Competition Tightens for Olympic Dressage Teams, Most Limited to 3 Combinations–FEI Clarifies Reserve Situation

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Anne Gribbons, U.S. dressage coach/Technical adviser. Photo: USEF Archives


Competition tightened for the three places for dressage teams of all but three nations at the London Olympics following the release of the final rankings for individuals. Only Great Britain, Germany and The Netherlands qualified an individual in addition to their teams.

The effect is that the United States and countries other than the three Western European nations most likely will have only a squad of three riders for the team competition at the London Games, but they can have a reserve that can be activated up to two hours before the start of the Grand Prix.

The result of the qualifying process drew criticism from U.S. coach Anne Gribbons, who is also a member of the six-member International Equestrian Federation’s Dressage Committee that drew up the format. Nations to have qualified teams in addition to Great Britain, Germany, Holland and the U.S., are Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, New Zealand, Spain and Sweden.

A primary goal of limiting team sizes to three combinations was to broaden global participation by indivdual participation.

“I hope to God it can be changed in the future, because it is a system that again favors Europe,” she told “It is evident from the results. If you are going to have any event where the world is invited, you have to think ahead so everyone has a fair chance to qualify.

“It’s a set up. It makes it more obvious that everyone else is at a disadvantage from the very beginning.

“The chances look pretty bleak for getting a fourth rider. It puts us in a vulnerable situation, not just the U.S. but all countries other than the European strong teams.”

Under the rules, most national teams qualify through championships such as the World Equestrian Games, the European Championships and the Pan American Games.

In this Olympics, teams are restricted to three horses, but with a reserve, a situation virtually identical to the Beijing Olympics,.

New for this year were individual rankings to qualify an individual combination, but only Britain, Germany and Holland qualified an individual and thus have four horses and riders–three for the team plus the individual.

That means that after the veterinary horse check at Greenwich Park, the venue for Olympic competition in London, horses can be substituted if there is a veterinary issue, for example.

The team contest in 2012 is not only the Grand Prix as is usual in championships but also the specially created Olympic Grand Prix Special. The Grand Prix is Thursday and Friday, Aug. 2-3 and the Special on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The Freestyle for individual medals is Thursday, Aug. 9.

Some national federations and riders argue that Western Europe’s huge number of international dressage competitions ranked 3* or higher from which up to the top eight scores counted toward individual Olympic qualification gave the powerhouse nations of Germany and The Netherlands an advantage.

A calculation of competitions in the seven Olympic Qualifying Groups during the qualifying period of Mar. 1, 2011, to Mar. 1, 2012, showed that the group which includes Germany, The Netherlands and Great Britain staged 34 events, the most of any group.

The second Western European group of nations in the same geographic area such as Austria, Belgium, France Italy and Spain had another 32 competitions.

The group for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, had a total in 23 CDIs.

In the group including the U.S. and Canada, there were 24 competitions–14 on the U.S. East Coast, six on the U.S. West Coast and four in Canada.

In Central and South America, Brazil alone organized 13 events in an effort to provide qualifying opportunities, while Mexico held a single event.

In Southeast Asia and Oceania, 10 competitions were organized in Australia, all on the continent’s East Coast, two in New Zealand and two in Japan.

No competitions were listed for Africa and the Middle East group.