State of International Dressage Heading Into 2021, 10 Months Since Coronavirus Impact

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Isabell Werth and Bellas Rose at the 2019 European Championships where the pair won all three gold medals and was the last competition for the pair but still ranked No. 1 in the world at the beginning of 2021. © Ken Braddick/

Jan. 2, 2021


The International Equestrian Federation’s world rankings are at an all-time high of almost 1,000 rider and horse combinations heading into the Olympic year as the coronavirus-triggered freeze has significantly distorted the standings.

Of the top 50 rider and horse combinations on the FEI rankings as of Dec. 31, 2020, 21 pairs have not competed–or not been able to–since before the freeze imposed in March 2020 locking in results from a year earlier. In normal circumstances, the standings for Grand Prix are of the top eight scores from the previous 12 months, rolling over every month. The freeze was designed to provide a level playing field along lines similar to tennis and golf during the pandemic.

Most prominent of 12 combinations that have not competed since 2019 include No. 1 Isabell Werth on Bella Rose and No. 4 Dorothee Schneider on Showtime FRH. Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen on Blue Hors Zack and Blue Hors Don Olymbrio, ranked 10th and 14th, respectively, left the Blue Hors stud in May last year. Charlotte Dujardin is still ranked 18th on Erlentanz though the owner who had been injured returned to the saddle in February last year to rack up eight starts.

The impact of coronavirus on the international dressage schedule is displayed by the official 2020 calendar from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

Of the 224 competitions listed, 160 were canceled. Including was the World Cup Final in Las Vegas and the Olympics as well as other premier events. One was the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany that would have been a key Tokyo Games team selection event for numerous nations including Germany and the United States.

Compared with the 987 on the FEI rankings at the end of 2020, there was a total of 796 combinations coming into the year, 754  at the end of 2018 and 701 at the end of 2017. The previous high number was 816 at the end  of 2016, the last year of an Olympics.

The FEI has not yet announced how it will return rankings to the normal rolling totals of eight best results over 12 months or some formula that reflects current standings.

However, if the Olympics that were delayed from July 2020 for a year are held, rankings will be required for the starting order.

This year is starting with significant uncertainty, even with rapidly increasing availability of Covid-19 vaccinations the coronavirus is still wreaking havoc throughout much of the world.

Organizers of the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden are endeavoring to put together an event at the hugely popular Scandinavium arena despite cancellations already of all but three of the dressage qualifiers in Western Europe and the entire slate of jumping qualifiers for the region.

Atmosphere that comes with crowds in indoor arenas are a major attraction of the World Cup. Adrienne Lyle of the United States on Salvino at the Final in the Scandinavium in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2019. The Final, that was canceled at Las Vegas in2020, is scheduled to return to Gothenburg in April but even if staged is likely to be without spectators. © Ken Braddick/

Central Europe has been successful in juggling cancellations and replacements by putting on seven qualifiers so far with one more scheduled. The entire lineup of four events in Australia in the Pacific League were canceled.

The United States–the only North American country to host qualifiers–has staged four events so far with another three scheduled during the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida over the next three months.

The Global circuit of seven CDIs–three World Cups that will become CDI4*s if the championship is called off, a CDI5*, two CDI4*s and a Nations Cup–will be the highlight of the world winter lineup.

The Olympics, the biggest stage for many sports and already put off for one year because of coronavirus, will almost certainly be way less spectacular if the delayed Games go ahead in mid-summer.

Tokyo organizers are weighing significant restrictions on visiting athletes and officials and questions on how many if any foreign spectators will be admitted. The review was underway well before a current surge in infections and a ban for now on non-resident arrivals.

If the delayed Olympics go ahead this summer, chances are there won’t be crowded spectator stands, full-throated cheering and not a mask in sight such as when Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro celebrated her success at the 2012 Olympics in London. © Ken Braddick/