Classic Eventing Nation

Cross Country Powerhouses of Tokyo

I’ve lost track of the day, the hour, and possibly my mind. There’s spreadsheets on spreadsheets and my computer has crashed several times, but it’s worth it to see all the lovely graphs that I’ve developed. There’s nothing quite like looking at performance in a graph; when I look at numbers, they tell me a story. But when I put them in a graph, they come alive for others, and that is even better.

Let’s briefly talk course designer. Derek di Grazia has a very solid record of track design in America; he has designed the Elkton (Fair Hill) 4*-L for decades and has been the Kentucky 5*-L designer since Mike Etherington-Smith stepped aside after the 2010 World Equestrian Games, alongside a couple of short formats here in the States. The percentage of horses who have successfully navigated Derek’s course clear on any particular date has ranged from 35 to 75% of starters; overall 60% of all horses who have attempted his courses have run clear.

With Lara de Leiderkerke-Meier’s withdrawal, that range means we’ll likely see approximately 21 horses run clear for sure. An additional 15 would run clear if we see more of an average Derek course in terms of difficulty, and if it turns out to be a bit softer than he expected, up to 46 total pairs would be entering stadium with no jump penalties. With this being the Olympics, you’ll probably see an odd mix; those looking for a completion may come home with a surprise clear having taken mostly long routes but adding a boatload of time penalties while team and individual medal hopes will rely on the best pairs to go out and have a crack, taking calculated risks that could result in a mistake they would otherwise never make.

In terms of time, only 10.7% of the pairs who attempt Derek’s courses have come home inside the time; with 45 jumping efforts over only 7 minutes and 45 seconds of courses, time is likely to be tougher to make than a typical long format event. If Derek’s pattern holds, we should see approximately 6 pairs come inside the time.

With no further ado, behold the performance of every team horse. All time penalties are for runs that are direct, with no pauses for stops at fences. 

Arinadtha Chavatanont & Boleybawn Prince (THA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 12.0

Oliver Townend & Ballaghmor Class (GBR)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 0.8

Doug Payne & Vandiver (USA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 4.0

Felix Vogg & Colero (SUI)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 3.2

Kazuma Tomoto & Vinci de la Vigne (JPN)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 1.6

Shane Rose & Virgil (AUS)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 7.2

Alex Hua Tian & Don Geniro (CHN)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 12.0

Joanna Pawlak & Fantastic Frieda (POL)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 9.6

Therese Viklund & Viscera (SWE)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 15.2

Christopher Six & Totem de Brecey (FRA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 4.4

Vittoria Panizzon & Super Cillious (ITA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 0.4

Sam Watson & Flamenco (IRL)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 4.4

Jonelle Price & Grovine de Reve (NZL)

Predicted to Have Issues: No 

Predicted Time Penalties: 3.6

Julia Krajewski & Amande de B’Neville (GER)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 3.6

Marcelo Tosi & Glenfly (BRA)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 13.6

Weerapat Pitakanonda & Carnival March (THA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 10.8

Laura Collett & London 52 (GBR)

Predicted to Have Issues: Possible Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 0

Phillip Dutton & Z (USA)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 1.2

Melody Johner & Toubleu de Rueire (SUI)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 4.8

Toshiyuki Tanaka & Talma d’Allou (JPN)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 6.0

Kevin McNab & Don Quidam (AUS)

Predicted to Have Issues: Possible Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 6.8

Huadong Sun & Lady Chin V’T Moerven Z (CHN)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 26.0

Malgorzata Cybulska & Chenaro 2 (POL)

Predicted to Have Issues: Possible Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 10.0

Lousie Romeike & Cato 60 (SWE)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 6.0

Nicolas Touzaint & Absolut Gold (FRA)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 3.6

Susanna Bordone & Imperial van de Holtakker (ITA)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 5.6

Austin O’Connor & Colorado Blue (IRL)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 5.2

Jesse Campbell & Diachello (NZL)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 0

Sandra Auffarth & Viamant du Matz (GER)

Predicted to Have Issues: Possible Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 4.4

Rafael Mamprin Losano & Fuiloda G (BRA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 16.4

Korntawat Samran & Bonero K (THA)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 10.8

Tom McEwen & Toledo de Kerser (GBR)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 6.8

Boyd Martin & Tsetserleg TSF (USA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 2.4

Robin Godel & Jet Set (SUI)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 6.4

Yoshiaki Oiwa & Calle 44 (JPN)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 6.8

Andrew Hoy & Vassily de Lassos (AUS)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 0

Yingfeng Bao & Flandia 2 (CHN)

Predicted to Have Issues: Possible Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 13.6

Jan Kaminski & Jard (POL)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 0

Ludwig Svennerstal & Balham Mist (SWE)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 0.4

Karim Florent Laghouag & Triton Fontaine (FRA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 0

Arianna Schivo & Quefira de l’Ormeau (ITA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Probable No

Predicted Time Penalties: 13.6

Sarah Ennis & Woodcourt Garrison (IRL)

Predicted to Have Issues: Possible Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 2.0

Tim Price & Vitali (NZL)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 5.2

Michael Jung & Chipmunk FRH (GER)

Predicted to Have Issues: No

Predicted Time Penalties: 0

Carlos Parro & Goliath (BRA)

Predicted to Have Issues: Yes

Predicted Time Penalties: (Direct Round) 25.6

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Belgian Individual Combination Withdrawn from Olympics Following Dressage

The Tokyo field has been thinned by one after dressage, as Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier made the tough decision to withdraw Alpaga d’Arville due to a minor injury. The pair, who were competing as individuals and were Belgium’s lone representatives, were sitting 48th overnight on a score of 37.2.

In a statement on her social media this morning, Lara’s team said: “It’s with great sadness and disappointment that we have to announce the withdrawal of Alpaga at the Olympic Games. Lara was not feeling him 100% in and after her dressage test and a full check-up revealed a small but at the moment painful injury that he must have sustained in the warm up. As Alpaga’s health is paramount to us we took the only possible decision and withdrew him. After having a very good trip to Tokyo and feeling strong and ready to tackle the Games this is a hard pill to swallow but we would like to thank the whole Belgian team at Tokyo and our great team at home for all their support in this tough moment and we will give our best to come back harder and stronger.”

This was an Olympic debut for experienced team campaigner Lara and her stalwart 15-year-old partner, who have represented Belgium at European Championships and the World Equestrian Games. With the European Championships approaching in September, we hope that Alpaga will be back to his best soon to tackle his next challenge.

