympics – since Barcelona in fact where she got Silver. Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl was the new kid on the block, competing in her first Olympic Games. Dorothee Schneider was the third member of the team and rode good solid tests, so there was no danger of her ruining the German party! There were three riders who got more than 2700 points individually, and yes they were all German!

The Final Dressage Hurrah for The Individual Medals.

Team Bronze for Great Britain

So on day 4 of these games, we reached the point where the individual medals were decided. The Germans occupied the top places and before the off, it would be no surprise to see them take a clean sweep at every dressage gold medal available – they just seem to be unassailable. Out of the fifteen teams with riders, only three got all their riders through to this final stage; Germany, it goes without saying, Great Britain and Denmark. For this competition, the judge’s president changed to Katrina Wurst from Germany who presided from C. All the other judges were the same as the rest of the competition, but again changed seats.

This was a competition that was every bit as exciting as one would hope. After the first 12 went, Cathrine Dufour, Carl Hester and Sabine Schut-Kery were holding the top spots, and everyone knew that the top hopes were about to perform.

In her first Olympic Games – Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl takes Gold for Germany

In came Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl riding in her first Olympics and she just rode a perfect test, with perhaps one small slightly below par transition from one of her canter pirouettes into a piaff, and at the end of her test, she knew she had done well, but to collect 91.732% was fantastic and would be hard for any to follow to beat. Edward Gal for the Netherlands came in and produced another fantastic test with Total Us, but a very different type of horse, this was a much more expressive horse, in fact in my opinion, the horse just lacked the elegance of TSF Dalera and Jessica, and it would appear the judges agreed as they gave Edward Gal 84.157%. Another German rider, the most decorated Olympian in the equestrian sphere, Isabel Werth riding Bella Rose 2, was next and she did everything possible. Isabel’s horse appeared more expressive than it was in the Grand prix Special, particularly with its back legs. However, Isabel’s score was not good enough to take the lead at 89.657% from her fellow German compatriot.

Charlotte Dujardin takes individual bronze medal and becomes the most decorated female Olympian of all time.

Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin was next and the penultimate rider with the inexperienced Gio. Charlotte rode another fantastic test with few signs of inexperience or nerves from the rider. The look on her face at the end was just brilliant, she knew she had achieved as good a test as she possibly could, and she was rewarded with 88.543% which propelled the combination into Bronze medal position. With one more rider to come, another German and experienced rider – Dorothee Schneider riding Showtime FRH, Charlotte must have been on tenterhooks! Dorothee started well, but sadly for her, she started to unravel a little on a second canter pirouette and then at the beginning of her one time changes. This ended any hope that the Germans would take a ‘clean sweep’ and the medal results were sealed. With 79.432% Dorothee Schneider left the arena leaving the Gold Medal to Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl.

WERTH Isabell (GER), Bella Rose 2

In Silver was fellow German Isabel Werth, now having collected her twelfth Olympic Medal and Charlotte Dujardin for Great Britain with the Bronze Medal. This medal made Charlotte the most decorated female Olympian of all time for Great Britain, now with six Olympic medals, three Gold, one silver and two bronze.

This dressage competition was of a fantastic standard throughout, and it is so apt that it was an historic Olympics for many of the riders and countries individually.

Images courtesy of Goldeneye Photography, Reuters, Sportfotos and Jon Stroud

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