Wish you were ringside at the Rio Olympics Deodoro Equestrian Centre for the dressage? Well, you don’t have to be, as Jane Thompson selflessly took one for the team and watched every test in the second day of the Grand Prix, and interviewed as many of the riders as she could.
Belinda Trussell and Anton, Canada. A lovely obedient test, consistent and relaxed, just not the flair and exuberance of some of the top-scoring competitors but a test she can be proud of. The horse had been nearly written off a couple of years ago but thanks to the perseverance of the team physio who secretly worked on him, he has made a full recovery and is now back competing at the highest level. “He was very good, he concentrated. He can get more excited than this but he went into this ring like it was just another test. There were a few things I could spark off to improve. It was 1% lower than our personal best. It was just fun to ride.” Score: 72.214%
Lyndal Oatley and Sandro Boy 9, Australia. In the first half, tail-swishing spoiled the picture but the extended trot was lovely. The judges liked her canter, scoring an average over 7 until the some of the flying changes, when things went wrong and averaged 4.1. Her transitions also were marked harshly. Piaffe scored 7.3, and 7.4 for rider. “I’m married to my trainer, so the debrief should be interesting. I am very driven to do my best for my team, myself and my horse. Patrik [Kittel] is at the opposite end of the athlete’s village to me. We meet at McDonald’s for a date night. I am sharing a room with [cousin] Kirsty. It is like going back to our childhood sleepovers.” Score 70.186%
Spain’s Severo Jesus Jurado Lopez and Lorenzo, a lovely big chestnut. He had a very floppy top lip! Expressive trot, 8.5 for his first extension, and half-passes left score 7.9. Passage 7.9, piaffe 7.1 and 7.9. Severo said he wasn’t so good at school so needed to get riding. He’s been riding full-time for four years now. He has spent time in Germany and Holland to get to a higher level and now lives in Denmark. About his horse: “He gives a nice feeling to people. Funny, happy to be with, not a worry, he’s a cool horse. When people are loud he likes it.” Score: 76.429%
Masanao Takahashi, Fabriano 58, Japan. Didn’t start off brilliantly, scoring 6s then bucking/pig jumping in the piaffe and scored just 1.3 as he really didn’t accomplish much. Score: 62.986%
Pierre Volla and Badinda Altena, France. A pretty chestnut with four white socks, but a tail-swisher. Extended trot 7, passage good, 7.8. and 7.4, 7.8 and 7.6 for the second set. Consistently in the 7s. Lower marks for second extended trot, 6.9 and 7.8 for centreline passage. Lots of French supporters here, they are very vocal! Score: 71.5%
Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K, Ireland. Dark bay horse, back sock and a bit of white on one front. Very slobbery mouth. Scored 7.8 for first passage. Got a bit distracted after that as I’d just heard about our first gold medal! A nice test but a bit dull; accurate enough but not ‘wow’. Transition seemed early, but what would I know, as she still got 7.2. Whoever chooses the background music has a sense of humour: Irish jig for this one. She’s happy. Should be, as it was a nice picture mostly. Paces 7.6, impulsion 7.5, same for submission, 8 for rider. “He is nuts. His brains have always been the problem. It is only the last one and a half years that his brains grow with his body. But that is the all-around package to deal with.” Score: 74.7%.
Marcela Krinke Susmelj on Molberg, Switzerland. The judges are back from a break and straight into 7s for the big bay with black points. Sunny day, good wind though and not too hot. Looks like a nice kind horse; not huge expressive paces but obedient and doing the job. Never below a 7 but never above an 8 for average scores – except 4.9 for a flying change that went wrong. Paces 7.4, impulsion 7.3, submission 7.3 and rider 7.9. Score: 72.7%.
There’s a bigger crowd here today, and now it’s one of the big stars.