We’d been planning to run a web story on Lara and Alpaga, who is a homebred horse – and even though their Tokyo journey sadly ends today, their story remains a wonderful and inspiring one, and so we’d like to share it with you nonetheless. Here’s an excerpt…

Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Alpaga d’Arville. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier makes her Olympic debut this week, and got her competition started by posting a 37.2 with the 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Alpaga d’Arville on the first day of competition. Riding at the Olympics is always special, of course – but for Lara, bringing this partnership to the world stage is particularly poignant, as Alpaga is a homebred. He’s also a maternal half-sister to Nooney Blue, the mare with whom Lara made major waves as a Junior and Young Rider before making the step up to Senior competition. They represented Belgium at the World Equestrian Games in Lara’s first year out of Young Riders.

“I rode his sister [Nooney Blue] at the WEG in Kentucky in 2010, and we received the mother from nowhere – the seller of the mare called my dad one day and said, ‘I have a Thoroughbred in the field, and it’s the mother of the one I sold you. She’s 22, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with her. You have a lot of fields at your place; what about taking her?” My mum was like, ‘no, no, it costs money!’, but my dad said, ‘yeah – and we have fields!'”

The de Liedekerkes decided to take the mare, Mooney Raaphorst, and see if she could find herself a job on the farm. Almost entirely by chance, they happened upon the stallion they would put her to. Wuunder Boy van de Zuuthoeve, then at the very start of his breeding career, is just 33% blood and boasts impressive jumping lines on both sides: he’s by the Hanoverian Argentinus, himself a prolific jumper and the successful sire of Grand Prix jumpers and dressage horses, and his damsire is the Dutch Warmblood Nimmerdor, who qualified for the 1984 Olympics in showjumping.

“We used the stallion that was, again, pure coincidence: we went to a show and saw this nice four-year-old stallion, and my mum said, ‘it looks a bit heavy and the Thoroughbred is quite thin, so we’re going to go for that.’,” remembers Lara. “And [the foal, Alpaga,] ended up being my horse for the WEG, Europeans, and the Olympics! It’s quite something to have known him from the beginning.”

Lara de Liedekerke-Meier and Alpaga d’Arville. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

This is Lara’s Olympic debut; she missed London due to horse injury and Rio because she was pregnant. Along the way, though, she’s become one of Belgium’s most stalwart campaigners, with three WEG appearances, four Senior Europeans, two Young Rider Europeans, two Junior Europeans, and two Pony Europeans under her belt.

Speaking after her test, she said: “I could have done better, but it’s the cherry on the cake to be an Olympian. I have to be a bit more strict on myself next time to take more risks, but for our first time, I’m happy and I think my horse did all I asked him to. I can only blame myself, I guess, but I’m really happy!”

Of her much-loved gelding, she joked, “He’s a grinch! He is an alpaca – sometimes he’d like to spit on you, and you know how they get their necks like that. It’s also not so easy when he goes a bit like that with his neck. I said to my mum, ‘we should have called him another name’ – but he really is lovely, and I think he would always try his best for me, and that’s what makes him so special.”

The family legacy continues on apace at home, too: Nooney Blue, Alpaga’s half-sister, is now a fundamental part of the Arville breeding programme. One of her daughters, Hooney d’Arville, stepped up to four-star this year following a top ten finish in the Six-Year-Old World Championship and a run at last year’s Seven-Year-Old World Championship. From one accidentally-acquired little Thoroughbred mare, an extraordinary story continues to unfold – and Lara’s holding the pen to write it.

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Stories from the Mixed Zone: Our Favorite Quotes from Day Two in Tokyo

 

Carlos Parro (Brazil) and Goliath. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

It’s never hard to find someone to root for at the Olympics – even if you fancy bucking the trends and choosing someone from outside the obvious candidates at the tippy-top of the leaderboard. There are stories upon stories upon stories to soak up here, and after a jam-packed day in the mixed zone yesterday learning about all these superstar horses and riders, we were back for round two today. Here are some of the gems we heard as riders came to chat after their tests.

Carlos Parro and Goliath – Brazil (44th on 36.1)

On training at home with dressage superstar and Tokyo medalist Charlotte Dujardin:

“I met Charlotte in Rio five years ago – we had friends in common – and asked to start training with her. She was very helpful to start, and she was very happy to help me, and now I’ve been training her with her for the last five years. She managed to give me a couple of training sessions here between her competitions, which was helpful, and she’s great. She’s as amazing as she is as a rider as a trainer, so it’s helped me a lot. It’s been an incredible opportunity.”

Andrew Hoy (Australia) and Vassily de Lassos. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos – Australia (12th on 29.6)

On forming a relationship with Vassily de Lassos’s owners, Paula and David Evans:

“I met Paula Evans when she was part of a charity called Wobbleberries, and I donated a day of coaching to the Wobbleberry fund. Paula was one that came to it. It was the ones who’d raised the most money that could come for the day, and Paula raised money, she came, she was part of my first lesson. They’d done a little bit of walk, trot, and canter and then I spoke with all of those in the group, and I said, ‘now I want you to just go out and I want you to canter around and open the poll.’ Paula took four canter strides, the horse bucked, she was thrown off, and she broke her collarbone – so not a good day! I was so upset by this that Stefanie, my wife, and I, we sent flowers to Paula and we kept on calling to see how she was.”

“It was following that she then called us and said, ‘well, we’ve never had an event horse. We’d like to know what’s involved with having an event horse.’ So we had one Saturday lunchtime free and we said, ‘come for lunch and we’ll talk you through the process.’ And then here we are: the first horse that they owned, Vassily de Lassos, is one of the great horses that I’ve ever sat on. It’s absolute privilege for me to ride Vassily. I’ve had some very, very special horses and he’s right at the top.”

Wobbleberries is “a challenge for middle-aged, wimpy riders” that encourages competitors to tackle their first lower-level events while fundraising for the Wilberry Wonder Pony charity, which raises vital funds for bone cancer research and children’s wishes in memory of teenaged eventer Hannah Francis, who passed away in 2016 after a battle with osteosarcoma.

Korntawat Samran and Bonero K. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Korntawat Samran and Bonero K – Thailand (27th on 32.5)

On working with Thailand coach and French rider Maxime Livio:

“He’s a very good rider – he really impressed a lot, and he had a good technique for us for the riding and the competition way. He got everything and he really understands us. We’ve been working [with him for] like seven years already, so we know each other by heart. And he’s very talented in riding and teaching.”

Nicolas Wettstein and Altier d’Aurois. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Nicolas Wettstein and Altier D’Aurois – Ecuador (56th on 40.9)

On making time for unlikely horses:

“I always have two horses active in sport. I don’t like to ride for somebody else – all the horses I buy are maybe not nice, maybe very difficult horses, and [ones that a] professional doesn’t want in their stable because they are too complicated. And so it’s really about taking the time, and [giving those] horses a second chance. In that case, or simply with horses that are very powerful, but in the hands a bit more complicated, you have to take another angle. Another professional, someone who has ten horses to ride every day, does not have the time like I do for my horse.”

