Olympic Dressage Lineup–61.6% Female Riders, 4 All-Female Teams, 1 All-Male

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German Olympic team of Jessica von Bredow-Werndl to ride TSF Dalera BB, Isabell Werth to ride Bella Rose and Dorothee Schneider with Showtime FRH. © 2021 Stefan Lafrentz/sportfotos-lafrentz.de

July 13, 2021

The Olympic dressage lineup of females in the majority of the 60 riders and horses–15 teams each with three combinations and 15 individuals–continues the trend begun at the 1972 Games. Four nations–Australia, Denmark, Germany and Russia–have all female teams while host nation Japan will have the sole all-male team.

The current lineup is the most ever for dressage in an Olympics going back more than a century to 1912 and counts 37 females and 23 males this year, delayed from 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic. The previous highest participation for dressage was 50 combinatons. Changes this year are possible–Spain has already had to swap out one of its combinations–before the Grand Prix competition starts in Tokyo July 24.

The sport was close to the exclusive domain of male military officers before World War II, and even through the first post-war Games in 1948. Then, in 1952, four women were allowed to compete for the first time. By 1956 the change was dramatic–Germany fielded an all-female team that won silver, though the judging was so nationalistic favoring Germany Sweden, that took gold, that dressage was threatened with being thrown out of the Games and no team competition was permitted in 1960.

At the first Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, Germany, the Soviet Union, Sweden and Japan had teams of all men. The United States was the only all-female team and included Jessica Newberry Ranshousen who had competed in 1960 and again in 1988–24 years since 1964–still one of only two American women to compete at three Olympics.

The trend to greater female participation was clear in 1972 when females were the majority for the first time. The 1980 Games in Moscow that were boycotted by most nations became the only exception after 1972 when eight males outnumbered six females.

The London Olympics in 2012 were the most lopsided by gender since barriers were lifted–36 females riders to 14 males, 72% women.

As for the horses, the number of geldings at 31 exceeds the total of 18 stallions and 11 mares.

Horse breeds have shown a significant shift in recent Olympics.

Of the 60 horses entered for Tokyo, a total of 18 are registered Dutch KWPN, 10 are Hanoverians, seven Oldenburg and six Lusitanos with the remainder spread among 10 registering bodies.

In 2012, 11 Hanoverians were the majority of 50 competition mounts, six each for KWPN, Oldenburg and Lusitanos and five Danish Warmbloods and other breeds the rest.