Individual and team dressage starts on August 10, but before you tune in, here’s a quick brush up on the rules of the sport.
With its roots stemming all the way back to Renaissance, dressage is described by the International Equestrian Federation as “the highest expression of horse training.” Basically, the horse and rider memorize a sequence of pre-rehearsed movements, and the point of the sport is to further develop the horse’s natural athleticism while training him to become more attentive to his rider and remain calm.
In the Olympics, the top eight individual riders and top six teams advance from the first round (Grand Prix) after being judged on 38 compulsory movements and four collective marks. Following the second round (Grand Prix Special), team medals are given out based on each country’s top three riders’ combined two-round scores. After that is the Grand Prix Freestyle, comprised of individual routines – and it even has music! The top 18 riders are included in this final round, and from that pool, the individual medalists are chosen. Got it? Good.
Here are three of this year’s Olympic dressage favorites and a couple notable American fresh faces.
Charlotte Dujardin, Britain
Armed with a team and individual gold from London, Charlotte Dujardin may be the one to beat. She has five Euro Championship titles, two individual World Equestrian Games championship titles, and two back-to-back Dressage World Cup gold medals. As the most decorated rider in British history, Dujardin announced that this would be her final Olympic appearance.
Kristina Sprehe, Germany
Facing against Dujardin in the fight for an individual gold, Sprehe was a part of Germany’s 2012 team, earning a silver medal as a group but failing to capture an individual title. She was also a part of the German team that won team gold in the 2013 European Dressage Championship, and added a team gold and individual bronze at the 2014 World Equestrian Games.
Laura Graves, USA
On her horse Diddy, Laura Graves is sure to be a formidable force in this year’s dressage smack down. For the duo’s Olympic debut, they hope to nab the individual gold after finishing fifth in the 2014 World Equestrian Games Grand Prix Freestyle and finishing second in the Grand Prix National Championship behind teammate Steffan Peters, who you should also look for on Wednesday.
Allison Brock, USA
A native of Hawaii and notable Olympic newcomer, Allison Brock always wanted to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team. This year, atop her Hanoverian stallion Rosevelt, her dream will come true. Brock is ranked in the top ten on the United States Equestrian Federation’s dressage rider rankings and has had a successful year with Rosevelt, placing first in the FEI Grand Prix Special and displaying great consistency throughout this year’s AGDF.