Your Sea Forest Cross Country Guide: Converted Ride Times, Course Maps, How to Watch

Photo by Sally Spickard.

It’s nearly time for the biggest day of our week: cross country day at the Tokyo Olympics! In honor of the best phase of eventing, we thought a guide to all you need to know for today might come in handy for everyone following along. Below you’ll find a full list of converted ride times from Japan Standard Time into British Standard Time, Eastern Standard Time and Pacific Standard Time. We’ll also link to live stream information and give you a few peeks at the course, including some thoughts from U.S. coach Erik Duvander.

Notable Ride Times (Top 5 After Dressage and North American Pairs) – In Order of XC Ride Time

  • Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class – 7:48 am JST | 11:48 pm BST | 6:48 pm EST | 3:48 pm PST
  • Doug Payne and Vandiver – 7:51 am JST | 11:51 pm BST | 6:51 pm EST | 3:51 pm PST
  • Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro – 8:03 am JST | 12:03 am BST | 7:03 pm EST | 4:03 pm PST
  • Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville – 8:24 am JST | 12:24 am BST | 7:24 pm EST | 4:24 pm PST
  • Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D’Argouges – 8:33 am JST | 12:33 am BST | 7:33 pm EST | 4:33 pm PST
  • Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy – 8:39 am JST | 12:39 am BST | 7:39 pm EST | 4:39 pm PST
  • Phillip Dutton and Z – 9:03 am JST | 1:03 am BST | 8:03 pm EST | 5:03 pm PST
  • Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF – 10:14 am JST | 2:15 am BST | 9:15 pm EST | 6:15 pm PST
  • Tim Price and Vitali – 10:45 am JST | 2:24 am BST | 9:48 pm EST | 6:48 pm PST
  • Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH – 10:48 am JST | 2:51 am BST | 9:51 pm EST | 6:51 pm PST

To view converted ride times for all riders, click here to download our spreadsheet. To view the original start list, click here. To view the start list by team, click here. Live scores will be published here.

Want to follow along with the teams and riders competing? Be sure to use our Form Guides for Teams and Individuals, as well as our Mixed Zone Stories Parts One and Two for some great background information on all of the unique horses and riders leaving the start box tomorrow.

Sea Forest Cross Country Course

Hear from U.S. coach Erik Duvander on what Derek di Grazia has in store for riders tomorrow:

View the map of the cross country course on CrossCountryApp (click the image to view the map, including fence-by-fence photos) – you can also see some more analysis on the course from CrossCountryApp here.

Cross Country Island Life with Derek di Grazia: Read about Derek’s thought process in the five year process to design and build this unique cross country course.

How to Watch

Australia: 7plus has free live streaming and on-demand catch-up options in case you miss anything exciting.

USA: You can stream or rewatch all the Tokyo content your heart desires via the NBC website or app – but only if you have a cable provider login. If you don’t, you can download Peacock Premium ($4.99/month, with a seven day free trial) to access replays and highlights for every sport, and live coverage of several sports (unfortunately not including equestrian). Fubo TV also offers a paid streaming service with a free trial period. You can also sign up to access NBC channels via Sling or YouTube TV, which are easy to use on your smart TV, Roku, or FireStick, but they’ll cost you a bit more – Sling is currently discounted to $10, while YouTube TV is on offer for $54.99/month, with a free trial period, but it does come with lots of cool features.

Canada: The best option is CBC, which has a pretty comprehensive roster of free coverage. Or, you can watch via SportsNet or TSN, both of which have options available for cable subscribers or streamers at $19.99/month each.

U.K. and Ireland: DiscoveryPlus is your best bet for on-demand and live coverage of all the sports, for the low price of £4.99 per month. You can also make use of a three-day free trial. The BBC’s red button service and iPlayer will have some coverage, but they’re limited in what they can show this year. Eurosport is another good option at a comparable price point to DiscoveryPlus.

Europe: It’s Eurosport again, with that cheap and cheerful streaming package.

New Zealand:  You can stream much of the Games for free on TVNZ, or for comprehensive coverage, watch via Sky Sport or its streaming service, Sky Sport Now, which costs $19.99 per week.

Want to access coverage from another country? Consider using a VPN, which effectively changes your country for browsing purposes. We’ve used ExpressVPN successfully – it comes with a free trial and you can also download it as an app, which makes it considerably more user-friendly if you’re not particularly techy.

We’ll be keeping you update on our Instagram throughout the day as well as in our live updates, which will be live closer to start time. Stay tuned for more from Tokyo!

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The Task at Hand: How Tokyo Riders are Feeling About Derek di Grazia’s Cross Country Test

It’s nearly time to kick things off for the cross country portion of competition at the Tokyo Olympics, and we’ve been busy gathering thoughts on Derek di Grazia’s twisting and turning track from the riders. The general consensus is that the optimum time of 7 minutes, 45 seconds will be very difficult to catch – even Derek himself says he expects to see maybe three or four riders manage a clear round inside the time. We’ll find out how the course will ride tomorrow (this evening for those of you in the States), but it’s safe to say that this is not shaping up to be a dressage competition.

You can see some more analysis of the track from CrossCountryApp here. Keep reading to see how riders are thinking of and planning for the task at hand.

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Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH – Germany (1st on 21.1)

“[Chipmunk FRH is] a very powerful horse but he’s very nice to ride. I think this helps a lot, that you need not too much preparation before the fence. I think the time is very tough tomorrow so you need a very good communication with your horse. Still, in the end they have to listen every well, you have to be very focused and concentrate – that’s very important.”

Germany’s drawn order puts them second-to-last out of the box.

“We have a very good start position, our first rider is number 14, so before [Julia Krajewski] goes some nice information will have come through which we can use. You need a lot of luck with the weather and other things you can’t control, but definitely it’s good if you start towards the end.”

Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class – Great Britain (2nd on 23.6)

“It’s very intense. You’re always on the climb or the camber or in the water or in a combination and, you know, it’s a very intense four-and-a-half star long. The questions are extremely fair; it’s very horse friendly, and if you took each fence individually there wouldn’t be too many problems – but at the same time when you add the heat, the terrain, the Olympic pressure, and then speed on top of that, it’s going to be causing a lot of trouble and it’s going to be very difficult to get the time.”

