H&H’s Tokyo rider of the day: Nanna Skoborg Merrald on gelling with new Olympic ride in under a year

  • Olympic debutante Nanna Skoborg Merrald is making an impressive debut in the Tokyo Olympic dressage competition. She scored 73.168% in Saturday’s grand prix (24 July) and 74.21% in the grand prix special that decided the team medals. Denmark finished just outside the team medals in fourth, and Nanna will ride in the individual final tomorrow (Wednesday, 28 July).

    Nanna’s achievements are all the more significant as the 17-year-old Zack (Rousseau x Jazz) is a relatively new ride for her. The stallion, who is also used for breeding, was previously ridden by her compatriot Daniel Bachmann Andersen. He stopped riding him last summer when he left his job as number work rider at Blu Hors Stud where Zack is based. Daniel and Zack were on the Danish team at the 2019 Europeans, the World Cup Finals and competed at several Nations Cups together.

    Nanna admitted that it has not been straightforward taking on such an established performer. He was Danish national grand prix champion with Daniel in 2019.

    “It has been tough,” she said. “He was at the top of the world rankings and Daniel has done amazingly with him. I knew I couldn’t do as well, because he has known the horse for so long and they were a great couple.

    “But Daniel and I worked together when he was riding Zack in the last year, so I have seen a lot of work with him and I still talk with Daniel.”

    A fighter in the ring

    Nanna said she was proud of the speed with which the partnership has gelled. Both horse and rider have competed in championships, but never together. They have had little opportunity for international competition due to the coronavirus.

    “Neither of us have done an Olympics,” she said. “I’m just so proud of him and that we are here already. I started riding him less than one year ago. It has gone quite fast.

    “You know when Zack he trusts you because then he really wants to do a lot for you in there in the ring. He is special – he has a lot of personality and routines that he want to stick to. But he’s also a fighter.”

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