The stage has been set for both the individual and team finals for dressage at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Qualifying was split over the course of two days, as six groups of 10 riders tested the Grand Prix. But Saturday and Sunday at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park could not have conveyed more vastly different tones. While opening day was filled with jubilation and personal bests, Sunday was characterized by miscues and surprisingly low scores.

Isabell Werth (GER) is not leading heading into next week’s individual final, the Grand Prix Freestyle. I’ll let you read that again, but it likely still won’t sink in.

Werth, the world’s leading dressage rider and most decorated equestrian Olympian in history, entered the competition as a heavy favorite, but her Grand Prix test did not meet her lofty standards. While she and the great Bella Rose 2 still had highlights to their test, particularly in piaffe, where they received several 10s from the judges, the test lacked the brilliance typically exuded by this pair. Their early extended trot work received mostly 7s, leaving them with some catchup work to do later in the test.

They rebounded, and they ended up with a score of 82.500%, best of their group and easily good enough to qualify for the individual final. However, Werth will be seeded below her teammate Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (GER) and TSF Dalera, who scored 84.379 percent on Saturday.

The top two athletes from each group qualify for the individual final, along with the six athletes with the next-best scores (including ties). After six riders secured their places Saturday, the remaining 12 spots were decided today. Here’s who made the cut:

Group D

  • Carina Cassoe Kruth (DEN) and Heiline’s Danceiera — 76.677 %
  • Adrienne Lyle (USA) and Salvino — 74.876 %

Group E

  • Dorothee Schneider (GER) and Showtime Fhr — 78.820 %
  • Juliette Ramel (SWE) and Buriel K.H. — 73.369 %

Group F

  • Isabell Werth (GER) and Bella Rose 2 — 82.500 %
  • Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Gio — 80.963 %

Next-Best Six

  • Steffen Peters (USA) and Suppenkasper — 76.196 %
  • Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED) and Dream Boy — 76.817 %
  • Carl Hester (GBR) and En Vogue — 75.124 %
  • Nanna Skodborg Merrald (DEN) and Zack — 73.168 %
  • Rodrigo Torres (POR) and Fogoso — 72.624 %
  • Beatriz Ferrer-Salat (ESP) and Elegance — 72.096 %

Another of the day’s major surprises was the performance from Team USA’s Adrienne Lyle and Salvino. This pair was expected to score in the 80 percent range, but they did not reach 75 percent Sunday. Lyle gave a strong ride, but Salvino seemed a bit tense, and Lyle kept him largely under wraps. However, they still did enough to qualify, and it’s important to note that in both the team and individual finals, riders will receive completely blank slates. Saturday and Sunday’s scores are used for qualifying and seeding purposes only.

“[Salvino] has some great talent in the piaffe and passage, and unfortunately we had some tension and balance issues, [which] got in the way of showing off what he’s really capable of. I know there’s so much more in there,” Lyle said.

Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper fared a bit more favorably, but in a difficult group, they were not among the top two performers; they qualified by way of the six next-best scoring riders. This pair has been scoring around 77 percent in the Grand Prix test, and they were very close to that mark on a day where the judges did not give out many high scores.

Peters said post-ride, “[Suppenkasper] is a hot horse, so to do a relaxed, clean test was a very good start. This was not the test to go crazy in. We’ll do that in the Special!”

Team Standings

The Grand Prix Special is the test for the team final, scheduled for Tuesday, July 27. The best eight teams from the Grand Prix (including all teams tied for eighth place) qualified for the final team competition. They are as follows:

  1. Germany
  2. Great Britain
  3. Denmark
  4. United States
  5. Netherlands
  6. Sweden
  7. Portugal
  8. Spain

The Olympic dressage team final gets underway Tuesday, July 27 at 5:00 p.m. JST/4:00 a.m. EDT. The individual final follows a second horse inspection on Wednesday, July 28. Follow along at HN for comprehensive Olympic equestrian coverage!

Feature image: Photo by FEI/Shannon Brinkman