“[Course designer Derek di Grazia is] a horseman to start with, which is a very nice start to being a course designer. I think he’s a very special course designer; a very special, talented man at the job. For me, this is very different to Kentucky – but at the same time it still has the feel that he wants the horse to see where they’re going. There’s no tricks out there, which you can get quite a lot in the modern day sport with people trying to catch horses [out]. Derek doesn’t try to catch horses – he builds very seeable questions and then lets the terrains and the speed do the job for him.”

Doug Payne and Vandiver – United States (30th on 33)

“I think it’s excellent. I think Derek does an incredibly good job in presenting questions that certainly could catch you out or could create problems, but I think in the end the key it’s a super fair course for the horses. There’s some designers out there that come around a blind turn to a trick or something that honestly would just catch horses out if the rider isn’t quite right. And I think if the rider’s not quite right here, the result is probably a runout of whatever it might be, but they have a really good shot to try and assess what’s being asked early enough that they’re able to do something about it.”

Doug will come forward as trailblazer for the US team:

“I actually chose to go first. Quinn is very good on cross country – he’s quick, efficient, good on his feet but he’s also a little bit unconventional; he sort of drops, he tends to sort of land and stab the ground real quick, so in the end watching a whole lot of people doesn’t necessarily add as much value for me riding him than it would for some of the others riding a more conventional type of horse, I guess.”

“We’re very lucky, I think, having prepped now at the Tryon facility. We show there quite a bit and to me, [this course] feels a lot like that. It’s sort of up and turn, and back and turn, and whatever. I think that’s a bit of an advantage that we’ve seen that at as many shows as we have, and I think that on those types of courses, it benefits the horses if the riders can figure out a way to make it easy on them. Pick a line that makes it flowing and you don’t have to interfere as much because this [course], I imagine, could look erratic and sharp and sort of, you know, jump and turn and whatever. I think you could make it a smooth and flowing thing.”

The course features a number of alternative routes that take horses around the outside line of a combination complex, rather than forcing them to turn back on themselves and add extra exertion in the tough conditions.

“There’s a number of options in line that you can choose that honestly are about the same distance, like one of those turn arounds with the two little half roll-tops – like if you go outside or on the inside, I think in the end from start to finish it’s probably the same timeline. And actually, I think it’s the third water where you sort of drop in, turn to the house, I think it’s kind either way. It works out well. I think the first and last minute are tough to make any sort of time up. In the middle, you can certainly pick and choose, but I think there are a couple spots in the middle that if you want to be close to the time you’re gonna have to be moving there. I think he’s done as well as he can with the chunk of land he has available to him. I think he’s incredibly good with utilizing and placing the questions of the turns to make it as flowing as he can.”

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF – United States (20th on 31.1)

“Thomas is a great galloper – he’s got stamina and speed. He’ll be a little bit tricky early on, just because he gets brave and a bit aggressive, so I’ve just got to sort of try and nurse him through the first minute or so, and then he’s got just tremendous heart. I’ve never experienced a horse that digs deep so much. I think he’ll have plenty of juice left by the end, so I’m going to give it my all.”

Boyd will ride as the team anchor, which means he’ll go last for the US.

“I think it’s an advantage being able to watch and see how it’s riding. Sometimes, not knowing how it’s riding works better as well. I’ll get a bit of feedback from Doug and fill up and I’ll sit back and drink a cup of tea and watch the first half of the field go. Usually the jumps that you walk that you think are real difficult ride really well, and then there’s one or two jumps that you think it’d be smooth sailing, which cause chaos – so the advantage of going late is knowing that. The horses all read the jumps about the same, so I’ve just got to stay calm and ride him well and it should go well.”

Phillip Dutton and  Z – United States (16th on 30.5)

“I hope [this track will suit Z] well. It’s certainly a lot to negotiate, as in turning and twisting and getting away from the jumps, and then there are some gallop sections, but then there’s other areas where there’s a lot to do. So I’m going to try to spend tomorrow really getting to know the course well so that I can shave off every second that I can and figure out how close I can get to the jumps before I need to steady up. I think it is a course that you have to understand and be thinking ahead before the next combination comes up so you really know where to go. A lot of the bigger [tracks] are bit more open and a little bit more galloping and you can see the jumps a lot more, and where you’re going, whereas this track is not like that at all.”

Tim Price and Vitali – New Zealand (5th on 25.6)

“You just never know with this sport where the difficulties will come. So we can predict that the course is going to be big and difficult in terms of big fences, and the time is going to be tight, which puts everyone under a bit more pressure. But it feels like it’s a three-phase competition to us, and sometimes you think the Olympics might not quite get that right, but this feels like –mainly because of the cross-country and what Derek’s done – it’s going to be a good competition for us all.”

“It will call for both thinking and very reactive riding, [which is] di Grazia’s trademark design I think. Time is going to be really tight, but it will make some amazing viewing and be like no other visual feast. It suits a good cross-country nation like the Kiwis – we are looking forward to getting out there and getting stuck in.”

Jesse Campbell runs through his safe words. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Jesse Campbell and Diachello – New Zealand (15th on 30.1)

“[Kentucky this year was a good prep], and that was one of the key reasons behind us going out there – you know, see what [Derek di Grazia] was up to; get a feel of what his design is. I wouldn’t say it’s similar actually at all. It sort of reminds me of Aachen, and that’s like one of the funnest tracks in the world to ride and it’s just, like, so fast. I think it’s gonna be the similar feeling on Sunday.”

Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser – Great Britain (12th on 28.9)

“I think they’ve created a great track. I mean, it looks like incredible. The grass is incredible. It’s beautifully presented, with lots of different questions, and it starts off very early. And obviously, you’ve got the terrain added in there. Lots of short, sharp bursts, which isn’t that natural to our horses – we’re used to sort of the big, flowing hills. One [benefit Team GB] do have is with time: horses get a lot more stamina and endurance [with runs], and one thing we’ve got is three different five-star wins under our three different horses. So they’ve all proved that – but yeah, it’ll be a different test, and where you might get away with something early, you might have to make sure that you do then pay for it a little bit later on. So it’s just covering all the angles, and hopefully we can be as good as we can be.”

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro – China (3rd on 23.9)

“I think it’s a very, very cleverly designed balanced track, but I think it’s perfect for this championship. The time is going to be really tight, and I think it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the traditional nations going quickly. And I think going quickly around that track, it’s intense enough that some of these superstar combinations might well make a mistake in the heat of the moment. But there are enough long ways round that are not actually too time-consuming and not too tiring, I think, for the greener nations like us to take and have a safe strategy for the team cross-country plan.”

Alex will be the pathfinder for China’s first-ever Olympic eventing team.

