Olympic Dressage – Tokyo 2020

At the Rio Olympic Games we all witnessed something never before seen… Charlotte Dujardin became the first British female athlete to successfully defend her crown, winning an individual dressage gold medal twice in a row! Over recent years our riders have shot in to the spotlight. The question is, will our Olympic Dressage combinations be just as successful in Tokyo? It won’t be long until we know! Following being postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, proceedings are expected to be getting back underway on 23rd July.


From vaulting and endurance to racing and carriage driving, there are loads of equestrian disciplines. However, only three are a part of the Olympics: Dressage, Show Jumping and Eventing. Here we’re going to be taking a look at what to expect from Dressage!

Dressage is undeniably an expressive and elegant artform. It’s not very fast paced and there’s no obstacles in sight. This may make it look to be the ‘easiest’ of the equestrian events but don’t be fooled. Although it seems to require very little on the riders part, anyone who’s it tried will tell you…Making it look ‘easy’ is in fact a remarkable skill! Appearing to ‘dance’ in perfect harmony, dressage requires horse and rider to become a team. They must work together and communicate almost invisibly, with impeccable timing, control, strength and precision.

How Olympic Dressage Works

Olympic dressage takes place in a rectangular 60m x 20m arena, with letter markers at designated points. Dressage tests are made up of a number of ‘movements’. Horse and rider perform these in a sequence, at the correct marker. Each individual movement will be given a mark out of 10, based on how well it was performed. There will also be additional marks up for grabs based on the riders seat and aids. During an Olympic dressage event 7 judges will sit around the outside of the arena, marking each movement from a range of angles for the most accurate result. Scores are combined and turned into a percentage at the end of the test. The highest percentage wins!

Olympic Dressage competition is split into team and individual events. Teams consist of 3 riders from the same nation. Take a look at how the winners will be decided!

Team & Individual Olympic Dressage – Grand Prix Qualifier

Grand Prix is the highest level of dressage test. To kick off the competition 60 horse and rider combinations will be broken down into 6 groups, based on their FEI world ranking. All the competitors will ride the same test, comparing like for like. This will determine who qualifies for the team and individual finals.


The top 2 from each group, as well as the next 6 placings (regardless of their group) will qualify for the individual final. In total, 18 horse and rider combinations will progress to the next round where they will ride a Grand Prix Freestyle test, in hopes of a medal.


The scores from each of their 3 horse and rider combinations will be combined to determine which nations will compete in the team final event. Unlike in previous games, there’s no ‘drop score’. This means every test will count, so there’s no room for any mistakes to be made! The 8 teams with the best combined scores will progress to the next round, where each pairing will each ride a Grand Prix Special test.

Grand Prix Special – Team Final

In total, 24 horse and rider combinations will ride in the Grand Prix Special team final. Tests will be set to music of the riders choice, but this will not influence their marks. The lowest scoring 2 horse and rider combinations from each team will ride first. After the first 2 riders have completed their test there will be a break. The order will be changed to reflect the current standing during this time. The final 8 will ride in reverse order, so the best team goes last. So, it really will be a nail biting finish! The team with the highest combined final score wins.

Grand Prix Freestyle – Indervidual Final

Ever seen ‘Bake Off’? In some ways, this is the show stopper that follows on from the technical challenge! Rather than a set test, riders are given a list of required movements that they must perform in the Grand Prix Freestyle. This is set to a piece of music of their choice. They will be marked on their performance like in the qualifiers but also on how artistic, creative and difficult their test is.

The 18 riders that have qualified will be split in to 3 groups of 6. The qualifier scores don’t count towards the final result. They will however impact the running order, those with the best first round score will ride last. Put simply, the rider with the highest score (in this test alone) wins!

Save The Date – Olympic Dressage

Sat 24 July – 17:00 to 22:15
  • Dressage Grand Prix Team and Individual Day 1
Sun 25 July – 17:00 to 22:15
  • Dressage Grand Prix Team and Individual Day 2
Tue 27 July – 17:00 to 22:40
  • Dressage Team Grand Prix Special
  • Dressage Team Victory Ceremony
Wed 28 July – 17:30 to 21:25
  • Dressage Individual Grand Prix Freestyle
  • Dressage Individual Victory Ceremony

Have A Go

How hard can it be? Take a look at the FEI tests to see which movements could be included and what the judges will be looking for from each! You can even have a try at home…

Will you be watching at home, cheering on our British riders? We’d love to know who you’ll be rooting for! Let us know in the comments!

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