Carl Hester, Nip Tuck, for Great Britain. Carl starts with a 7.5. Extension is just worth a 7 for first two. Theme music is Flashdance. Nice half-passes but just 7.7. Oops, they hit the fence when going into the collected walk, knocked it over, leapt forward a stride or two and now they are unsettled, so 6.6 for the passage, 5.8 for the walk, but recovered well. Collected walk 7.4, passage 7.3, 7.5, 7.8 and piaffe 7.8. Canter looks a bit flat but the judges give 7.6. I’ll give up trying to give an opinion. 8.1 for flying changes and another 8.1 for more flying changes. Twice. That’s the zig-zag part, not sure how the scoring works yet. Centreline pirouette 8.1. The judges liked his pirouettes, and two more 8s. Second extended trot only 6.9. Not flashy enough. Flick your toes more, Nippy! Arena repairs will be needed before the next competitor… and sure enough, here comes the crew. And the poo pickers. No waving to the crowd from Carl. It was hard to get to him afterwards, due to the many media wanting a bit of him. “He is a bit looky and spooky. He’s got this tiny mind thing going on where he looks at other things. His canter was really good, he got marks back for the zig-zag. Trot and walk not so good. I’m happy with the score, it was 3% off his best but certain things have improved. Really need to get that first bit right. Disappointed with the performance, it’s not a gold medal by the looks, but we can think about a medal. Really been working on the walk but (after that blip) I only had 20 metres to get walk back again. You have to ride what you get. What happened? I was looking to go into the long walk, he saw a flower or something on the side, and leapt. He needs glasses.” Score: 75.529.
Another being led in, Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour on Cassidy. She halted right in front of the judge at E after the bell was rung, then into the arena. A nice bouncy chestnut with two back socks. Did you realise I like socks? I like this horse too. Michael Jackson music, (Billie Jean) so this can’t go wrong. Judges agree and straight into an 8 for the extended trot. Do love that trot. Halt only a 6.5; not held. But the judges agree with me for once: 8.1 for that extension. Passage 7.9, and 7.6. Nice walk too, that collected walk is beautiful. Wouldn’t be much good for riding around the farm but perfect for the arena. Judges only give it a 7.6. and 7. Oh dear, my judging career is going to be over before it starts. Piaffe, 8. Canter work not quite as good as trot, 6.5 for first collected canter. Flying changes good though, 7.6. Extended canter also lovely and 7.8. Canter getting better as we go along. Score: 76.657.
Victoria Max-Theurer from Austria on Della Cavalleria. Had a bit of an oops with the rein-back but I couldn’t see the score she received for this as was waiting with a gaggle of journalists to talk to Carl. Must have recovered well as scored okay: 71.129%.
Steffan Peters on Legolas 92. Lovely horse again, good number of socks (three) so gets extra points from me for that alone. Judges giving late 7s to start with. Half-pass 7.9. Good halt. 7.4. Only 7 for extended trot. Only 7? Oh come on. Passage 8, that’s better; 8.4 for piaffe, now we are talking. More 8s flowing through. They like him now, the coffee must have kicked in. Oh no, a 6.9 for his extended walk but 7.3 for the collected walk. Back into 8s for his passages and piaffes. Canter come on! 7.5, 7.1 for changes, 7.4 for extension, zig-zag, early sevens. One-time changes 7.4, centreline pirouette 7.9 both times. Nope, they still don’t rave about his extended trot, 7.1 again. But that passage is bloody impressive, 8.4, and piaffe 8.5 so my judging career is back on pace and the Americans are delighted with that performance. Lots of waving to the crowd from Steffan, and 8.6 for the rider – oh, go the judges! Steffan was smiling widely in the mixed zone afterwards but nearly lost it when he talked about how he felt about his horse, choking up and having to take a moment. “It was one of his best goes. Always been my dream to deliver for the team. This is 90% about the team and 10% about the individual. This was the best test of his life and my life. He didn’t change from the warm-up to the show arena. He delivered everything I dreamed of. His half-passes were amazing, and piaffe and passage very high, I could keep the 15 passage steps. This was it, this was the test I have dreamed of. It is one of those awesome days.” 77.614%.