“There are a couple of things that sort of worked well in my favor and also for the team. The forecast for Sunday is hit and miss; it was going to be very hot, now it might be raining. Don isn’t the most blood animal in the world — he was always going to find the heat hard, especially with that level of intensity of course — and so I think for me personally, I really didn’t want to go last. And I think with the possibility that it might still be very hot on Sunday it suits me to go first, and give them as much of a chance as possible. And the team – our other two team riders are great horseman, really good riders sat on damn good horses, but I think, hopefully, if I have a good ride it’ll give them the confidence to go out there and attack it.”

Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville – Germany (4th on 25.2)

“It’s worthy of an Olympic course, I think – very fair yet with a enough to jump. I’m happy I’m sitting on a really good jumper. [It’s] technical, and certainly time will be difficult to get. I think I’m looking forward to it because she’s so cool to ride.”

“[There are] quite a few combinations really. We’ve got four water fences, I think? Many, anyway! And quite a few downhill combination. But there’s nothing really that I would say well, that’s the one thing which you have to make and then you’re almost through –it’s many questions throughout the course. Surely the last combination will be quite something after all the course is almost behind you.”

Julia will ride as pathfinder for Team Germany, who are the 14th team of 15 in the drawn order.

“With only having three [scores], you don’t have this drop score anymore where someone can do not-so-good and the others can make up for it, so we all have to really perform, and that’s fine for me. I’m not that early, and it’s maybe quite good: I can watch a couple of cross-country [rounds], and then someone has to start from the team!”

Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Sam Watson and Flamenco – Ireland (38th on 34.3)

“I think it’s clever, you know – you walk it and you go, ‘that’s a very fair course’. You’ve got to remember what the format is: the team that makes the least mistakes wins medals here. And [Derek has] given us plenty of opportunity to make mistakes. He’s been very clever – there’s not many one-stride distances at all, and very few two-stride distances. So there’s not many fences where you can just jump in and then momentum takes you through – you’ve got to jump in, and you’ve got to either hold your line or you’ve got to attack the line. You’ve got to make choices on the course in the fences. When you’re doing that over a lot of combinations, I think you could find people sometimes make the wrong decision and get into trouble.”

“[It should suit Flamenco well] because he’s clever – he’s kind of like a pony in many ways, but he’s a big horse, and he’s got a big stride. So you always have options, and he’s got great footwork, which you need if I do something wrong. But he’ll be listening and paying attention and I’ll go out there and I’ll be pretty attacking, because I think that suits him. And I think you can do that on the course.”

“[There are] places where you could be conservative, and you could take quieter distances if you wanted to. But I think I’ll be quite positive on him, to be honest, and try and stay as close to that starting score as I can. I wanted to be [on a better score], but it was better than what I started on at WEG, and we went on to medal there. I’ll probably go out of the start box knowing the plan A and plan B are there. I think he’s just given us decisions everywhere. The last water’s got plenty jumping in it as well; you want to have a lot of horse left.”

Lauren Billys (Puerto Rico) and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy – Puerto Rico (54th on 39.9)

Lauren trains with Derek, and so she tackles her courses with his riding and training philosophies in mind.

“I tried really focusing when I walk the course, thinking what Derek would say. I think there is a misconception that when we train together, that we’re in this amazing cross-country field – but we ride in an arena no bigger than a short court when I go to his house. So it’s really all about your lines, and I think that is the truth when you go out there. I think I know what he’s going to do, but I don’t really know what he’s going to do. But I think he’s a fair course designer, and he’s a horseman, and so I trust that a lot – and I know what he’s told me to do since I was 18 years old in terms of how to ride, so I suspect that if I do what he says, I should have the tools to negotiate the questions out there.”

“Sometimes I can see stuff that he’s classically always had me do in exercises. Like, for example, we always jump on a circle. It’s always three jumps on a turn on a circle where you can’t count your strides and you have to give and you have to let the horse work their feet. That happens a lot out there. The other thing that he has is always a big question to a corner or an accuracy question – that’s quite common. And in his courses, most recently, we’ve seen those big drop down banks, where you just have to let the horse negotiate and work their feet. I see a lot of what he teaches and preaches out there.”

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D’Argouges. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D’Argouges – Canada (42nd on 35.6)

“I think that Derek has done a great job on that piece of land to have some galloping spaces. I think that the last water will cause some problems – the horses will be a bit tired at that point, and I think it’s a bit of a question. The coffin as well. There’s a lot of challenges out there, but I’m looking forward to meeting them.”

“I think it does [suit Qorry’s style] because he’s not a fast horse, he’s a super ridable horse, so I won’t really have to change his pace much going into the turns and the combinations. So if he’s feeling like his normal self it should be a great course for him and he should crack around.”

Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto takes his turn in the socially-distanced mixed zone. Photo by Shannon Brinkmann.

Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne – Japan (7th on 25.9)

“It’s not huge fences, massive, but [there are] still so many options we’ve got, so it’s more [that it’s] complicating everything. We have to decide which way we want to go. Vinci de la Vigne’s a really good cross country horse so I can trust him, 100%.”

Arinadtha Chavatanont (Thailand) and Boleybawn Prince. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Arinadtha Chavatanont and Boleybawn Prince – Thailand (57th on 42.4)

Arinadtha will ride as the day’s trailblazer, as well as the team Thailand trailblazer. With no reserve combination on the Thai team, all three riders are under particular pressure to complete. Arinadtha has only been able to ride cross-country twice in the lead-up to Tokyo.

“I know my horse is quite strong on cross-country, but since I haven’t been doing the cross-country for one-and-a-half years – I did it two times before I came here – I cannot be really, really confident. So of course it’s the big Games, and something can happen any time. Don’t be over-confident. I think I need to really take it fence by fence, like playing a game – there’s 23 fences, one by one by one by one. [I need to] try to make sure I ride according to my plan, since I’m the first one out and I really have no one to look for – so I need to be careful in the decision I take and sleep well, eat bananas, and everything will be fine.”

Vittoria Panizzon and Super Cillious. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Vittoria Pannizon and Super Cillious – Italy (52nd on 38.6)

“It perhaps wouldn’t be the biggest course many here have done, but the situation will make it far more challenging than it could look at first. It’s very hard to get your bearings because it’s so twisty, and the warm-up is in a very different area to the course, so I just hope the horses are clear of where they’re going and what they’re doing. I think the horse needs to have a lot of trust in the rider because they’re not always going to be sure of where they’re going, or what’s happening.”

“The warm-up is down at the bottom of the hill and it’s rather small, and then you go right up to the top of the hill and set off, so they won’t have seen what’s going on or what environment they’re in. It’s going to be a bit of a surprise when you suddenly set off, and you even set off uphill so all you can see when you get up there is the start.”

Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos – Australia (13th on 29.6)

“I think it’s a very good course. The ground is fantastic; the fences are beautiful. Like every Olympic Games, the presentation you cannot question. It’s a proper challenge – and I don’t mean just with the height of the fences, but the layout of the course, the flow of the course — there is definitely a flow to the course — but it’s going to be a challenge to get the time. I’m sitting on one of the great cross-country horses in the world, and we’ve got a wonderful relationship. I believe it’s achievable, but time will tell.”

#TheTeaFromTokyo: Off to Cross Country Island We Go!

It didn’t take long after dressage wrapped up today for the bustle of getting the horses and all of their equipment onto shuttles and over to Sea Forest Cross Country Course. The plan is to transport the horses via Japanese Racing Authority horse vans over to what we’ve dubbed Cross Country Island this afternoon, where temporary stabling has been erected. The horses will get a chance to go for a hack this afternoon or evening and settle in before the bright and early start of cross country tomorrow. Doug Payne’s groom Courtney Carson reports that the stabling is climate controlled and has large enough stalls to allow the horses to relax. For tonight, the grooms have been put up closer to Sea Forest Cross Country to allow them to be closer to their horses – they’ve been given lodging across the street from Baji Equestrian Park for the other nights.

One of the things that has necessitated a lot of logistical juggling throughout this week has been the distance between the Olympic Village, media hotels, the Baji Equestrian Park and the Sea Forest Cross Country Course. To give you a visual, here’s a map showing the different points from which various stakeholders may be traveling to and from (for reference, I used the hotel I am staying at, which is an official media hotel designated by the Olympic Committee. Media, owners and others are scattered about the city in other official accommodations).

Tokyo is designed with dizzying efficiency, but as with any other city there is plenty of surface street traffic to contend with at typical rush hours. Generally speaking, it’s about a 40 minute drive from the Olympic Village to the Equestrian Park and about a 20-30 minute drive from the Village to Sea Forest Cross Country Course. Sea Forest is the southernmost destination for the horses, so the trip from Baji Equestrian Park to Sea Forest takes about an hour, depending on traffic. For me, I’m a shade closer to Baji Equestrian Park (about 45 minutes by taxi) than Sea Forest – it took about an hour, maybe a hair more, to get there the last time I went. There’s a lot of shuttling back and forth here, and while Tokyo is a very walkable city – the sidewalks here are even designed to make room for people making their walk or bike commutes each day – it’s a bit too far to feel like you could walk to the venues here.

Transportation has been relatively smooth here – busses have been put on timetables running throughout the day to each venue to, and there are also private shuttles for athletes and officials. The organizing committee has also provided chartered taxis for Games stakeholders. No one is allowed to use public transportation here for their first 14 days in Tokyo, so arrangements have been made to ensure that everyone can get to and from venues and hotels without having to mix in with the general public. For my part, I’ve had virtually no transportation snags and I have to commend the organizing committee for not only their attention to detail but also their efficiency with ensuring everyone is where they need to be.

All of that to say: it’s a process getting the horses to cross country, and once again we must shout out the hardworking grooms, vets and other support personnel who are working tirelessly to make sure their horses are kept comfortable. It’s quite a different show than what we’re used to seeing, but the horses seem to be taking everything well in stride as just another adventure.

Let’s take a look at some social media from “moving day”!

Accommodations at Sea Forest are Thomas approved ✅

Posted by Boyd Martin on Saturday, July 31, 2021

Horses made it to the Sea Forest venue ready for XC, whilst I went ahead to help set up the stalls huge shout to USA…

Posted by Emma Ford on Saturday, July 31, 2021

Horses arriving at Cross Country. Excited yet?

Posted by Steven Wilde on Friday, July 30, 2021

Ok, can we talk about how cool this equipment transport truck is?

Horses on the move:

Now, it’s time to walk, walk, and walk again – and the media and commentary teams have plenty to do to prepare, too:

See you on the other side!

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Saturday Links from Trefonas Law

Fence 16A the Mt. Fuji Drop. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Today is the day! Or, well, I guess tomorrow is the day if you’re in Japan and are reading this before you go to bed. We’ve really lost track of the concept of time over here, but we are 100% sure that wherever you are there are now less than 24 hours until cross country in Tokyo kicks off.

For handy reference, here are the XC ride times for the top five placed pairs and all North American based pairs in chronological order. There’s no time to waste in planning your watch parties now:

  • Oliver Townend & Ballaghmor Class (2nd): 7:48 am JST/11:48 pm BST/6:48 pm EDT/3:38 pm PDT
  • Doug Payne & Vandiver (30th): 7:51 am JST/11:51 pm BST/6:51 pm EDT/3:51 pm PDT
  • Alex Hua Tian & Don Geniro (3rd): 8:03 am JST/12:03 am BST/7:03 pm EDT/4:03 pm PDT
  • Julia Krajewski & Amanda de B’Neville (4th): 8:03 am JST/12:03 am BST/7:03 pm EDT/4:03 pm PDT
  • Colleen Loach & Qorry Blue d’Argouges (42nd): 8:33 am JST/12:33 am BST/7:33 pm EDT/4:33 pm PDT
  • Lauren Billys & Castle Larchfield Purdy (53rd): 8:39 am JST/12:39 am BST/7:39 pm EDT/4:39 pm PDT
  • Laura Collet & London 52 (5th-T): 9:00 am JST/1:00 am BST/8:00 pm EDT/5:00 pm PDT
  • Phillip Dutton & Z (16th): 9:03 am JST/1:03 am BST/8:03 pm EDT/5:03 pm PDT
  • Boyd Martin & Tsetserleg TSF (20th): 10:15 am JST/2:15 am BST/9:15 pm EDT/6:15 pm PDT
  • Tim Price & Vitali (5th-T): 10:45 am JST/2:45 am BST/9:45 pm EDT/6:45 pm PDT
  • Michael Jung & Chipmunk FRH (1st): 10:51 am JST/2:51 am BST/9:51 pm EDT/6:51 pm PDT

Here is the full cross country order of go and our global guide on how to watch.

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Saturday Links:
Saturday Video: Dressage double gold medalist, Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl got a welcome home fit for a champion!

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And On His Birthday, Michael Jung Won the Tokyo Olympic Eventing Dressage

Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

We’ve become accustomed to (spoiled by?) magnificent efforts by German anchor rider Michael Jung, but up until now we’ve been used to seeing him with his stalwart partners, La Biosthetique Sam and fischerRocana FST. Now, he comes forward for a first global championship – this pair finished second at the 2019 Europeans – with former Julia Krajewski ride Chipmunk FRH, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro – Havanna, by Heraldik xx), owned by Deutsches Olympiade-Komitee für Reiterei e.V., Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampff, and Klaus and Sabine Fisch, as his Olympic partner.

