Show ruling boosts Olympic qualification hopes for top British riders

  • British dressage combinations still seeking to complete their qualification for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics will now have the opportunity to do so on home soil, as the new Wellington Riding CDI3* in May has been designated an Olympic qualifier by the FEI.

    The show, which is scheduled to run from 11-16 May at Wellington Riding, Hants, was originally added to the international calendar without the option to count towards minimum eligibility requirements (MER), but this decision has since been reversed by the FEI.

    Among Britain’s top dressage riders yet to complete qualification for Tokyo is five-time Olympian Carl Hester with En Vogue.

    Current qualification rules involve horse and rider combinations achieving certain criteria at a minimum of two eligible FEI events between 1 January 2019 and 21 June 2021. As Carl only took over the ride on 12-year-old Vogue from owner Charlotte Dujardin in February 2020, the 76.5% they scored at the Keysoe CDI in October 2020 is the pair’s only international grand prix result to date.

    Carl welcomed the decision to allow the Wellington show to count towards MERs.

    “It’s great news that the FEI has reversed the decision. I must also thank [World Class performance director] Dickie Waygood, who has worked really hard for this on our behalf,” Carl told H&H.

    Charlotte is in the same position as Carl with the 10-year-old Gio, who made his grand prix debut nationally in January 2020, but has also only been able to compete internationally at Keysoe in October, where they scored 79.35%. Charlotte is already qualified for the Games with her World bronze medallist Mount St John Freestyle.

    As well as competing at Wellington next month, Carl and Charlotte will also travel to Hagen, Germany, for the CDI4* on 21-25 April. Carl will ride En Vogue, while Charlotte will be in action with both Freestyle and Gio. This will be Charlotte’s first time competing abroad since the World Cup qualifier in Amsterdam in January 2020, while Carl has not competed outside the UK since the European Championships in 2019.

    “I don’t want to rely on just one show, Wellington [for qualification] in case something goes wrong,” explained Carl. “I’ve got to have two shows so I have a back-up to make sure I’m qualified.

    “Vogue feels gorgeous at the moment, but Hagen is a difficult show to get the points.”

    Carl and Charlotte will be joined in Hagen by Sonnar Murray-Brown and Erlentanz, as well as the Netherlands-based Lottie Fry, who is set to bring her trio of grand prix rides: Dark Legend, Everdale and Glamourdale.

    The entry list for Hagen reads like a Who’s Who of European dressage, with Isabell Werth, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, Sonke Rothenberger, Frederic Wandres and Helen Langehanenberg among the German contingent. Other top riders set to be in action include Sweden’s Patrik Kittel, Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour, the Netherlands’ Adelinde Cornellissen and Spain’s Juan Matute Guimon, making his first international appearance since his recovery from a brain bleed last summer.

    Continues below…

    Closer to home, many of Britain’s elite riders appeared on fine form during a grand prix training event at Hartpury last week, judged by five-star judges Isobel Wessels, Clive Halsall and Peter Storr. Carl achieved his first 80% grand prix aboard Vogue, while Charlotte received 84% and 82% respectively for her tests on Freestyle and Gio. Emile Faurie was also on top form, scoring 76.99% with Dono Dimaggio.

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