Let the dressage begin – part one | An Eventful Life

Let the dressage begin – part one


Thursday 2nd August saw day one of the dressage contest commence, with the great British weather wildly changing from glorious sunshine to annoying drizzle to torrential rain – that’s what England is like all the time, folks!

We had settled down to watch the Grand Prix, which would sort the men from the boys, so to speak, and reveal who would go through to the Grand Prix Special. The best seven teams of three and the best 11 individuals are allowed to progress to the next phase on Tuesday 7th August, and the total scores from the two events decide the team placings. After the Grand Prix Special, the best 18 individuals go through to the Grand Prix Freestyle, which determines the medals in the individual event…. Meanwhile a fairly indecipherable method of working out the seven dressage judges’ scores is allocated based on individual judges’ marks.  

Got it? Dressage makes soccer’s offside rule seem easy to grasp… Is it any wonder that many non horsey people don’t ‘get it’?! Nevertheless, for those fans that had got their heads around the scoring system, the start of the day felt momentous.

Yassine Rhmouni from Morocco was second to go, and drew a laugh from the crowd when he took out what looked like a small red flag or hankerchief from his pocket and waved it to the London crowd after his test, which gained him 64.45; he also had the accolade of being the only African nation to qualify. The London crowd were, as they have been all week, very enthusiastic in their support of the other nations.

Kristy Oatley, first up for Australia, was competing at her third Games and rode a classy test on the relatively young, thirteen year old Clive. It was a predominantly accurate test from the cousin of team-mate Lyndal Oatley and granddaughter of top Australian winemaker and keen sailor Bob Oatley, with just a few slightly messy transitions that earned Kristy a solid 68.207. This sound score may have gone some way to hush the murmurs about the discretionary selection process that involved a National Federation Appeals Tribunal which finally saw Kristy take her ticket to the Games. “I am really happy – he gave it his all,” she said of Clive afterwards.

Dutch star Anky Van Grunsven, riding the 18 year old Salinero for the Netherlands, rode a test almost in a class of its own. (A class that also included Carl Hester, whose score of 77.720 on Uthopia had easily rocketed the Brit into the lead.) Anky gained 73.80 percent to go into second place at the time, and received a polite yet rousing cheer from the crowd, especially from the many orange-clad Dutch fans that had come to cheer her on.

Anky rides her test.

By the time Lyndal Oatley was warming up, riding Sandro Boy for Australia, the rain in London was torrential. It surely depends on your nations’ weather conditions as to whether your horse is used to such off-putting conditions. Although the sun inexplicably appeared as the pair began their test, perhaps Sandro Boy was not, as the pair couldn’t quite match their 70.466 personal best gained at Hagen in April - the highest score for an Australian at a CDI Grand Prix – scoring 69.392, to go into 9th place. However Lyndal rode a light and expressive test at Greenwich that outclassed many of the previous horses here; this young horse has such promise.