Patrik Kittel is on next for Sweden and Deja looks pretty swish! (plus she has two back socks). Lovely trot for Deja, 7.9 for entrance. 8.3 for a fab extended trot. This is going to be good. No, this is good. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina playing. Sweden won’t be crying either! 7 for the halt, 8.4 for extended trot but piaffe only 6.2, too much sideways movement I’m picking. Extended walk 8, that was lovely. Does a funny thing with her front legs in the piaffe, and only gets 6.1 for it. Passage late 7s though. Two-time flying changes looked good to me, and 7.9 from the judges. 8.1 for that lovely extended canter, very expressive. Pirouette was appreciated by the judges, 7.4, twice. The Swedes are happy. Patrik is happy.“It was harmonious, fluid and trustworthy. Small things wrong but at the end of the day I was happy. Third Olympics, taken so many years of work, it is a relief.” Score: 74.571%
Netherlands’ Diederik van Silfhout is next in on Arlando. The horse seemed a bit tense at the walk and got a 6 for one movement, but my view was blocked while in the mixed zone. Passage 7, and starting to settle into his work. The rider looks like he has very long legs! Canter work is nice and gets mainly 7s. I appreciated that trot: a 7.4 for extension and a final score of 75.9%. He was very happy – so happy that he said he was very happy at least four times. He also thought his walk was better than ever. “My mission was to ride safe with no mistakes and the plan worked out. I’m very happy. He was a little fresh to start with but in the ring was fine. Tomorrow I will do more in the ring.” Score: 75.9%
Germany’s Kristina Broring-Sprehe with the beautiful Desperados, the last to go before lunch, is the current number-one ranked dressage rider. We were expecting to be wowed and we were. Lots of 8s, for the walk, for the passage, for the piaffe. Extended walk “only” got 7.9; she’ll need to work on that! There was one oops when she only got 6.4 for her two-time flying change. The judges were obviously really into it, they even gave her a 9 for her riding and 9.1 for her position. 8.6 for impulsion and 8.4 for submission. Germans looking very ominous to take the team medal. In the mixed zone it is always a bit of a lottery as to how close you get to the riders. I must be a German magnet, as she came straight to me and fixed her beautiful blue eyes straight at me, so I got to ask the questions. Michael Jung is similar – if you ask him a question, he looks right into your eyes and doesn’t glance away at all while he answers. Kristina is just the same, very intense, very well-spoken and very, very professional. She also speaks very good English. She’s quite the beauty and is turned out impeccably. This was the first time I have interviewed her, or seen her perform, and I am extremely impressed. “He was really great today. He was tense in the piaffe and lost a bit of rhythm, and one mistake in the zig-zag but the rest was really great. He was very concentrated and I am very proud of him. It was his first flight, I was a bit nervous but he is really happy here. I was glad he did so well. Usually he is even better on the second and third day. The team medal is everything. We have a really strong team.” Score: 82.257%.
Kristy Oatley and Du Soleil, from Australia. Lovely extension, 7.9. Only low 7s for the half-pass and halt, but looking a nice picture, with diagonal socks. Still in early 7s for the passage, but a 6.9 for the extended walk and 6.5 for collected walk. Hopefully, things will improve for the Aussie. Late 6s for the piaffe, but the judges liked the collected canter, 7.6, and it is very nice. In fact, the canter is by far the best pace so far and the changes score early 7s. Oops – a 5.2 for the two-time flying change; I spoke too soon. And then a 4 for the one-time ones. Oh dear. Another 4.8. Back into the 7s for the extended trot, 7.7 even! Didn’t maintain her last halt, but 6.7 scored. And the music goes to Land Down Under as she exits the arena. She’ll be a bit disappointed with that test, I guess. Attractive-looking pair, however. 7.6 for paces. 7.3 for impulsion, submission 6.7 and 7.5 for rider position.“He just had too much energy today. I’ve had him (Du Soleil) for about two and a half years. He’s still very green at Grand Prix; he has only done maybe eight of them. So he just needs to get the routine down.” Total 69.371%.
