Olympic Dressage Competition Format Overhaul Proposed for 2020 Tokyo Games

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The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games team dressage medals podium with Switzerland (silver), Wst Germany (gold) and Soviet Union (bronze). German team was Reiner Klimke. Josef Neckermann and Harry Boldt.
The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games team dressage medals podium with Switzerland (silver), Wst Germany (gold) and Soviet Union (bronze). German team was Reiner Klimke. Josef Neckermann and Harry Boldt.

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A major overhaul of the Olympic dressage competition for the 2020 Tokyo Games has been proposed adopting formats from other sports including a reserve horse and rider that can be used as a strategic replacement and a Grand Prix Special to music as the team finale.

The proposal is for dressage in Tokyo to remain at 60 combinations, increased for this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Games from 50 previously, with teams of three and a reserve similar to a reserve player on a soccer team or a designated hitter in baseball.

The Grand Prix over two days with six groups of 10 horses each set up like heats in track and field instead of the current system of higher ranked pairs performing at the end is one of two proposals prepared by the FEI, International Equestrian Federation, Dressage Committee. The Freestyle will decide individual medals.

The draft competition formats for dressage along with changes for jumping and eventing, the other two Olympc disciplines, were distributed Tuesday to national federations and stakeholder groups by the International Equestrian Federation ahead of the Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland April 4-5.

Canada's Christilot Boylen at the age of 16 on Bonheur at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Canada’s Christilot Boylen at the age of 16 on Bonheur at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Once a format is selected, the FEI said, “it will be desirable to use the chosen competition format also for the World Equestrian Games,” the next edition of which is scheduled for Bromont, Canada in 2018.

The 2020 Olympics, like some other sports, will be staged in the same venue as the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, a move instituted by the International Olympic Committee to cut costs of hosting the Games that have escalated out of the reach of most nations.

Both proposals call for teams of three pairs and not four at the moment in which the three highest scores count for the team total.

Tokyo Olympic logo

One proposal calls for six groups of 10 horses competing in the Grand Prix over two days, three groups each day. Each group, or heat, would include world ranked combinations. For example, group one would have world No. 1 group 2 world No. 2 (or the highest ranked pair after the first group, and so on for all six groups with others in the group made up of horses and riders in descending ranking.

The best eight teams and no individuals from the Grand Prix would advance to the Special.  The competition would be split into three groups each with eight pairs.

Teams would be allowed to use a reserve horse in a similar way that some other sports provide for reserves in a strategic move to strengthen the team’s performance.

It is not spelled out in the proposal whether the reserve would be a separate combination or could be one for the rider of a pair already in the competition–such as, say, Isabell Werth of Germany or Steffen Peters of the United States riding one horse in the Grand Prix and another in reserve that coud be ridden in the Special.

2020 Olympic Dressage Formats

Individual medals would be decided by the Freestyle, with a total of 18 riders and horses–two from each of the six heats in the Grand Prix plus six “lucky losers” that have the overall best results.

The second proposal is a variation of the first but drops the Grand Prix Special.

Fifteen teams of three combinations would be split into four groups, three the first day and the fourth the second day of the Grand Prix.

The Freestyle of the 18 best combinations in the Grand Prix would compete in the individual final that would be held on the second day of dressage competition.