This is a horse he’s been building a partnership with since taking over the ride in 2019, and in a true exhibition of partnership, practice and patience, Michael and Chipmunk laid down a stunning 21.1 to win the eventing dressage and take hold of the lead going into tomorrow’s cross country test. This also helps solidify Germany’s spot in the team standings, moving them up into second position behind Great Britain on a score of 80.4.

Michael says the yearlong delay of the Olympics helped he and Chipmunk solidify their partnership. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work that goes into taking a horse that’s been produced and competed by another rider and building a new relationship with it – and Michael’s shown us that this is something he excels at in addition to producing horses from the get-go.

“He was actually was much better because I had more time to train with him together,” Michael said of the postponement. “A long winter to work with him more together, much more competitions this year. Everything works much better this year than last year. So, for me it was perfect. It’s just work everyday together and get a good partnership.”

Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Despite another shutdown of competitions in mainland Europe earlier this year due to an outbreak of EHV-1, Michael says his preparations have gone relatively unchanged and that Chipmunk has shown himself to be a real professional as he’s stepped up to fill the very big horseshoes of his predecessors. He credited Julia for the work she did to produce the horse that she competed with at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games.

“Julia Krajewski rode the horse, bringing him up to the top sport and also the championships,” he explained. “So I have a horse that’s a new horse for me and I’m directly into the next championship, so I’m very happy and very thankful for this. It’s a great horse, a great horse with a lot of talent. He is very powerful, he’s strong in the cross country, and he’s also good jumper, so I’m very looking forward for the next.”

At just under four minutes long, the new shortened Olympic Games dressage test throws a lot at riders in quick succession, making it easy to get behind and very difficult to catch back up. Mistakes were costly, and the judges have — as is to be expected in the Olympics — been marking tough. But Michael’s test showed none of the rush or the difficulty, instead flowing effortlessly from movement to movement. Typically, this pair has averaged a 22.2 since beginning their partnership together, and today’s score also drops below Maggie Deatrick’s predicted score of 24.2.

As the final rider out for Germany, Michael says he plans to watch a bit of the track to see how some questions are riding, but for him it’s important to watch the right combinations. After all, he says, each horse is an individual, so watching a horse with a completely different way of going than his would be less than productive.

“You have to make sure when you watch what is good for you,” he said. “And what if something works, maybe it doesn’t work for you. So, you have to make sure, for example, when your horse has big strides, and you see somebody with small strides, it’s not important for you. You have to look which one and what is important information for you and which information is not important to you. For sure you have a plan, and that is good to have a few more informations, of course.”

Michael is also the two-time defending Olympic individual gold medalist — he won individual gold aboard La Biosthetique Sam in London in 2012 as well as Rio in 2016 — but, always the focused pro, he says he only thinks about that “when I have nothing to do”. It’s also his 39th birthday today (coincidentally – or probably not, really – the same birthday as Harry Potter: yes, I went there, and no, I’m not sorry), and he says he’ll probably keep things quiet tonight and celebrate next week. Honestly, though, I can’t think of a much more appropriate way to have a birthday.

Tim Price and Vitali. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The top 10 remained mostly unchallenged today, but New Zealand anchor Tim Price did manage to squeak into the top five aboard Vitali (Contender – Noble Lady I, by Heraldik xx), an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Joe and Alex Giannamore and Tim. Vitali, who was originally produced and piloted by fellow Kiwi James Avery, was actually not Tim’s first pick for the Games — he originally intended to ride the more experienced Wesko, but sadly the 18-year-old gelding sustained a minor injury in the lead-up to this week and was subsequently retired from competition. Now, the torch falls to the younger Vitali, who had a few green moments in his test but mostly stepped up to the plate for his first championship.

“It was a little bit of a glimpse of what he’s capable of,” Tim said of Vitali’s 25.6 mark that put them into fifth place. “I think as an established Advanced horse in the future, he’s going to be pretty special in the dressage department. (He) just showed a little bit of his age and stage with a couple of little moments, but he’s a real trier. He kept coming back to me and I think he executed pretty well.”

Tim only just took the ride over last fall, meaning it was a whirlwind of preparation to form a partnership and get to the Games. “He’s had to do everything right and he’s 95% done that along his journey from October last year when I first sat on him to now,” he continued. “Otherwise he wouldn’t be here, so I’m very confident in him. But there’s a short time in terms of partnership because that’s one of the key things that’s on display at the Olympics, isn’t it? The partnership between horse and rider and what they can do and how they can rely on each other. So, like I say, I’m very confident with him with it. He’s a very genuine guy and he’s been with me the whole time so I feel very comfortable on him.”

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

It was not the test that final U.S. rider Boyd Martin wanted to put in aboard Christine, Thomas and Tommie Turner’s Tsetserleg TSF (Windfall II – Thabana, by Buddenbrock), as some mistakes in the transition out of the rein-back as well as the flying changes held this pair’s score back from being as competitive as they’re capable of. Boyd and ‘Thomas’ earned a 31.1 to sit in 20th place after the dressage, putting Team USA on a collective score of 94.6. The team does, however, move up one spot into eighth place in the team standings, 16.3 penalties out of gold position and 8.2 points off the podium.

“You know, to be honest, it’s quite disappointing,” Boyd said after his ride. “Thomas has been so, so good in the dressage for years and years and we had great work in there. Then there was one moment in the rein-back where he fell behind me and misunderstood me and cantered out which then screwed up the next movement. And the outside he had a spook at a cameraman, so…I mean, it was some great moments and then some disastrous moments.”

We know this competition will certainly not be a dressage competition, and Boyd’s looking ahead to the task to come. In truth, delivering three fast and clear (or, depending on how this tight optimum time shakes out, just clear) cross-country rounds could rocket a team up the board. “You sort of come here hoping to give a personal best and the cross-country is so difficult tomorrow and it’s so hard to get the time, I believe,” Boyd continued. “You know, I think we’re in with a chance if we can deliver three good rounds across country and we’ve got three good seasoned horses that are older and experienced so I think we’ve got nothing to lose by going out there and giving it a crack.”

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The last rider to go for Great Britain, who will remain in gold medal position overnight as a team on a cumulative score of 78.3, was Tom McEwen with Toledo de Kerser (Diamant de Semilly – Ariane du Prieure II, by Papillon Rouge), a 14-year-old Selle Français gelding owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns, and Ali McEwen. Tom was pleased with Toledo de Kerser’s efforts, but like many before him found his score to be a bit higher than what he’d expected; this pair will take a 28.9 and individual 12th place into tomorrow’s cross country.