Belgium’s Jorinde Verwimp on Tiamo is next up. Another nice bay with two socks. Not the best of halts, so only gets 6.2. Extended trot also not exactly exuberant but they liked it enough for a 7.3. Back into scoring 7.4 for passage but piaffes not so popular with the judges, back down to 6.9. Oh, they quite liked that walk, 7.9 and 7.2. More early 7s for canter work but a 4 for the flying changes will drag that score back. Only a 5.6 for the first pirourette. Lots of swishing of tail here, but he’s trying. Not going to trouble the leaders today but still overall a nice test. “I actually had a really good feeling beforehand. But the moment I came in, he felt a bit tired. I didn’t feel connected any more. I know I can do better than what I did today.” Score: 70.771%.
Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat, Delgado. Nice chestnut, three socks, 7.9 half pass. 8.1 for the extended trot. 8 for the passage. Walk disappointing as not really lengthening and only 6.7 and 6.8. Passage 7.9 and 8, very correct now. Canter work also going well and more 8s. Ooops, 3.7 for the flying change (two-time) and the one-time was only 5 as well. This will be disappointing for Beatriz, one of the most experienced of Olympic competitors. Passage was good, scoring 8s, and 7.7 for the piaffe. Score: 74.829.
Yuko Kitai, Don Lorean, Japan. Another lovely bay with three socks and a brilliant halt to start off. Not much extension for a 6.9. Half-pass looked better, but only 6.6. Must be my position in the stand, hard to tell with those sideways movements. Halt a bit tricky but 6.4 there. Piaffe didn’t go well, but the canter work is scoring late 6s and a couple of 7s. She’s a little thing on a large horse and at times I think she is struggling to control the big boy but doing a pretty good job. 6 for flying changes, and 7.1 for the next ones. Trot work is better, 6.2 for the piaffe. They do a lovely halt to finish. 7.3 for that. Comparing that performance to Julie’s, I think Julie’s score could have been a bit tough! Score: 67.27%.
Brazil’s beautiful white big-crested Xama Dos Pinhais ridden by Joao Victor Marcari Oliva is next in. Lusitano breeding, and what a neck on this stallion! 6.6 for the walk, was that mark a bit harsh? I liked that walk. But what would I know? Passage and piaffe not great, for early 6s. Collected canter 7.1; canter work looks good and is being rewarded by better marks, 7s for the flying changes, until oops, a 4.9 for the one-times. Nice halt to finish and the crowd erupts. 7.9 for that halt. Score: 68.071.
Karen Tebar from France on Don Luis. We’ve got one sock and a very dark bay, a rather an impressive gelding. Had a bit of a stumble in the extended trot, 6.1 as a result. Half-passes early 7s. Second extension much better, no stumbles this time and rewarded with a 7.3. I thought that piaffe looked quite good, and it got a 7.7. Walk, lovely, and gets a 7.9 for the extended and 7.6 for the collected walk. If he could get those back legs going a bit higher in the piaffe he could get a better score than the 7, I think. Bit of a head-flick in the two-time flying changes but not penalised much: 7.6 for those. She’s done a good job, but is not going to win this. Scored an 8 for his transition and late 7s for the extras, with an 8.1 for the rider. Score: 75.029.
