The powerhouse nations of dressage are to the fore after a second, thrilling day of competition at the Tokyo Olympics.
Strong rides from both Isabell Werth and Bella Rose and Dorothee Schneider with Showtime have put the defending champs at the top of the teams competition.
But an immaculate performance from Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and her young horse Gio (who is, of course, co-owned by New Zealand’s Renai Hart) put the Germans on notice that they are not going to have it all their own way when it comes to the medals.
Charlotte led the British team to a provisional second place; they will be joined in the GP Special to decide the team medals by Denmark, USA, the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal and Spain.
The 18 riders who will go through to the freestyle which decides the individual medals have also been confirmed. They are the two best from each of the six qualifying groups – Lottie Fry and Charlotte Dujardin (GBR), Therese Nilshagen and Juliette Ramel (SWE), Cathrine Dufour and Carina Cassoe Kruth (DEN), Edward Gal (NED), Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, Dorothee Schneider and Isabell Werth (GER), Sabine Schut-Kery and Adrienne Lyle (USA) were all first or second in their groups. Also qualified are the six next-best individuals, Nanna Skodborg Merrald (DEN), Beatriz Ferrer-Salat (ESP), Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED), Carl Hester (GBR), Rodrigo Torees (POR) and Steffen Peters (USA).
The competition kicked off with Group D, and the top spot was taken by Carina Cassoe Kruth of Denmark, after a stunner on Heiline’s Danciera to score 76.677%. Second place in the group was Adrienne Lyle and Salvino for the USA, with 74.876%.
Dorothee Schneider and Showtime FRH were the comfortable winners of Group E, scoring 78.82% despite an expensive mistake in one of the final pirouettes. Dorothee says her horse was “a little bit tense but it’s normal for him on first day”.
Group F was the one to watch, with both defending individual gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin and her biggest rival, Isabell Werth, to ride. Isabell was last to go, and scored 82.5% for the top mark of the night, but it wasn’t quite the dominant performance we’re used to seeing. Although the piaffe and passage were absolute highlights, and scored an astonishing 13 perfect 10s from the judges, the extended trot didn’t really fire. She scored seven 10s for piaffe, five for piaffe-passage transitions, and one for a halt.
Charlotte’s test, by contrast, was consistent throughout, with the small but powerful Gio looking confident, energetic yet completely relaxed as they danced their way to 80.963%, scoring plenty of 8s and 9s and one 10 for the two-time changes.
Charlotte was thrilled with the test. “I was so happy, he’s a very green inexperienced horse, so it was a bit of the unknown what to expect. Hagen [Germany in April this year] is the biggest show he’s done and he delivered there. I couldn’t ask for any more today, he went in there and he tried his heart out. He’s just unbelievable, he keeps giving. I felt emotional on the last centreline because when you have a ride like that, win or lose that’s what it’s all about for me.
“He’s like a little powerhouse, he’s small but definitely mighty, for where he is at his training I know he can give even more, and I’m so happy with him.”
Isabell clearly enjoys the renewed rivalry with her British counterpart because it feeds her competitive edge. “It’s always very important that you have strong field of competitors because then you push each other to top performances and that’s the spirit of competition”, she says.
She described the 17-year-old Bella Rose as “my dream horse and when she’s in top shape she is the best – her way of moving, her character, her charisma, her piaffe/passage down the centreline. With Bella you have the feeling there is always something more possible!”
But Isabell says the lack of an audience could be influential. “Mostly you will see it in the medal decisions, especially in the Freestyle. There will be no crowd to carry the horses and riders – it makes a big difference. On the other hand, we are so happy that we have an Olympic Games, and we are very thankful to be here”.
Moving through to the individual final are:
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, TSF Dalera (GER) 84.379%
Isabell Werth, Bella Rose 2 (GER) 82.500%
Dufour Cathrine, Bohemian (DEN) 81.056%
Charlotte Dujardin, Gio (GBR) 80.963%
Dorothee Schneider, Showtime FRH (GER) 78.820%
Edward Gal, Total US (NED) 78.649%
Sabine Schut-Kery, Sanceo (USA) 78.416%
Charlotte Fry, Everdale (GBR) 77.096%
Hans Peter Minderhoud, Dream Boy (NED) 76.817%
Carina Cassoe Kruth, Heiline’s Danciera (DEN) 76.677%
Steffen Peters, Suppenkasper (USA) 76.196%
Therese Nilshagen, Dante Weltino OLD (SWE) 75.140%
Carl Hester, En Vogue (GBR) 75.124%
Adrienne Lyle, Salvino (USA) 74.876%
Juliette Ramel, Buriel K.H. (SWE) 73.369%
Nanna Skodborg Merrald, Zack (DEN) 73.168%
Rodrigo Torres, Fogoso (POR) 72.624%
Beatriz Ferrer-Salat, Elegance (ESP) 72.096 %
Moving Through to Team Final:
1. Germany – 7911.5
2. Great Britain – 7508.5
3. Denmark – 7435.0
4. United States – 7389.5
5. Netherlands – 7312.0
6. Sweden – 6989.0
7. Portugal – 6862.5
8. Spain – 6749.5