2021 Olympic Guide to Dressage Basics, Scoring, and Three Competitors to Watch

What is Dressage?

Dressage is an equestrian discipline in which rider and horse perform a series of movements in a pattern to display the horse's athleticism, strength, and flexibility. Viewers describe dressage as horse ballet as the horse appears to be “dancing” across the arena floor. Dressage is a beautiful sport that dates back to nearly 350BC where ancient greek soldiers rode their horses to battle using dressage movements we still use today.

Today, Dressage is still a globally practiced equestrian sport and olympic sport that still displays aspects of dressage seen throughout history. According to the United States Dressage Federation,the “Olympic sport of dressage is derived from the French term meaning "training" and its purpose is to strengthen and supple the horse while maintaining a calm and attentive demeanor.” (USDF).

Dressage Events in the Tokyo Olympics

In 1912, Dressage was added to the Olympics as a part of the individual equestrian events. Over one hundred years later, dressage is till a main equestrian olympic event with both team and individual events. 60 total riders will compete in Dressage in the 2021 Olympics. There is individual dressage, and team dressage. Teams consist of three athletes and horses.

Dressage Scoring in the Olympics

Scoring is based on five judges evaluating the horse and rider at each movement in a dressage test. The scores are on a 10 point scale, 0 being not executed and 10 being excellent. Horses are also judged on their overall freedom, regularity of paces, impulsion, submission, and the rider's position and form. A typical Freestyle test is around 7 minutes in length.

The final score is calculated by:

Adding all of the points and dividing by the total to give a final percentage. The highest percentage score in Grand Prix Freestyle is awarded as the winning individual. For the team champion, the team with the highest cumulative three best total scores from the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special is the champion. Read more about scoring here.

The schedule for dressage will be an initial qualifying FEI Grand Prix Test competition. The top 8 teams from the qualifying will advance to the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle Special for team medals. The top 18 individuals from the initial qualifying will advance to the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle to determine the individual champion.

3 Dressage Olympians to Watch 2021

1. Simone Pearce of Australia:

Born in Australia in 1991, Pearce moved to Germany in 2010 to train and compete in dressage at an international level. Pearce grew up riding horses in Australia and followed her passion throughout life to be a professional equestrian. She is a hard worker and has overcome a lot including a riding accident and injury. Holding the Australian dressage Grand Prix, Grand Prix special, and Freestyle record scores, Pearce hopes to come home with an Olympic medal.

2. Morgan Barbacon Mestre of Spain

Born in 1992 in Paris France, Barbancon has been climbing the ranks in Dressage since finishing 8th in team competition, and 23rd in individual in the 2012 summer Olympics in London. Barbacon began riding at the early age of three years old. She has been competing since her youth in Dressage and has trained all over Europe with top Dressage competitors. Barbancon competes for Spain as her mother is Spanish alongside her sister who also competes in international dressage, Alexandra Barbancon.

3. Adrienne Lyle of USA

Born in 1985 in Washington, Adrienne has been riding since she was born having grown up on a cattle ranch. She began competing in Dressage as a teen and quickly was recognized for her ability to connect with horses. She competed in Young adult Grand Prix champions and went to the 2012 Olympics in London where she finished 37th in the individual competition. She will be representing the USA in the Olympics this summer hoping for an Olympic team medal.

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