Now we have the famous Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro for Great Britain. Perfect halt of course, 9. More 9s for the collected canter. 8.8 for extension. Half-pass 8.7. Halt not perfect, stepped back once and gets a 7.9. Beautiful extension again, back into the 8.9 score. Perhaps a little tense but who am I to be picky? 8.3 for passage. Piaffe perhaps not maintained: 7.9. That’s a nice walk. That must be a 9. Oh, only a 7.7! But 8.1 for a collected walk. Even the birds are cheering overhead. But Valegro doesn’t worry. Continues on scoring low 8s, but piaffe only 7.8. Only? It’s not going to be a world record here, but it’s going to be interesting to see what the final score is. Changes look fabulous with great balance and yes, 9.3 the score for the two-time changes. Extended canter beautiful too, and we have a 8.8 for that. Zig-zag looks lovely to me, 8.4. One-time changes also impressive, 9.1. Pirouette, how do you fault that? 8.6. and 9. 8.9 for last extended trot. Beautifully balanced passage, back legs in tempo with front legs, reaching the same height, 8.8. Piaffe 8.2. Transitions 8.8. Halt not quite square 7.7, started the halt a bit early perhaps. 9.7 for Charlotte’s position. Yep, agree with that! Every other journalist and I rush down to the mixed zone for the interview. “Ask me tomorrow what I could do better. He’s a horse, at the end of the day; he’s not a machine. If he makes mistakes, he makes mistakes and I can understand. Going in there today, I had a really nice time, I really enjoyed it. I felt he enjoyed it, and I just felt like it was easy to just kind of do it. I didn’t have to pull or kick, he is just so lovely to ride. At the end of the day, what I do out there is no different than any other show. Whether I am doing a local show or whatever, I have still got to do the same stuff out there. I thought, coming here, ‘I don’t want to have any regrets. I want to enjoy it. I want to have the time of my life’. Not think, ‘Oh, I wish I had done that’ or ‘Why didn’t I do this?’.” Score 85.071% and into the lead.
I missed a couple here while waiting for Charlotte. These were Marina Aframeeva on Vosk from Russia, who scored 71.343% and Anna Kasprzak on Donnperignon from Denmark, who scored 73.943.
Laura Graves on Verdades from the USA. Four white socks, lovely rich bay. Lovely walk, 7s. Passage 7.9 and 8.3 – starting to get some good scores here. Those flying changes were good and the judges give 8.1 for the two-time ones. Extended canter is nice also; in fact, I really like this canter. Zig-zag and flying changes are a bit rough and the judges give 5s and 6s. The mouth is open a bit, but then does a lovely pirouette for 8.2 so she will be pleased with that! Those passages are good, 8.8 for the centreline one. There is plenty of stars-and-stripes flag-waving going on in the kiss and cry box. The stewards won’t let her out of the arena; she has to circle a few times before the next rider is ready to come down and Laura can get out. Lovely horse, good effort. “He was very quiet at first but then the wind popped up and made the plastic bags on the speakers rustle. Then he really turned it up.” Score: 78.086%
Now we are on to Tinne Wilhelmsson Silfven from Sweden on Don Aurelio. He’s a lovely dark bay with one white back sock and an expressive trot. He starts off with a 7.6 score for his entrance and then proceeds to do a lovely flicky extended trot but the judges only give her 6.8 for that. Half-passes 7.7 and 7.9. and the rein-back was okay at 7.3. Second extension gets a 7.6. The judges are starting to like it more, or perhaps it was better. Or both. Now we are in the late 7s for the next few movements. Her walk in the afternoon sun is lovely and scores an 8 and a 7.6 as they break out the Abba music. (As you do when a Swedish rider is going.) Canter flying changes score mainly late 7s, as does the extension at canter. The one-time changes seem good to me and the judges stick to giving late 7s. Pirouettes not so good, 6.6 there, but this is a lovely test and will help the Swedish team on their medal quest. Shame about the last halt, but still scores 7.4. The collectives are 7.6, 7.5, 7.6 and rider position 8.3.“We have a super team spirit, it lifts all of us. I really wanted to have a good ride. I took him one step too much back, it’s really annoying,” says Tinne. Score 76.414%
Johnson is here! Ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud from Netherlands. How many socks, you ask? Four. Do not judge me. He really is beautiful. He starts with a 7.5 and I think he may be my new favourite. An 8 for that extension, and so it should be. Wow, loving those half-passes – 8.1 and 8.1. Yep, lovely halt too, but 7.6 for that. Oops, did one funny step in his passage, 7.2. A bit of head-nodding in the extended walk, don’t think he will get high marks for that and sure enough, 6.6. Scoring mostly late 7s now. Come on, judges, let’s give him a few more. He’s trying! Thank you, an 8.1 for his changes. And 8.6 for his extended canter. One-time flying changes 7.7. He’s not going to beat Charlotte but he should be happy with this, surely? An 8 for centreline passage, and that’s it from Johnson. Well done, matey. His collectives are 7.7, 8.2, 7.6 and 8.4 for the rider. “It was pretty good and no big mistakes but I felt I lost the energy a little bit in the ring compared to how he was in the warm-up – and actually the rest of the week. My feeling was good but not really super, because I had to work a little bit harder than I usually have to do on him. At the last two shows he had almost 80 in Grand Prix and now I have almost close to 77. I lost some points left and right, not through big mistakes but because it was not fluent enough. Tomorrow I will wake him up a bit more, ride him a bit shorter and then I will go in. He is my favourite. I have ridden him since he was three years old and he is 14 now. He is the most beautiful one here, and I really like riding him. I think he is a real gentleman, he is a very sweet horse, a nice horse. When he was younger he was always a little shy but now he really shows himself and has a lot of confidence.” Score: 76.597%
Another Russian comes in, Inessa Merkulova and Mister X and she is also a four-socker. Her glittery bits are catching the afternoon sun rather well. I’m not liking what I see here, though: overbent at times. Judges not that fussed, a few 6s but we are up to early 7s now. Improving and looking better also at the passage, and gets two scores of 8.1. Nice walk, both extended and collected, 7.2 and 7.1. The judges really like those passages, more 8.1s and and then 8.6 for the piaffe. Oh – in fact they like the transition too and give 8.4. Canter work is getting low 7s. Didn’t see the end of her test as had to go to mixed zone. Score: 71.343%.
The Ukrainian, Inessa Merkulova on Don Gregorius did the biggest spook in the competition at the beginning of her test and scored a 2.7 for that movement. I don’t see the rest of it, but they score 68.943.
And the final rider of the day, Germany’s famous Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD. A very elegant dark mare. It’s a nice start but she’s working hard in the first passage, just 7 and 6.7. Extended walk 7.4, and
another passage went better, 8 for that one, and then 8.6 for the next. She’s recovering well: 8s for the canter work, 8.4 for two-time changes, and 8.2 for one-times. We’re back in the 7s, and I don’t think there are enough in the high 8s for her to threaten the top couple. But it’s good! An 8.6 for the final centreline and 8.5 for the halt. “I am really, really happy with my girl, she did a great job. She is really polite, she doesn’t want to make a mistake, she is a really nice, polite mare. She was a little bit tense; it was really rough when I came in, so I was a bit careful. I felt that she was reacting a bit, there were some little things, nothing serious, but little things, like in the transition she was a bit earlier than me. In the canter the start was lucky that I got it – so, just little things. Her passage was really nice and her canter work was good. I’m really pleased; just some little things to make better tomorrow. We hope that we can bring it [team gold] back to Germany again. It was too long in Britain.” Score: 80.643%.
So, we end the day Germany (81.295), Great Britain (79.252), and USA (76.971) in the teams event, and individually, it’s Charlotte, Kristina, Dorothee, Isabell, Laura, Steffen, Sönke, Fiona, Hans Peter and rounding up the top 10, Cathrine Dufour of Denmark.
Tomorrow, with the top six teams and the top-ranking individuals to make it up to 25 riders, is the Special… and I’m sure it will be!