Olympic Happy Hour: August 2

Throughout the Olympics, Horse Nation will be capping off each day with a pint-sized synopsis of the most recent Olympic equestrian sporting festivities. Here’s your Happy Hour report for Thursday, August 2.

Have you met Liz Fletcher? She’s awesome. She got up at 5:30 this morning and watched every last dressage ride so she could tell us all about it later. Take it away, Liz!

From Liz:

Hello, Horse Nation! I hope you’re not too Olympics-ed out. This morning concluded the first round of the Grand Prix. Twenty-five riders competed today, and 25 riders will compete tomorrow.

Two riders chose to ride the Olympics with helmets: Emma Kanerva on Spirit from Finland, and Jacquie Brooks on D’Niro from Canada. This is the first time anyone has ridden with a helmet in a dressage competition in the Olympics.

Sadly, David Marcus and Capital were eliminated and so the Canadians cannot compete as a team. Marcus said that Capital was spooked by the TV cameras and the audience shifting in their seats from the torrential downpour over Greenwich Park. There are no dropped scores in dressage and three riders are needed to compete as a team.

Anky Van Grunsven rode this morning on Salinero. This is her 7th and the horse’s 3rd Olympic games. Salinero is 18 years old, and is a gorgeous black stallion. Anky is trying for her 4th consecutive Olympic gold in the same event. Salinero tried so hard today but I thought showed his age a bit with some tightness in his hind legs. Anky was very happy after their performance, giving the black stallion a big hug after they finished. The judges also rewarded them for their very accurate test with a 73.343%. They finished in 5th place after day one.

Rafalca was the only U.S. horse to compete today. The sweet mare looked like she tried her heart out for her rider, Jan Ebeling. Jan looked like he knew exactly how much he could ask of her for her to respond without becoming overwhelmed. They did not post the best score of the day, but I think they should be very proud of all they have accomplished together. They looked like a true team. They had an excellent halt and rein back, something Jan said he had been working on. The rest of the American team, as well as the American Individual rider, Adrienne Lyle will ride tomorrow. Rafalca and Ebeling scored a 70.243% putting them in 13th after day one of competition.

Great Britain is attempting to win its first medal in dressage. In just a few years, GB has had an overhaul of its dressage program and really re-made themselves into a team to be reckoned with. They proved this again today with Carl Hester going to the top of the leader board on Uthopia with a 77.720%. Laura Bechtolsheimer also competed today on Mistrel Hojris, a huge chestnut gelding with four white stockings. They make a lovely picture in the ring, and have lots of power. She was extremely pleased when she finished to the test and was rewarded with a 76.839%. Tomorrow, Charlotte Dujardin will compete on Valegro, a horse with whom she scored a 90.65% at Hartpury College in July.

The youngest rider is Spain’s Morgan Barbancon Mestres, 19, who is a student of Anky’s and is riding a horse of Anky’s, Painted Black. They had a couple of small mistakes during the transitions, but nothing that more time together won’t help. She looked absolutely thrilled after she finished, lying on her horse’s neck giving him a huge hug and lots of pats. At 19, she is one to watch for the future. They scored a fabulous 72.751%, putting them in 6th place.

On the other end of the spectrum, 71-year-old Hiroshi Hoketsu also competed this morning on his horse Whisper. A fact I did not know about Hiroshi is that he was educated at Duke University, right down the street from where I live in North Carolina. Hiroshi had a great showing this morning with Whisper and scored 68.739%. This is the part of horses that I absolutely adore: You can ride your entire life and still be successful at the top levels as you get older.

The Danes also had a great showing today and had two riders that posted scores in the top ten. So far, Great Britain is miles ahead with their riders one-two, but it looks like the Danes are in a great position for Silver. But you never know with horses, so there can certainly be an upset or two after tomorrow. Even though the Germans also had two riders in the top 10, only one was riding for the team: Anabel Balkenhol is riding as an Individual for Germany. The same is true for the Netherlands. Anky is riding for the team, but Patrick van der Meer is an Individual.

Here are the top 15 horse and rider pairs after day one:

Here are the ride times for Day 2:

Remember, these times are in Greenwich Mean Time, so if you are on the East Coast, subtract five hours from the ride time and you will have the competition in EST.

In case you missed this morning’s coverage, you can watch the replay here.

Stay tuned for results from day two! Go dressage!

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