Olympics 101: Dressage

Between now and the Olympics, Liz Fletcher is going to be filling us in on everything we need to know to be an informed spectator. She kicks off her series today with a debriefing on dressage–the scoring, the schedule and the U.S. stats.

From Liz:

If you follow EN, you’re probably already up-to-speed on America’s Olympic eventing prospects. But what about our other U.S. squads?

Today let’s talk dressage.

First, an explanation of how the competition is scored. Just like eventing and show-jumping, dressage has two sets of medals up for grabs: individual and team. All riders on the team can compete as a team and as individuals, and countries that could not field a team compete just as individuals. The U.S. this year is fielding a full team (three horse and rider pairs) and one individual, with one reserve.

There are three tests to be performed: the Grand Prix, the Grand Prix Special, and the Grand Prix Freestyle (that’s the cool one with music). Everyone competes in the Grand Prix. It serves as the team event and the team with the highest combined scores wins team gold. The top 30 individuals in Grand Prix move on to the Special. Top 15 riders after the Special move on to the Freestyle, and then individuals medal from there.

So who is on the U.S. dressage team? I’ll be highlighting some of their accomplishments and how they prepared for the 2012 Olympics. The team was picked after the selection trials at the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions in Gladstone, N.J. in June and consists of:

  • Jan Ebeling (Moorpark, Calif.) on Amy Ebeling, Beth Meyers, and Ann Romney’s Rafalca
  • Tina Konyot (Palm City, Fla.) on her own and John Byrialsen’s Calecto V
  • Steffen Peters (San Diego, Calif.) on Four Winds Farm’s Ravel
  • Adrienne Lyle (Ketchum, Idaho) on Peggy Thomas’ Wizard (Individual)
  • Heather Blitz (Wellington, Fla.) on her own Paragon (Reserve)

Rafalca might be the most well known by the masses simply because of her owners: Ann and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Rafalca has garnered significant attention outside the horse world on Twitter (@rafalcaromney) stating that she “dances for Mitt Romney so you don’t have to” as well as being featured on The Colbert Report and numerous news and opinion pieces in different papers (see HN’s compilation here for a sampling). Despite spending so much of her time on her Twitter account, Rafalca is very accomplished with her rider, Jan Ebeling. Rafalca has been in Ebeling’s stable since 2006 and they have steadily been working their way up the ranks since that time. At the U.S. Olympic Trials in Gladstone, Rafalca and Ebeling turned in their best Grand Prix ever, posting a 75.255%, securing the 3rd place spot over the two weekends of the trials. As Ebeling stated in an interview with the Chronicle of the Horse, he and Rafalca just get each other. “At this point, Rafalca and I know each other so well. We’re like an old married couple, and I know where to go with her and how far to go, and I know I can depend on her. She knows she can depend on me too.”  Last Wednesday night, Ebeling reported from England via Twitter that Rafalca was “still a bit tired, [and] she feels loose and soft.”

Watch Ebeling and Rafalca score a 75.225% at USEF Festival of Champions:

[Via Dressage in Motion]

Tina Konyot, a Florida-based dressage rider, is competing on Calecto V, with whom she came in second at the Olympic Trials. Cool factoid about Konyot is that she hails from a prestigious circus family. Both her grandfather and her father were extremely accomplished equestrians, both horse trainers, so it comes as no surprise that Konyot is as talented as she is. Konyot has stressed the importance of having a horse that is both physically and mentally fit, explaining that she spends a lot of time doing cross training, like going on hacks and trail rides, to keep her horse fresh. In the USDF’s Olympic blog she mentioned that she prefers to ride bareback with a hackamore when she and Calecto go on their afternoon walks. This dedication to doing what’s best for her horse has paid off: In January, she and Calecto V won the Grand Prix Freestyle at the Gold Coast Opener, and at the WEF Dressage Classic they won the Special and placed second in the Grand Prix test. They also achieved their personal best at the Festival of Champions in Gladstone in July, earning them a spot on the team.

Watch Konyot and Calecto V score their personal best, an 80.149% at the Olympic Trials:

[Via Dressage in Motion]

Next up, dressage team superstars Steffen Peters and Ravel. This horse has had incredible success since 2009, and Peters is an absolute master. Why didn’t you see Ravel at the Olympic Selection trials at Gladstone? Because he was given a bye. Yes, he’s that good. In 2009, Ravel won 10 out of 11 FEI classes he was entered in which helped earn him the honor of being USEF Horse of the Year. They also competed together at the WEGs in 2010 and earned an individual bronze for the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle tests. This January, Steffen Peters and Ravel broke a competition record with their Grand Prix test score of 81.383% at the World Dressage Masters in Palm Beach. Ravel and Peters also competed at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong and came in 4th by the barest of margins. Taking into consideration that the 2008 Olympics was the first time the horse had competed outside of the U.S., I think we can expect great things from this pair in London.

Watch Steffen Peters and Ravel at the World Dressage Masters:

[Via World Dressage Masters]

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard together are a strong individual pair for the U.S. In 2011, Lyle and Wizard won both the Grand Prix Test and Grand Prix Freestyle at Devon, and their hard work and good scores continued into 2012. Earlier this year they won the CDI***** at West Palm Beach on a score of 73.012%, and at the World Dressage Masters in Florida, Lyle and Wizard took top honors in the Special and finished in 4th in the Freestyle. In the Olympic Grand Prix Special at the U.S. Selection trials, Lyle and Wizard earned a 74.889%. They finished the trials in 4th place, just edging out Todd Flettrich and Otto. Lyle and Wizard are competing for the U.S. as individuals.

Watch Adrienne Lyle and Wizard win the Grand Prix Special at the World Dressage Masters:

[via Premier Equestrian]

And finally, we come to our reserve pair, Heather Blitz and Paragon. While only in London this year as a backup, I have a good feeling about this horse and rider team. Blitz’s love for the 18-hand horse is very obvious. She bred him herself, was there the day he was born and has done all of his training. Paragon and Blitz already have a bit of international experience, as they were members of the gold-winning team at the Pan Am Games in 2011. So far this year, the pair has finished second in both the Grand Prix CDI*** and Grand Prix Special CDI**** at the World Dressage Masters in Palm Beach. The horse is in an excellent position for the future with such a strong foundation, and he’s only 9 this year. The only place for him to go is up!

Watch Heather Blitz and Paragon win at the Global Dressage Festival:

[via Heather Blitz]

So there you have it: the U.S. Olympic dressage team. I won’t be offering any medal predictions, but I can say that I’m feeling very optimistic about the United State’s chances! Go Team USA!

Dressage Schedule:

  • Thursday Aug 2 – Team Dressage Grand Prix Day 1 11:00 am-3:30 pm (local time)
  • Friday Aug 3 – Team Dressage Grand Prix Day 2 11:00 am-3:30 pm
  • Tuesday Aug. 7 – Grand Prix Special + Team Medals 10:00 am-4:15 pm
  • Thursday August 9 – Individual Dressage Freestyle + Individual Medals 12:30 pm-4:30 pm

Go here for a complete broadcast schedule of equestrian events.



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