Newly Created Grand Prix Special to Music Proposed by FEI As Olympic & World Games Team Competition

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Olympic dressage medal teams of four riders with three scores counting on the podium at Rio de Janeiro--Germany (gold), Great Britain (silver) and USA (bronze). © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Olympic dressage medal teams of four riders with three scores counting on the podium at Rio de Janeiro–Germany (gold), Great Britain (silver) and USA (bronze). © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Oct. 26, 2016

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A major overhaul of Olympic and World Games dressage with a newly created Grand Prix Special to music deciding team medals while the Grand Prix becomes a qualifier for the Nations Cup is being proposed by the FEI–the International Equestrian Federation–for approval next month.

Teams for both the Olympics and the world championships would be cut to three horse and rider combinations with all scores counting, under the proposal, but with a reserve allowed as a last-minute substitution. Four pairs with one drop score was the format at the Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

The Grand Prix Freestyle will decide individual medals as it has at recent Olympics and World Games, its appeal to both the dressage community as well as those outside the sport sparked the proposed change in the team format.

All combinations would ride the same Grand Prix Special but riders would select their own accompanying music that would not be judged but make the competition more attractive to spectators and viewers.

Draft proposals for the new formats have been prepared for the FEI General Assembly–the ultimate decision-making body of the global governing body of horse sports–scheduled for Tokyo Nov. 19-22. Tokyo will also be the site of the 2022 Olympics.

A location for the World Games scheduled for less than two years from now has not yet been decided since Canada pulled out this summer when it was unable to raise money to stage the WEG at Bromont near Montreal where the 1976 Olympic equestrian sports were staged. The FEI Bureau meeting at the same time as the General Assembly is expected to decide between Tryon, North Carolina and Šamorín, Slovakia.

If the proposed Olympic format is approved by the General Assembly it would then be submitted to the International Olympic Committee for the final decision.

The goal of the FEI is to have 80 combinations at the World Games and 60 at the Olympics, the same as the number in Rio that was 10 higher than the previous Olympics in London.

Drafts of the new formats included in proposed changes to dressage rules are being circulated to national federations ahead of the general assembly and a copy was obtained by dressage-news.com.

A format of three horse and rider combinations with a reserve for qualified teams was implemented for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It drew widespread opposition and the more traditional lineup of four pairs with three scores counting was brought back for London in 2012 and Rio this year. Similar team formats are being proposed for both eventing and jumping, the other two Olympic disciplines.

Here’s how both the Olympic and World Games format would work under the FEI proposal:

Nations would qualify both teams of up to four combinations and individuals through world and continental championships such as the European Championships, Pan American Games as well as other specified competitions or rankings.

One reserve combination may qualify for teams but no reserve for “composite” squads where three pairs qualify as individuals from the same nation to make up a team.

At the Olympics, all combinations for both teams and as individuals would compete in the Grand Prix to decide qualification for the Grand Prix Special to music for team competition and individuals for the Grand Prix Freestyle.

Only three combinations for each team would advance to the Grand Prix Special for music and limited to the top eight placed teams in the Grand Prix. All three results would count for each team with no “drop” score.

No individuals will compete in the Grand Prix Special to music.

The music for the Grand Prix Special will be selected by the rider but it will not be judged.

Reserve rider/horse combination can substitute for another pair up to two hours before the scheduled starting time of the Grand Prix Special to music.

Eighteen combinations will qualify for the Grand Prix Freestyle–but no more than three from a single nation, the same as in the past, to decide individual medals.