“I’m actually very pleased. Well, very pleased with him in general,” Tom said. “He coped really well in there. He loves situations like that. Just the two early changes really cost me and then getting back from there. For me, I didn’t see the marks, but I was actually delighted with his walk today, thought he’d walked really well – but we’re still, as a team, in a strong position.”

As it stands now, it will be Great Britain (78.3), Germany (80.4) and New Zealand (86.4) in medal positions. A total of 37.1 penalties separate the 15th-placed nation (Italy) and the leaders, so it’s truly still anyone’s game – and with the buzz surrounding Derek di Grazia’s Sea Forest Cross Country course, well, let’s just say it’s time to hang on to your hats as I think we’re in for some big shake-ups come tomorrow.

There have been two withdrawals today: Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati withdrew before dressage after losing a shoe before competition and Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier has also withdrawn today after a minor injury sustained to her horse.

We’ll have a cross country course reaction round-up from the riders still to come as well as more stories from the mixed zone today. I have to say, this shortened dressage test has made this first phase absolutely fly by – and I think I like it! I asked several riders for their thoughts on both the new test and the new format, and generally speaking the consensus has been positive for the new test, but most riders would prefer to have four on a team with a drop score or at least to have the alternates allowed to compete as individuals. It will certainly be interesting to see how this new format shakes out over the coming two phases.

Stay tuned for much, much more to come from Tokyo – we are only just getting started! Go eventing.

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Friday Video from SmartPak: Take a Tour of the Olympic Village

There’s something about the Olympic Village that always seems extraordinarily mysterious to me – partly, I suppose, because we never get to see an awful lot of it, and partly because I read Jilly Cooper’s Riders way too young and it’s governed the way I view everything about top-level sport since then, sticky bushes and all.

This year’s Olympic Village obviously has a slightly different vibe than normal years, where by all accounts, it’s a pretty sociable place (er, in more ways than one). But on-site athletes are still getting some chances to mingle with the superstars of other sport, if at a safe distance – and the Village, as always, is stocked with everything a top sportsperson needs to have the week of their lives. Want to see for yourself? Join British diving gold medalist Tom Daley – the man who famously knitted a little cover for his medal – as he gives you the Grand Tour.

Go…Diving!

#TheTeaFromTokyo: Day One of the Dancing Horses

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I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep, the enormous amount of coffee and Diet Coke in my system, the fact that I’ve eaten three pizzas in four days, or simply the overwhelming emotion of the whole Olympic experience, but absolutely everything has been making me cry over the course of the first two sessions of dressage. Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto, who’s sacrificed everything to try to help his country to the podium, putting a mid-20s mark on the board? Sobbed, mate. Ireland’s Sam Watson, giving 15-year-old Tiggy Hancock her Olympic debut after her tragic death last month by wearing a yellow ribbon in her honour? Bawled like a baby. Every rider who completed their halt and salute and then threw their arms around their horse’s neck in elated gratitude? I’ve got tears for you, and tears for you, and TEARS FOR EVERYONE, baby.

If you’re like me and missed most of the finer points of the first two sessions purely because it’s quite hard to see through teary eyes, refresh your memory with our round-up of the best of social media – and rehydrate before the final session begins at 7.30 p.m. Eastern time/00.30 British time tonight. Go Eventing, indeed…

Thailand’s Korntawat Samran summed up the vibe before his teammate, Arinadtha Chavanatont, got the first session of dressage underway: 

We saw one of the heaviest hitters in the field take an early lead as Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class posted a 23.6 when performing the second test of the first session:

Doug Payne and Vandiver kicked things off for the US effort, putting a 33 on the board:

Swiss lynchpins Felix Vogg and Colero got off to a super start, scoring 26.7 for provisional sixth:

Australia’s Shane Rose and Virgil scored a 31.7 after a technical hitch in the scoring system erroneously put them in the 40s:

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro shaved nearly five marks off their Rio test, which saw them eventually finish in the top ten – now, they sit second going into the final session on a super score of 23.9:

Christopher Six and Totem de Brecey were first in for France, and produced a smart, workmanlike test for 29.6: 

Ireland’s Sam Watson and his golden boy Tullabeg Flamenco honoured 15-year-old Tiggy Hancock, who died in a training accident in June. They delivered a 34.3 and sit in the top 30 currently:

The FEI shared a carousel of reaction shots – including a brilliant pic of Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto, who sits fifth on 25.9 with Vinci de la Vigne:

We all fell in love with the striking Ferreolus Lat, the ten-year-old mount of the Czech Republic’s Miloslav Prihoda Jr:

Jessica Phoenix was on cheerleading duties for Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges of Canada: 

There was dancing! So much dancing:

New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell soaked up the sun before his moment of reckoning: 

The second session started with a bang, as India’s Fouaad Mirza and Seigneur Medicott delivered the best-ever Indian dressage score of all time. Their 28 has them in equal seventh and the only non-team rider in the top ten: 

The big test of the second session was that of Laura Collett and London 52 – but despite dazzling in much of their performance, they didn’t usurp Oliver. They sit fourth on 25.8:

China’s second rider, Sun Huadong, produced a solid 35.2 with pretty Lady Chin V’T Moerven Z, sitting them in the top 30 and helping the team into fourth place provisionally: 

Australia’s Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam stepped into the team after a call-up from reserve after the first horse inspection. They scored a 32.1 to sit in the top 20, though they’ll have been aiming for sub-30 as a partnership that’s twice been top ten at CCI5*:

Sweden’s Louise Romeike stormed into the top ten on a score of 28 with Cato 60, helping Sweden into provisional silver: 

Brazil’s Rafael Losano brought forward Fuiloda G, arguably the greenest horse in the field, and rode her sympathetically for a 36: 

24-year-old Janneke Boonzaaijer and ACSI Champ de Tailleur put a 33 on the board to tie with Doug Payne and Vandiver: 

Even the people on site in Tokyo had to keep track of the times somehow – though at least there’s no math involved there:

Those supporting from home went all out – including Ingrid Klimke, who was sidelined with an injury: 

Piggy March sent her support to Thailand’s Weerapat Pitakanonda, who rides her former mount Carnival March: 

 

 

Paula and David Evans, who own Andrew Hoy’s Vassily de Lassos, were well-stocked for their viewing party:

Commentator John Kyle surveyed his kingdom:

Boyd Martin is busy getting some tips from the boss:

The question on everyone’s lips – can Michael Jung beat the Olympic dressage record? We’ll have to wait for the final session to find out: