Form, Function, and Fun Facts: Your Guide to the Tokyo Eventing Competitors

It’s nearly time for the start of dressage at the Tokyo Olympics, and by my reckoning, that means you’re all going to need something to scroll through on your phone while you half watch those

Form, Function, and Fun Facts: Your Guide to the Tokyo Eventing Competitors

It’s nearly time for the start of dressage at the Tokyo Olympics, and by my reckoning, that means you’re all going to need something to scroll through on your phone while you half watch those flying changes. Allow us to sort you out good and proper, dear reader: keep those thumbs a-working and get to know every last dang one of the Tokyo competitors coming forward this week. Let the Games begin!

AUSTRALIA

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Hoy with Vassily de Lassos 

12-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding (Jaguar Mail – Illusion Perdue, by Jalienny), owned by Paula and David Evans, Stefanie Hoy, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 31.3

XC speed rating: 5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Vassily de Lassos – who was originally produced  to CCI4*-S by France’s Tom Carlile – is a serious tour de force and a strong campaigner for an individual medal. He’s finished in the top ten in 22 of his 26 FEI starts, has only ever picked up a 20 once, at a CCI4*-L at Sopot in 2018, and has only picked up 3.2 time penalties in total across his international career. This pair were fourth individually at the 2018 World Equestrian Games and finished third in their final prep run at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S, where they pinned down a first-phase personal best of 27.6 and were the fastest of the day across the country.

Fun fact: This is 62-year-old Andrew’s eighth Olympics, making him the most seasoned Olympian in Australian sporting history. If he wins a gold this week, he’ll make history again: that would give him the widest-ever margin between winning gold medals. It’s been 29 years since he took a team gold home from Barcelona in 1992. Totally unrelated? Vassily arrived at Andrew’s yard on May 13, 2017 –  the same day he got married to wife Stefi, who he describes as “my absolute rock.”

Shane Rose and Virgil. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Shane Rose with Virgil

16-year-old Australian Warmblood gelding (Vivant – unknown Thoroughbred dam), owned by Michelle Hasibar, Niki Rose and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 31

XC speed rating: 3.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: This is one of the most established partnerships in this year’s field: Shane and Virgil have logged 12 years together so far, as the rider began producing the gelding for breeder and part-owner Michelle Hasibar when he was just a fresh-face four-year-old. Since then, they’ve run at four five-stars with great success, finishing 2nd at Adelaide on Virgil’s debut in 2015, 16th at Burghley in 2016 despite knocking a frangible pin, seventh at Luhmühlen in 2017, and third at Pau in 2019, when they travelled all the way from Australia to compete. This will be Virgil’s second championship after an uncharacteristic 20 at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, and as one of two Aussie-based competitors in this team, he’ll have had an easier journey than most, which could play to his advantage. He won’t need much help, mind you: in two of those four five-stars, he finished on his dressage score, and in 2019 at Pau, he only added 1.6 time penalties despite a tie-up scare post travel. This is Shane’s third Games: he was eliminated on cross-country at Rio, but the Australian team still scooped bronze, and he was part of the silver medal-winning team at Beijing in 2008.

Fun fact: At 17hh, Virgil is one of the biggest horses in the field. Don’t expect Shane to get vertigo up there, though – he’s extraordinarily tough, or perhaps just a bit mad. His business is split between eventing at the top level and producing racehorses, and along the way, he’s amassed enough injuries to make Boyd Martin look fresh out of the box: he’s broken both arms and legs a couple of times each, smashed both wrists, reconfigured his thumbs, done most of his ribs, punctured a lung, split his liver, contracted a brutal staph infection, and got himself a new face – with eight metal plates behind it – after a particularly hideous accident left him in a coma for a week. He’s also battled through thyroid cancer, back in 2001 when he was 28. Four years after that came the accident that rearranged his face, when he was using long reins to teach a horse to enter the starting gates and ended up being double-barrelled. His face was in such bad shape that the surgeons had to work from photographs to recreate it. “I took in photos of Brad Pitt, but it didn’t work,” jokes his wife, Niki.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Kevin McNab with Don Quidam 

13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quidam – Nairobi, by Amethist), owned by Scuderia 1918 and Emma McNab

4*/5* dressage average: 30.5

XC speed rating: 3.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Kevin and Don Quidam – who ditches his commercial Scuderia 1918 prefix for the Games – were originally listed as non-travelling reserves, and then bumped up into the travelling sub spot after the withdrawal of Chris Burton and Quality Purdey. They find themselves on the team in a last-minute switcheroo after the first horse inspection, which sees them take Stuart Tinney and Leporis’s spot. They’ll now wait in the wings in the sub spot. In any case, Australia’s in a pretty luxurious position when you consider what a quality partnership this is: they’ve been top ten at two CCI5*s, including sixth at Kentucky this spring, where they produced one of the only clears inside the time over a tough Derek diGrazia track in difficult conditions. That’s exactly what they could be faced with again this week – but they have everything they need to pull it off again and aim for another top ten finish individually.

Fun fact: “Don Quidam is cheeky in a nice way; he’s a bit of a pretty boy, a bit blonde in a nice way. Every day’s fun with him — he’s a horse you enjoy riding each time,” says Kevin, who runs a thriving yard south-west of London with wife Emma, who rode on the Australian team at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. The son of dairy farmers is a rider who’s really been waiting for his own big moment: he’s responsible for producing world-beating riders including Chris Burton and Jock Paget, and now his time has come to shine.

Travelling reserve: Stuart Tinney with Leporis – 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Lasino – Miss Danny, by Heraldik xx), owned by Karen Tinney and the rider

AUSTRIA

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and DSP Cosma. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati with DSP Cosma

12-year-old Brandenburg mare (Canterbury – Farah, by Ferman), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 38.7

XC speed rating: 1

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This is an Olympic debut for 34-year-old Katrin, who rode mercurial Cosma at the 2017 and 2019 European Championships. They jumped clear and finished 24th in 2017, but picked up a 20 on Saturday and withdrew before the final horse inspection. We saw this mare, who Katrin bought as a yearling because she’d ridden one of her full brothers, make her CCI5* debut at Burghley as a nine-year-old, and though that was a bit of a fraught experience, she bounced back to head to Pau the following month, where she jumped a steady clear. That was in the latter part of 2018, and we haven’t seen her return to five-star yet – instead, she’s been solidifying her form at four-star and becoming a steadier, more reliable cross-country competitor. They won’t threaten the leaders, but Katrin and Cosma should gain some great experience this week while on their quest to further Austria as an eventing nation.

Fun fact: Just one woman has previously represented Austria in eventing at the Olympics: that was Margit Appelt, who rode Ice On Fire at the 2004 Athens Games, making history for the country. Katrin, who is a self-taught eventer, joins Lea Siegl in Austria’s girl-power effort this year.

Lea Siegl and DSP Fighting Line. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lea Siegl with DSP Fighting Line

14-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Ostermond xx – Pia, by Laretto Diabolo), owned by Marianne Mühlböck

4*/5* dressage average: 32.8

XC speed rating: 4.1

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Like Katrin, Lea is an Olympic debutante – and this is, in fact, a first Senior Championship for rider, who competed multiple times at the Europeans at both Junior and Young Rider level. In 33 FEI competitions together, this pair have finished in the top ten an impressive 19 times, though their final prep run at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S saw their dressage scores – which can dip sub-30 – take a nosedive to 38.5. They added nothing to that through the weekend, though, proving once again that they’re fast and reliable across the country. One rail could prove expensive in this company, but Lea and Fighty will win plenty of new fans on cross-country day.

Fun fact: At just 22, Lea is the youngest rider in this year’s field – but only by the tiniest of margins: Switzerland’s Robin Godel was born one day before her. She managed to qualify an impressive three horses for Tokyo, but opted for ‘Fighty’. She’s trained by her father, Harald, who rode for Austria at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

BELGIUM

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

Lara de Liedekerke-Meier with Alpaga d’Arville

15-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding (Wunder Boy van de Zuuthoeve – Mooney Raaphorst xx, by Shamaraan xx), owned by Larga S.P.R.L.

4*/5* dressage average: 35.7

XC speed rating: 4.2

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Experienced Belgian competitor Lara comes forward for her Olympic debut with her stalwart campaigner, Alpaga. Together, they’ve contested two European Championships (2017 and 2019), finished in the top twenty at the latter, and they went to the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, too, where they jumped a quick clear. Beyond her successes with the 15-year-old Belgian Sport Horse, Lara has ridden at a further two World Equestrian Games and two Senior European Championships, following an extraordinarily successful career as a young rider that saw her contest six Europeans. Expect a solid performance from this pair, though the final phase will stop them from threatening the upper echelons of the leaderboard – they can jump clear or have several rails down, and it’s never particularly clear which way they’ll go on any given day.

Fun fact: Alpaga is particularly special to Lara – who’s based at Arville in Belgium with German husband Kai Steffen Meier – because he’s a homebred. Her mother, Barbara, decided to put the Thoroughbred mare Mooney Raaphorst in foal when a friend dropped her off at the yard because the horse didn’t have a job to do – but Alpaga isn’t actually her first foal. His maternal sister is Nooney Blue, now 24, who was Lara’s Junior and Young Rider Europeans mount and her first Senior Championships ride, partnering her at the 2010 WEG and 2011 Europeans. Now, Nooney’s offspring are part of Lara’s competitive string – her daughter, Hooney d’Arville (Alpaga’s ‘niece’), is competing at four-star. Lara’s Olympic debut has also been a long time coming; she missed London due to horse injury and Rio due to her own pregnancy.

BELARUS

Alexandre Fominov and Carlo Grande Jr. Photo courtesy of the Belarus Equestrian Federation.

Alexandr Zelenko with Carlo Grande JR

11-year-old Polish Half-Bred gelding (Carlo Grande – Kaloe, by Spartakus), owned by the Belarus Republic Olympic Equestrian and Breeding Center

4*/5* dressage average: 34.4

XC speed rating: 4.4

Reliability rating: ☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This will be Carlo Grande’s first FEI competition outside of Minsk since mid-2019. In that period, he’s finished third once and won twice in three runs at the four-star level, but it’s worth noting that these Belarusian internationals tend to yield really small entry lists, so it’s more important to note the performances themselves. We’re looking at consistent low-30s marks, steady-to-slow cross-country runs, and at least one rail, but usually more – Carlo Grande hasn’t jumped clear in any of his 14 international runs. The relatively young horse is coming into his own, though, after a tricky 2018 and early 2019 that saw him clock up cross-country jumping penalties in six consecutive FEI runs. They aren’t here to be competitive, but rather to gain experience that they can bring back to Belarus’s fledgling eventing scene.

Fun fact: Alexandr celebrated his 45th birthday on Tuesday – and celebrated by walking the newly-opened cross-country course. Tokyo marks Belarus’s third time in the Olympic eventing competition: in 2008, they made their debut with two athletes, and sent two to London, as well. A horse and rider were qualified and eligible to go to Rio, but the Federation opted not to send them due to concern’s about the horse’s age and the conditions. This will be Alexandr’s Olympic debut.

BRAZIL

Carlos Parro with Goliath

10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Chello III – Octa, by Belisar), owned by EMTEC Laboratories and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 36.6

XC speed rating: 0.1

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Ten-year-old Goliath comes forward as one of the youngest horses in this year’s field, and arguably the least experienced. He’s done just two CCI4*-L competitions since stepping up to four-star at the tail end of 2020: on his CCI4*-L debut at Barroca d’Alva in December he retired after two problems on course, but then regrouped for a steady clear at Strzegom in April of this year. Since then, he’s run in one FEI event: Carlos stepped him down to CCI3*-S at Keysoe earlier this month, but withdrew as intended before cross-country after a 31.3 dressage and a rail in the showjumping. This is a big ask for him, but Brazil has had to work with the horsepower that it’s got at the moment – so although Goliath is a more likely Paris horse, this could be a great educational building block for longer-term success if Carlos is able to ride him with that in mind.

Fun fact: Carlos first moved to the UK to train with Chris Bartle in 1997, and then set up shop permanently from 2002. These days, he gets help on the flat from none other than Britain’s most-medalled female Olympian of all time, dressage superstar Charlotte Dujardin. This is his third Olympics: he competed at Sydney and Rio, and rode at the WEG for the first time when he was nineteen.

Rafael Mamprin Losano and Fuiloda G. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Rafael Losano with Fuiloda G

11-year-old Finnish Warmblood mare (Van Gogh – Quiloda Z, by Quilot Z), owned by Cristiana Losano, Wagner Losano and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 33.7

XC speed rating: 1.8

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This is only Fuiloda’s third full season of international-level eventing: she made her CCI2*-S debut in May of 2018, and in the summer of 2019 the pair won team silver at the Pan-American Games, held at CCI3*-L. That autumn, the horse moved up to CCI4*-S with some teething problems on her debut at Ballindenisk, though they turned their fortunes around to finish the year with third place at Montelibretti CCI4*-S and 13th place at Pratoni in her first CCI4*-L. They competed in just one FEI event in 2020, at Burgham CCI4*-S at the end of the summer, and then ran around Houghton’s CCI4*-S this May, though they retired on course. There’s plenty of reason to think this could be a competitive horse with some more experience under her belt but for now, Rafa – like Carlos before him – will need to focus on building experience sympathetically for the future.

Fun fact: 23-year-old Rafa has only been eventing since he was 13, but by the time he was seventeen, he knew it was what he wanted to do full-time. He moved from Brazil to the US, where he worked for Australian Olympian Clayton Fredericks, before relocating to the UK and basing himself with Mark Todd. Now, he runs his own business with his girlfriend, Swedish eventer Amanda Brieditis, at Mark’s Badgerstown Stables in Wiltshire.

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Marcelo Tosi with Glenfly

16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Presenting xx – Dorans Glenn xx, by Over The River xx), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 35.3

XC speed rating: 2.4

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 4

The need-to-knows: This is nearly a second Olympics for Glenfly: he did the Rio test event and was very much in consideration for the real deal, but Marcelo decided he was too inexperienced and opted to save him for the next Olympic cycle. Now, he comes to his Games debut with a WEG run and three five-stars under his belt: he jumped clear at Tryon in 2018 for eventual 53rd place, and he’s jumped clear around Kentucky in 2019 and Pau the same year, though Marcelo took a tumble in their Burghley attempt. Though they’ve amassed 15 top-six finishes in FEI competitions in Brazil, they tend to find themselves a bit further off the pace against top-class fields. They won’t trouble the obvious medal candidates, but Brazil would be savvy to send them out as the first of their competitors: Glenfly is experienced, and Marcelo has been to two Olympics already, so they can fact-find out on course and bring back vital information for their teammates to utilise with their considerably greener mounts.

Fun facts: Glenfly is the only full Thoroughbred in this year’s field – his sire is top National Hunt stallion Presenting, and his dam is by the same stallion who sired British Olympic silver medallist Over To You. Glenfly himself raced underwhelmingly over fences, despite his not inconsiderable purchase price of €44,000 as a yearling from Tattersalls Ireland. He retired from racing in mid-2012 after pulling up in his final run, and Marcelo bought him directly from his owners after a tip-off from a friend. By the end of the year, he’d run in several BE90 (US Novice) events. Marcelo’s partner is top British dressage rider Anna Ross.

Travelling reserve: Marcio Appel and Iberon JMen – 19-year-old Brazilian Sport Horse gelding (Indoctro – Landina JMen, by Landino), owned by Samantha Tonello

CANADA

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D’Argouges. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Colleen Loach with Qorry Blue d’Argouges

17-year-old Selle Français gelding (Mr Blue – Hardie du Bourg, by Count Ivor), owned by Peter Barry

4*/5* dressage average: 34

XC speed rating: 3.3

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This is a second Olympic appearance for this partnership, who competed at Rio and finished 42nd after a couple of issues on course. They’re among Canada’s brightest stars, though they’ve been a bit unlucky on a few occasions at the top level: they were on track for a solid result at Kentucky this spring, but Colleen fell in the showjumping, and at Kentucky in 2019, they fell on the flat on cross-country. In 2018, though, they finished in the top twenty. This is a super partnership, and horse and rider know one another inside out, so expect a solid finish from them. They could make the top twenty here.

Fun fact: Qorry is owned by Canadian Olympian Peter Barry, for whom Colleen started her career as a groom 15 years ago. She progressed on to riding, and in 2014, was paired up with Qorry with the aim of getting her to the Pan-Ams and then selling the horse on. After the competition, though, it was decided that the horse would stick around and the Barries would support Colleen on her path to the Olympics and WEGs. This will be the last hurrah for the French-bred gelding, who shares a sire with Swiss horse Toubleu du Rueire. We hope he’ll get plenty of cashews, his favourite snack, in retirement.

CHINA

Sun Huadong and Lady Chin van’t Moerven Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sun Huadong with Lady Chin V’T Moerven Z

11-year-old Zangersheide mare (Lord Chin – Paola, by Matchero), owned by Houfeng Shen and Yu Liu

4*/5* dressage average: 35.3

XC speed rating: 0

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: 30-year-old Sun (or Alex, as he’s known to his friends) has had a bit of a topsy-turvy path to Tokyo, with an unfortunate tumble on cross-country at the pair’s final prep run at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S last month. But prior to that, 2021 and 2020 yielded plenty of solid, if not particularly competitive results: they jumped consistent, steady clears and lodged low-30s marks at Marbach CCI4*-S, Haras du Pin CCI4*-S, and Pratoni CCI4*-L, as well as CCI3*-S classes at Strzegom, Varsseveld and Oudskarpel. They’ve been putting in plenty of hard work since coming together as a partnership in 2018, when the mare had just contested the Young Horse World Championships under Belgium’s Annesjien Wouters, and the rider has picked up considerable mileage aboard the former Tim Lips ride Brent, young international mount Incredible Verte, and showjumping mount Empress Ellis since relocating to Europe in 2015. While they won’t challenge for a medal here, they’re capable of logging a smart completion – and that’ll mean enormous things for the growth of equestrian sport in China.

Fun fact: This is China’s first-ever eventing team at the Olympic Games, and it’s been helped along in large part by the effort of Dutch Olympian Tim Lips and his father Martin, who have been instrumental in creating training programmes for Alex and Bao Yingfeng, both of whom are based at Lips Stables in Breda.

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro. Ouest Image.

Alex Hua Tian with Don Geniro

14-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Don Kennedy – Gina, by Giorgione), owned by Pip Higgins, Sarah Higgins, Pam Dews, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 27

XC speed rating: 2.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 31-year-old Alex returns with his Rio partner The Don, this time as the lynchpin of the fledgling Chinese team and their greatest hope for an individual medal. Don is spectacular on his day, and can easily put a 22 on the board in the first phase, but his marks do tend to fluctuate through the twenties if he’s struck by his inner ‘Psycho Don’. On cross-country, he’s generally reliable but does have the odd blip – including an unfortunate 20 and subsequent retirement in his last FEI run at Bicton CCI4*-S last month. Now 14, he’s less likely to demonstrate his sense of humour, but the wind will need to blow in the right direction to get his best performances this week. If all goes to plan, he can easily aim for another top-ten finish – or better.

Fun fact: Alex made history in 2008 when he became China’s first-ever Olympic equestrian and the youngest-ever Olympic eventer at just eighteen. Though it ended in heartbreak – he fell on cross-country – it spurred him on to improve and he returned to the Games at Rio in 2016 and finished in eighth place. He’s a testament to all the reasons why you shouldn’t write off the developing nations, nor the riders you may not know quite as well yet, because he proves that every step along the way is a crucial brick in the foundation being built. He’s also a forward-thinker within the equestrian world, not just for his work with the Chinese equestrian federation on building the sport, but as an ambassador for the Red Cross, the founder of a charity to help low-income kids get in the saddle, and an outspoken supporter of inclusivity and diversity in the sport. We have no choice but to stan, as the youth say.

Bao Yingfeng and Flandia 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Bao Yingfeng with Flandia 2

15-year-old Westphalian mare (Fidertanz 2 – Petit Fleur, by Polany), owned by Houfeng Shen and Yu Liu

4*/5* dressage average: 36.4

XC speed rating: 2.3

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Originally piloted to four-star with mixed results by Poland’s Jacek Jeruzal, petite and pretty Flandia has 43 FEI competitions under her belt. With Jacek, she contested the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Caen, where the famously poor conditions likely contributed to her eventual fall on cross-country. After that, her performances took something of a nose dive and he passed the ride on in 2016, first to Bao’s teammate Sun Huadong, and then to fellow Chinese rider Bayier Chagan, before Bao took the reins in 2018 and finished 5th in their first FEI event together. Though there were some blips when he first stepped the mare back up to four-star after over four years since her last attempt at the level, Bao persevered through the rough patch and she’s come out the other side considerably more confident. She comes to Tokyo with five consecutive clears under her belt, and though she won’t set the world alight this week, Bao will be working hard to ensure that this run continues to pay into her bank of self-belief. Her flying changes can be tricky, which will make this test quite a tough one for her, but the name of the game is completion, and they’re on the right track to get the job done.

Fun fact: Like Sun Huadong, 33-year-old Bao is based in Breda, the Netherlands, with Tim and Martin Lips. Flandia is one of a small string of competition mounts for the rider: he also competes the former Andrew Nicholson ride Teseo at four-star, and has a two-star horse called Corona 94. (Yes, really.) He’s also got a showjumper in his string in the form of Destenation.

Travelling reserve: Liang Ruiji with Agora de Bordenave – 11-year-old Anglo-Arab mare (Birkhof’s Grafenstolz –Milady de Bordenave, by Daguet du Rochau), owned by Man Yin Rebecca Fok, Hoi Au Ha, Yongtao Ao, and Jea Young Pai

CZECH REPUBLIC

Miloslav Prihoda and Ferrelous Lat. Photo by Petr Šedivý.

Miloslav Prihoda Jr with Ferreolus Lat

11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail – Veonille II, by Royal Dance), owned by Vladimir Malak and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 34.7

XC speed rating: 2

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: This pair were quite successful in the horse’s first couple of seasons competing internationally, with several top-ten placings to their credit, and they still occasionally sneak onto the leaderboard at the upper levels now: they were third in a CCI4*-L at Sopot, sixth in the CCI4*-L Olympic qualifier at Baborowko, where Poland booked their team ticket, 10th in a CCI4*-S at Sopot, and seventh in a CCI3*-S at Kreuth, all in 2019. In 2020 they gave solid but uncompetitive performances, which have continued into 2021 – though a 12th place finish in Strzegom’s CCI4*-S against many Tokyo competitors and third in the CCI3*-S at Kreuth on their final run aren’t to be sniffed at. They won’t be fighting for a top finish here, but they could prove to be a delightful surprise this week with three exciting performances that will win them plenty of admirers.

Fun fact: 31-year-old Miloslav underwent hip surgery when he was just twelve years old, and the aftereffects of the operation affected him for several years thereafter. He’s from a particularly horsey family: his mother show jumped, his father evented, and both his younger sisters have evented at FEI level. He’s competed at six European Championships, representing the Czech Republic at Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and Senior level, finished thirteenth twice at the Young Riders level. He’s had Ferreolus Lat since the horse was a four-year-old, and there are two paternal half-brothers in this field: Vassily de Lassos and Colorado Blue are also by Jaguar Mail.

Miroslav Trunda and Shutterflyke. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Miroslav Trunda with Shutterflyke

10-year-old Dutch Riding Horse mare (Sir Shutterfly – Zaramba, by BMC Kigali), owned by Svobodova Adela

4*/5* dressage average: 37.3

XC speed rating: 4.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Miroslav tends to produce his own horses through the levels, rather than buying established competitors, and this is a prime example: Shutterflyke first hit the international scene in 2017, and that year, she finished eighth in the Six-Year-Old World Championship, beating fellow Tokyo competitors Goliath, MP Imagine If, Chicuelo, and Fascination, as well as notable horses such as Cooley Quicksilver (Liz Halliday-Sharp), Senza Fine (Tim Price), and John the Bull (Susie Berry). Across her 24 FEI runs, she’s finished in the top ten 14 times, and while she tends to compete in Central to Eastern Europe where the entry lists are somewhat smaller, she’s still beaten significant opponents at four-star, including Julia Krajewski’s Amande de b’Neville, Michael Jung’s Highlighter, and Louise Romeike’s Cato 60. She’s a fast, efficient horse on cross-country with the right kind of fighting spirit that’ll serve her well this week. Her showjumping is improving significantly, and while her high-30s score will keep her out of the upper echelons of the leaderboard, she’s another under-the-radar horse who you might find yourself falling in love with this week.

Fun fact: Prague-based Miroslav is a full-time vet. “Given that I treat and service horses for leading domestic and foreign riders, both in home stables and in races, I consider it a great advantage and experience,” he explains. “Obviously it is manageable, but of course there are times when I feel more mental and physical pressure during the season. However, since these are two different issues, I feel more like working with horses. In general I perceive competing and horse training as my hobbies. My primary goal is not to collect winning ribbons, no one is pushing me anywhere, and I consider this a huge advantage. I just do what I enjoy.”

DENMARK

Peter Flarup and Fascination. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Peter Flarup with Fascination

10-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion (Favorit Ask – La Mirage, by Lando), owned by Victoria Ulrikke Hjortnaes

4*/5* dressage average: 32.9

XC speed rating: 3.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Generally, we’d consider Fascination Peter’s second string to top horse Frankie, but he’s proving to be an exciting partner for the experienced Dane, who competed at the 2008 Olympics and is in the top 100 in the world rankings. The rider has twice finished in the top five at CCI5*, on different horses each time, and has logged three top-ten finishes (including a win at Montelibretti) at four-star with Fascination. This horse isn’t quite as established as Frankie yet, and is still prone to the odd wobble – such as the 20 he picked up in a CCI3*-S at Kristianstad earlier this year – but on his day, should deliver three respectable rounds that’ll put them comfortably in the top half of the pack.

Fun fact: Peter began riding at the age of 12 and received his first pony as a confirmation gift. Together, they won the Danish Eventing Championships. Peter went on to become a farrier, though he now focuses solely on training and competing.

ECUADOR

Nicolas Wettstein and Altier d’Aurois. Photo by P. Barki.

Nicolas Wettstein with Altier d’Aurois

11-year-old Selle Français gelding (Sisley de la Tour Vidal – Julye d’Aurois, by Crystal Diamonds), owned by Frank Wettstein, Monique Deyme, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 37.1

XC speed rating: 2.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This is a second Games for Nicolas and a first for Altier d’Aurois, and the major aim will be for Nicolas to get the completion that evaded him in 2016. ‘Doudou’ is described as ‘an extremely worried horse’, and he’s still young and relatively inexperienced, which does occasionally show in the cross-country phase – but he comes here off the back of two confidence-boosting top-ten finishes in three-star classes at Montelibretti. They’ll likely make use of some alternative routes in an effort to give this up-and-coming horse a positive, educational experience that they can build on for Paris 2024.

Fun fact: Based in Switzerland, Nicolas is the son of a Swiss father (who himself evented internationally) and a French mother. Nicolas was named as a reserve for the Swiss team at Athens in 2004 and rode for France as a Junior, but swapped nationalities to Ecuador when he became eligible via marriage in 2011. He competed for the country at Rio in 2016 and was the first Ecuadorian representative to ride at Badminton. He also has a degree in hotel management, which seems like a pretty great case for never using one’s higher education, since he now runs a pharmaceutical company.

FRANCE

Karim Laghouag and Triton Fontaine. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Karim Laghouag with Triton Fontaine

14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Gentleman IV – Grenouil Fontaine, by Nightko), owned by Philippe Lemoine, Guy Bessat, Camille Laffitte, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 32.7

XC speed rating: 5

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Originally the first non-travelling reserve, Karim and Triton Fontaine stepped into the sub spot when Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot were forced to withdraw due to a minor injury before the team left for Tokyo. They’ve now stepped into the team proper after Tom Carlile and Birmane also withdrew as a result of a muscular issue. Karim is a very experienced team rider, and was part of the gold medal-winning Rio squad, but Triton Fontaine is less seasoned. Karim picked up the ride from Antoine de Silly back in mid 2018 and since then, they’ve had nine top-10 finishes at FEI events – but in their six CCI4*-L and CCI5* runs, they’ve only got a 50% clear rate. When the horse goes well, he’s very capable of finishing on a score around the 30 mark, which would be enough to make a splash here – but he’s just as likely to have issues on course or knock several rails. Fortunately, he’s paired with a rider who has all the experience necessary to coax the right stuff out in this all-important round.

Fun fact: We imagine family holidays with Karim are rather jolly – he’s married to the daughter of French Formula One legend Jacques Lafitte, and his brother-in-law is the comedian Arnaud Tsamere. Karim, who was World Number One in 2007, battled injury at a young age: he fell down a flight of stairs when he was two years old, and was injured so badly that he was bed-ridden for two-and-a-half years. After that, he spent six months in a wheelchair and then went into six months of physical therapy to learn how to walk. He wasn’t able to participate in any sport until he was eight.

Christopher Six and Totem de Brecey. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Christopher Six with Totem de Brecey

14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Mylord Carthago*HN – Jessy Landaise, by Quouglof Rouge), owned by François and Juliane Souweine

4*/5* dressage average: 30

XC speed rating: 4.1

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Christo and Totem de Brecey were originally named as the French team’s travelling reserves, but were called into duty following the withdrawal of Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot. It’s an exciting moment for this pair, who have been waiting in the wings and producing some really consistent results for France – most notably, their fourth place finish at the 2019 European Championships at Luhmühlen, where they competed as individuals and were best of the French. They’re consistent, and will almost certainly score between a 28 and a 31 – and they’ll do a good job of finishing close enough to that. They came in just two seconds over the optimum time at the Europeans, and jumped a super clear on the final day. This is a horse who tends to jump his best at a three-day, so the two-round format could suit him well.

Fun fact: Christo and Totem came together purely by chance. His owner brought the gelding for schooling livery at Christo’s yard when she moved to Paris for university, and the rider started competing him in 2017. The pair went from strength to strength, and so the Souweine family decided to let him keep the ride – even when Team Japan came knocking with a big-money offer after the Europeans. For Christo, who came from a non-horsey background without significant backing and only got his first horse when he was 20, this is an extraordinary adventure and one that could lead to a major result at the end of the week.

Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDC. Photo by William Carey.

Nicolas Touzaint with Absolut Gold

11-year-old Selle Français gelding (Birkhof’s Grafenstolz – Belle Meralaise, by Verglas), owned by Haras de Coudrettes

4*/5* dressage average: 31.2

XC speed rating: 4.2

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Nicolas took the ride on in 2018 from fellow French rider Elodie Patenotte, who produced him up to CCI3*-S, and since then, he’s been an impressive rising star for the French contingent. This is a fifth Olympics for the rider, who was part of the gold medal-winning team at Athens in 2004. With Absolut Gold, he’s logged one championship run: they finished tenth at the 2019 Europeans at Luhmühlen, adding nothing through the week to their 31.6 dressage. They’ve finished on their dressage score in their last three FEI runs and haven’t finished lower than 12th since 2018. They won’t lead the first phase – instead, look for a mark around 30 – but they’re odds-on to finish on it, which will allow for major movement on the leaderboard.

Fun fact: Nicolas, whose uncle Thierry is the team chef d’equipe, was something of a child prodigy: he was just 20 when he competed at his first Olympics in 2000, and he became the youngest-ever European Champion when he was 22. He’s also the only Frenchman ever to win Badminton, which he took in 2008 with Hidalgo de l’Ile.

GERMANY

Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sandra Auffarth with Viamant du Matz

12-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Diamant de Semilly – Heralina, by Voltigeur le Malin), owned by Prinz Nikolaus von Croy

4*/5* dressage average: 30.9

XC speed rating: 4.1

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: This is a third championship appearance for ‘Mat’, who retired on course as a nine-year-old at the 2018 WEG but was 11th at the 2019 European Championships. In their last eight FEI runs, they’ve only finished outside the top ten once, and that was just because of a slow cross-country time that was likely planned. This is an exceptional horse who learned a lot from those blips as a young prodigy – rather like Laura Collett’s London 52, his inexperience simply played out in the spotlight, which always incurs longer-lasting judgement. His first-phase scores can fluctuate a bit but tend to stay sub-30 (and sometimes dip right down to the low 20s) and he’s quick and reliable over solid fences and show jumps alike. He was second in the selection trial at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S last month, against hot competition that included much of the Tokyo field. The only question mark? He hasn’t run a long format since the Europeans two years ago.

Fun fact: Former World Champion and Olympic individual bronze medalist Sandra also trains India’s Fouaad Mirza, who makes his Olympic debut this week. The daughter of farmers, her first-ever four-star was the 2011 European Championships, where she won individual silver and team gold.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Oliver Hardt/Getty Images for FEI.

Michael Jung with Chipmunk FRH

13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro – Havanna, by Heraldik xx), owned by Deutsches Olympiade-Komitee für Reiterei e.V., Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampff, Klaus Fischer, Sabine Fisch

4*/5* dressage average: 22.5

XC speed rating: 4.9

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: The reigning Olympic champion returns as hot favourite for another gold medal, this time with the former Julia Krajewski ride Chipmunk. She produced him to the top level and competed at the 2018 WEG with him, scoring an extraordinary 19.9 in the first phase but unfortunately picking up a 20 on course. That winter, the German Federation bought the horse for Michael, and though they’ve had to take a fair amount of time to gel in the showjumping, they’ve already won six four-stars, including the final selection trial at Luhmühlen last month, become reserve European Champions, and won team European gold, too. They’ll be fighting hard for the top spot in the first phase and will likely add nothing on cross-country day – but the question mark still remains over the poles. They haven’t knocked one in their last two FEI runs, and the horse certainly looked better in this phase than ever at Luhmühlen (where, it’s worth noting, the short format showjumps on the final day) –  but we also haven’t seen him in a long-format since the Euros in 2019, and he pulled one there during a spate of penalty-marred showjumping rounds. But it’s hard to bet against a horse who finished on 21.4 in his last run, or against the man who has won gold at the last two Olympics, has been World Champion, and won the Senior Europeans three times.

Fun fact: Chipmunk is sired by Contendro I, and thus has two half-siblings in this field: German reserve horse FRH Corrida, and Louise Romeike’s Cato 60. Felix Vogg’s Colero is a nephew – he’s by Chipmunk’s half-brother Captain Fire.

Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Julia Krajewski with Amande de B’Néville

11-year-old Selle Francais mare (Oscar des Fontaines – Perle be B’Néville, by Elan de la Cour), owned by rider and Bernd Heicke

4*/5* dressage average: 27.8

XC speed rating: 4.3

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Though relatively inexperienced, feisty, talented ‘Mandy’ has truly stepped up to the plate this year after a shock accident and the subsequent loss of an eye meant that Julia’s Olympic horse Samourai du Thot had to be retired from competition. Riding him, she’s said, was like riding a go-kart, while riding Mandy is like riding a lion – and like all good mares, she’s now coming into her own and ready to take on the world with all guns blazing. We saw her finish fifth at the final selection trial at Luhmühlen, where she’d have been second if not for a frustrating pole, and she won Saumur CCI4*-L in April. Her scores have been steadily getting more and more formidable, and she’s now looking like a real sub-25 horse. Her inexperience lends a slight question mark to cross-country day, but she looks strong, fit, and confident, and could be a real dark horse shout for an individual medal here. “She’s a real princess,” says Julia – and this week, it may well be time for her to become a queen.

Fun fact: Prior to joining Julia’s string as a six-year-old, Mandy had only show jumped. She was spotted by Myriam Meylemans, who had sourced Samourai du Thot originally.

Travelling reserve: Andreas Dibowski and FRH Corrida (12-year-old Hanoverian mare by Contendro out of Expo and owned by Alina, Andreas and Susanna Dibowski)

GREAT BRITAIN

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett with London 52

12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos – Vernante, by Quinar), owned by Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 25.8

XC speed rating: 4.9

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Alongside Michael Jung and Oliver Townend, Laura is the tied favourite to fight for the individual gold here with the exceptional London 52, despite b being an Olympic debutante. He was a bit of a child prodigy, stepping up to the top level within two years of beginning his eventing career at the age of seven and winning the prestigious Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S just three years into the job. He followed that up with second at Boekelo on his CCI4*-L debut, second in CCI4*-S classes at Belton and Burnham Market, and then a win at Chatsworth in 2019. But every horse, no matter how preternaturally talented, must go through a learning curve at some point, and his came in the second half of 2019 when he was well and truly in the spotlight. He picked up a green 20 at Bramham, an unfortunate late run-out while leading at Aachen, and Laura fell at the end of the course at the European Championships that year. By the end of the season, though, they regrouped to win Boekelo CCI4*-L, and the horse has been extraordinarily consistent ever since. He’s picked up two more CCI4*-S wins, two fourth place finishes, and a win at Pau in his first five-star. He’ll lead or come very close to it in the first phase, where he scored a 21.3 at Pau, and he’s among the quickest cross-country horses in the field. He’s ordinarily super over the poles, too, and his recent rail at Bicton shouldn’t be a cause for concern – it was a tiny brick atop a wall that came down, rather than an actual pole.

Fun fact: London 52 was sourced in Germany at the yard of former Olympian and soon-to-be German chef d’equipe Peter Thomsen. Like all her horses, he’s named after a Gossip Girl character – at home, he’s known as Dan, to go with Chuck (Mr Bass), Rufus (Camouflage), and Nate (Lyjador – now campaigned by a young rider). Laura is also passionate about racing, and has a sideline in schooling top-level National Hunt horses over fences.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen with Toledo de Kerser

14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Diamant de Semilly – Ariane du Prieure II, by Papillon Rouge), owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns, and Ali McEwen

4*/5* dressage average: 28.4

XC speed rating: 3.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Another Olympic debutante, Tom and Toledo are among the most consistent combinations in the world and stand a seriously good chance of stepping on both podiums this week. They won the final selection trial at Bicton CCI4*-S, took the win at Pau CCI5* in 2019, and have been in the top ten at Badminton, Burghley, and Pau again. In eight five-star runs (including WEG 2018), the only cross-country jumping penalty they’ve logged is a frangible pin at Badminton in 2019, when the horse had recently recovered from a virus. They also won the Bramham CCI4*-L for under-25s back in 2016, when the horse was just a nine-year-old. Expect them to put a mid-20s score on the board and stay there: this is one of the very best show jumpers in the field and over the past couple of seasons, he’s become one of the quickest cross-country competitors, too. They were part of the gold medal-winning British team at the World Equestrian Games in 2018, and they’ll certainly want to take home another of the same colour.

Fun fact: Toledo is less than 50% blood, though that hasn’t affected his stamina or gallop: he’s been at his best over some of the toughest tracks in the world, such as Bramham and Burghley. He’s an extraordinarily quirky horse, too, and can’t be jumped at home – or caught, much of the time.

“You can’t jump him at home – if you try he’ll bolt blind, or refuse to come in a second time or he’ll be like a crouching tiger and press himself to the floor, then go flat out,” Tom told Horse&Hound earlier this year. “He’s never done a grid or polework. Rather than make an issue of it, we’ve just never made an issue of it.”

Oliver Townend Ballaghmore Class. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Oliver Townend with Ballaghmor Class 

14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II – Kilderry Place, breeding unknown), owned by Karyn Schuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan

4*/5* dressage average: 27

XC speed rating: 4.7

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Oliver and ‘Thomas’ round out a British team chock full of Olympic debutants, and for Oliver, this moment has felt an awful long time coming. It would have been almost impossible to overlook this pair though, who might well be the most consistent five-star competitors in the world: they’ve completed six so far, winning two of them and never coming lower than fifth place. One of those wins was Burghley on the horse’s debut as a ten-year-old; the other was Kentucky this spring, over a course designed by Tokyo designer Derek diGrazia. It all bodes rather well for the tough-as-nails Yorkshireman and the rangy Irish gelding, who shares a sire with similarly quirky superstars Ringwood Sky Boy, the Duke of Cavan, and Cooley Rorkes Drift. A couple of outlier scores earlier in the horse’s career drive up his first-phase average, but you can realistically expect a 25 or lower – he’s scored a 21.1 at CCI5* before, and will fight hard for the dressage lead against Michi Jung and Laura Collett. He’s fast and as accurate as they come across the country, but it’s showjumping that can be the heartbreaker for this pair: they’ve only ever jumped clear on the final day in three long-format events, though one of those was a very convincing round at Kentucky when winning it this spring.

Fun fact: Though he’s one of the world’s best horses – and has certainly contributed to making Oliver the World Number One – Ballaghmor Class wasn’t always an easy ride. “He’s always been very sharp and he’s had us all on the floor at home,” said Oliver after that first Burghley win. “He had a girl off going up the gallops just two weeks ago and he’s gone through arena mirrors and out of the school through the fence in the past. But I’ve always liked him and we’ve probably got a stronger relationship as a result.”

Travelling reserve: Ros Canter with Allstar B – 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Ephebe For Ever – Narenca B, by Ekstein), owned by Caroline Moore and the rider

HONG KONG

Thomas Heffernan Ho and Tayberry. Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Thomas Heffernan Ho and Tayberry

20-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Feridoon – Rismo, by Kimball), owned by Irene Ho and Miranda Rauis

4*/5* dressage average: 43.2

XC speed rating: 0.1

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: Not likely to be competitive, but here for the experience – and this is a significant moment for Hong Kong’s eventers, who’ve never qualified for the Olympics before. Tom and Tay paired up in 2015, after the horse had been produced to four-star by Britain’s Isobel Hudson, and then Tom gained experience working his way up the levels with the gelding. They’ve had some promising runs, including a top ten finish in a CCI4*-L at Strzegom, but they’re averaging just over a 50% clear rate at four-star. The name of the game here will be to take each phase as it comes, and each jump as it comes, and work towards getting a completion in the bag so that British-based Tom can build on the experience for the future.

Fun fact: Tayberry is the oldest horse in the field at 20 years old. We’re seeing an older field than normal here, with several 19 year olds and no nine year olds – arguably due to the fact that younger horses haven’t been able to be campaigned as aggressively for the Olympics, while riders have been incentivised to keep older horses ticking over for an extra year with the delay of the Games.

INDIA

Fouaad Mirza and Seigneur Medicott. Photo courtesy of Sports View India.

Fouaad Mirza with Seigneur

15-year-old Westfalian gelding (Seigneur d’Alleray xx – Gina XIII, by Finley-M), owned by M/S Embassy Property Development PVT Ltd

4*/5* dressage average: 23.1 (29.5 as a combination)

XC speed rating: 3.7

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This wasn’t Fouaad’s first-choice horse for Tokyo; instead, he’d hoped to bring other ride Dajara 4, who is a slightly stronger showjumper and would thus perhaps be better suited to the two-round format of Olympic eventing’s final day. But he made an eleventh-hour swap for Seigneur Medicott, who will lose his commercial suffix for the Games, and who was Fouaad’s partner to team and individual silver at the 2018 Asian Games. This exceptional horse once won four four-stars in a row with former rider (and Fouaad’s former coach) Bettina Hoy, starting with Blenheim CCI4*-L and culminating in the German National Championships at Luhmühlen, and Fouaad – who’s based with Germany’s Sandra Auffarth – took the reins in 2017. Though they’ve only run at four-star twice together because the horse had time off with a ligament injury, Fouaad has a fair amount of experience at the level amassed with his other horses, including former Zara Tindall ride Fernhill Facetime. Most recently, this pair finished 2nd in the CCI4*-L at Baborowko in May, and they have five FEI top fives under their belt together. If they can overcome a slight lack of top-level match practice as a combination, they could be a serious dark horse pair this week, because they’re very capable of scoring sub-30 and staying pretty close to it.

Fun fact: Fouaad will be the first Indian equestrian at the Olympics since Imtiaz Anees rode at Sydney in 2000, and just the third-ever Indian Olympic equestrian. His Asian Games success boosted public interest in the sport, which he hopes to build on here: “The 2018 medals really boosted people’s confidence to pursue the sport back at home. We’re still at the grassroots and I think people still need to know more about the sport before they can really support me like they support their cricket team.”

IRELAND

Sarah Ennis and Horseware Woodcourt Garrison. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Ennis with Woodcourt Garrison

12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Garrison Royal – Davitt Star, by Furisto), owned by Breda Kennedy

4*/5* dressage average: 34.3

XC speed rating: 4.5

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: We’re used to seeing Sarah cleaning up at the top of the leaderboard with lightning-fast Horseware Stellor Rebound, her 2018 WEG team silver medalist, but Woodcourt Garrison isn’t short of experience: he was Sarah’s partner at the 2019 European Championship, where he jumped a quick clear and finished just outside the top twenty. Over the last year he’s had four top ten finishes at four-star level in Ireland, but also a rider fall at another and a flag penalty at Aston le Walls in the UK. Still, they should be able to put a finishing score on the board that will be a boon to the team, even if they won’t be in contention for an individual medal.

Fun fact: Sarah’s a qualified diver and a keen sailor, and she met her husband, Niki Potterton, at a yacht club. On one of their earliest dates, she invited him to go out hacking with her and she let him ride her favourite horse, which strikes us as quite a bold move, all things considered.

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austin O’Connor with Colorado Blue

12-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Jaguar Mail – Rock Me Baby, by Rock Kind), owned by The Salty Syndicate and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 33

XC speed rating: 3.9

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Austin stepped into the team from the sub spot just hours after the first horse inspection, swapping places with Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua, who has been struggling to acclimatise in Tokyo and will be under inspection by team vets. Austin has ridden ‘Salty’ throughout the gelding’s international career, and he’s become quite a reliable competitor – though he’s not quite ready to fight for individual titles just yet. Salty made the move up to five-star at Pau last year, jumping clear inside the time, though he was spun from the final horse inspection. Since then, we’ve seen him jump quick clears at Ballindenisk CCI4*-L, where he was fourth, and CCI4*-S classes at Houghton Hall and Bicton. Ordinarily, it’s his mid-30s marks that stop him from being competitive – but he put a 27.9 on the board at Bicton. If he can repeat the feat here, he could make a big impression over the course of the week and aim for a top twenty finish.

Fun fact: There are a few paternal half-sibling relationships in this field, but Colorado Blue goes one better – he’s got the same dam as another entrant. That’s Ludwig Svennerstal’s Balham Mist, competing for Sweden. Both horses were bred by Kate Jarvey, a Boston native who owns Austin’s base, Attington Stud.

Sam Watson and Tullabeg Flamenco. Photo by William Carey.

Sam Watson with Flamenco

12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tullabeg Fusion – Tullabeg Heidi, by Ardenteggle Sir), owned by Vahe Bogossian

4*/5* dressage average: 33.3

XC speed rating: 4.1

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Riding Ardagh Highlight, Sam was part of the silver medal winning team at the 2018 WEG, and he’s never let anyone forget it – so now, the much-loved rider and co-founder of equestrian analytics company EquiRatings has to win another one here, lest he run out of conversational material. In all seriousness, though, he and his glorious golden horse are on good form, with three top-six finishes at four-star in the last year. Their scores fluctuate between the mid-high 20s and low 30s, but have been trending downwards, and they’re quick and reliable across the country, though a 20 at the 2019 Europeans was an unfortunate (and rare) blip. They’ve notched up a CCI5* completion as well, also at Luhmühlen, where they jumped clear and finished just outside the top ten. Should be a real asset to the Irish team, which is smarting a bit from the loss of Cathal and Rioghan Rua, and could compete for a top ten himself if everything falls into place.

Fun fact: Sam was actually quite a late starter to the world of riding, only picking it up at 16 despite being the son of Olympic event rider John Watson: “I am the only boy in the family and I sort of rebelled against horses. I wanted to kick footballs and things like that. When my sister Rosie had a horse named Demi Tasse that bucked everyone off in the yard, I saw this horse as a challenge and started from there.”

Travelling reserve: Cathal Daniels with Rioghan Rua – 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Jack Of Diamonds – Highland Destiny, by Flagmount King), owned by Margaret Kinsella

ITALY

Susanna Bordone and Imperial van de Holtakkers. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Susanna Bordone with Imperial Van De Holtakkers

13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Quidam de Revel – Ava VD Holtakkers, by Argentinus), owned by Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi

4*/5* dressage average: 34.8

XC speed rating: 3.8

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Susanna and her Olympic mount have been a partnership since the very end of 2019, when she took the ride over from Belgium’s Joris Vanspringel, who rode him at the 2018 WEG. He jumped clear there and, indeed, has many clears at the four-star level under both riders – and with 44 FEI competitions under his belt, he’s well-campaigned for a relatively young horse. Together, this pair have amassed five FEI top tens from ten starts, and other than an odd blip in a three-star at Sandillon last summer, they’ve been consistent and confident in tandem. Their job this week isn’t to try to claim individual glory but rather, to contribute to a solid team result for Italy, who have been working hard to become more competitive on the world stage. They’re quick, reliable, and have now had three clear showjumping rounds in a row – so they should be very valuable indeed in what is Susanna’s third Olympics.

Fun fact: Susanna is married to fellow Italian eventer and racehorse trainer Simone Sordi, better known as ‘that guy who ripped his top off during the opening ceremony for the 2019 Europeans – and then again at the drinks reception – actually, have we ever seen him with a top on?’ Susanna is made of tough stuff: she was bitten in the face by a horse back in 2011 and had to have reconstructive surgery.

Vittoria Panizzon and Super Cillious. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Vittoria Panizzon with Super Cillious

12-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Deanes San Ciro Hit – Lady Priscilla, by Rock King), owned by Lucy Allison, Deborah Bevan, Juliet Donald, and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 32.3

XC speed rating: 4.8

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This is a third Olympics for Vittoria, who was 16th in 2008 on Rock Model and 11th in 2012 on the exceptional Borough Pennyz. Her ride this year, Super Cillious, was her partner for the 2019 European Championships, where Italy finished fifth and earned their Olympic team qualification. Unfortunately, he comes to Tokyo off the back of a 20 in his final run at Bicton’s CCI4*-S, but otherwise, he tends to be a reliable cross-country partner and more often than not finishes inside the time. It’s unlikely she’ll beat her own best Olympic finish, but as long as the horse didn’t lose any confidence at Bicton, they should be able to deliver a solid performance that helps Italy lodge a decent finish.

Fun fact: British-based Vitto, who rides in the uniform of the Italian Air Force sport group, has spent lockdown learning how to manage a newly-diagnosed autoimmune condition. She’s doing a rather marvellous job of it, mind you – she very nearly won the inaugural Burnham Market CCI4*-L last year in her first long-format back.

Arianna Schivo (ITA) and Quefira de L’Ormeau. Photo by FEI/Massimo Argenziano.

Arianna Schivo with Quefira de l’Ormeau

17-year-old Selle Français mare (Iolisco de Quinhon HN – Isabelle du Brulot, by Beausejour IV), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 36.1

XC speed rating: 2.4

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: This well-established partnership has already been to the Rio Olympics, the 2018 WEG, and three European Championships, plus Badminton twice. They had a 20 at Rio and a very early fall at Badminton in 2017, but since then, they’ve been ultra consistent, jumping clear around Badminton, Bramham, WEG, and two Europeans. In fact, they hadn’t had an FEI cross-country jumping penalty since early 2017…until their final prep run before Tokyo, where Arianna fell. With any luck, it won’t have done any damage to their confidence, and they can focus on delivering a typically solid performance with a sub-40 finishing score.

Fun fact: Susanna’s father competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics in athletics. Quefira, who’s known at home as ‘La Madame’ was bought as a young horse from Nicolas Touzaint, and shares a sire with Maxime Livio’s Pau winner Qalao des Mers.

Travelling reserve: Stefano Brecciaroli with Bolivar Gio Granno – 10-year-old Anglo Arab stallion (Gio Granno – Native de Sautussan, by Faalem), owned by Maria Giovanna Mazzochi

JAPAN

Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Yoshiaki Oiwa with Calle 44

14-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cristo 5 – Sara IV, by Quebec), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 29.7

XC speed rating: 3.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Yoshi, who is based in Germany with Dirk Schrade, first leapt into the spotlight when he led the dressage at the London 2012 Olympics, his second Games. It ended in heartbreak for him when he fell on cross-country day, but it was a landmark moment and ensured that the world was sitting up and paying attention to Japan’s eventers. Though the emotional anguish of the experience nearly made him give up riding, he decided to stick at it when, in 2013, Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympics. Since then, he’s finished 20th at Rio, 20th at the 2018 WEG on this horse, and won the Asian Games, as well becoming the first-ever Japanese rider to win a European four-star when he took Bramham with Calle 44 in 2017. After that, the pair won Strzegom CCI4*-S twice and have been victorious at Baborowko CCI4*-S, too. They’re not the fastest of combinations, though they’re certainly not the slowest, either, but they’re incredibly consistent and Yoshi is a born competitor with ice in his veins. This is his chance to exorcise those London demons once and for all as Japan fights for a well-deserved team medal.

Fun fact: Yoshi comes from a dynasty of exceptional athletes: his aunt competed at the World Championships for figure skating in the 1960s, his uncle won a silver medal in swimming at the 1960 Olympics, and his wife represented Japan in showjumping at the Rio Olympics. Yoshi rode as a child and teenager and began eventing at university, but briefly quit after graduating and worked at a cockroach extermination company for a spell before moving to England in 2001 to pursue it properly.

Toshiyuki Tanaka and Talma d’Allou. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Toshiyuki Tanaka with Talma d’Allou

14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Opium de Talma – Belle de l’Etang, by Prince Ig’Or), owned by Riding Club Crane

4*/5* dressage average: 31.7

XC speed rating: 3.7

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Toshi returns for his second Olympics after making his debut at London 2012, where he finished 48th after a problem on course. He has three horses qualified for Tokyo, but brings forward his 2018 WEG mount, with whom he finished 15th and helped the team to fourth place. In the past couple of seasons they’ve had some exciting results, including a win in the CCI4*-S at Barroca d’Alva, a top ten in CCI4*-S classes at Burnham Market and Lignieres, and good results at Millstreet, Aston le Walls, and Bramham. Though Talma’s dressage flits between the 20s and 30s, it never gets too high, and so they can focus on a sub-40 finishing score here on their hunt for a team podium. Their showjumping record is patchy, but the horse – who was originally produced by France’s Sebastien Chemin – tends to jump best on the final day of a three-day. They’ve never knocked a pole in a CCI4*-L.

Fun fact: Toshi, who’s been based in the UK with Angela Tucker since 2012, took up riding at the age of 15 after seeing equestrian sport on TV. It might not seem like much of a fun fact, but considering what the Japanese eventers are working towards – that is, a podium finish to inspire their home country and make them take equestrian sport seriously – it’s a poignant full circle. Now he’ll be the one on the TV, while other people watch and feel that unique fire spark up inside them.

Vinci de la Vigne and Kazuma Tomoto. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kazuma Tomoto with Vinci de la Vigne

12-year-old Selle Français gelding (Esterel des Bois – Korrigane de Vigne, by Duc du Hutrel), owned by the Japan Equestrian Federation

4*/5* dressage average: 29.5

XC speed rating: 4.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: A 20 in their final run at Bicton CCI4*-S is a shame, because otherwise, Kazu and the former Astier Nicolas mount Vinci have been an exciting pair. They’ve finished in the top ten in five of their seven FEI runs, and put a personal best score of 23.5 up at Bicton before their blip. They won Camphire CCI4*-L in 2019 and were second at Tattersalls CCI4*-S that year, too, and they were tenth in a seriously competitive CCI4*-S at Aston le Walls in May of this year. If we can disregard the Bicton blip, and considering that this horse finished seventh at the 2018 WEG with Astier, we could easily see them in the top ten. They’re an outside shot for an individual medal, too, and there would be few winners more popular if they managed it. Top of the priority list, though? Get the team on the podium – which is a doable task. Their showjumping is 50/50 between a clear and a rail, but determination can’t be underestimated here.

Fun fact: Kazu isn’t just the nicest man in eventing (although he really, truly is that), he’s also quite a remarkable athlete: he originally showjumped for Japan at World Cup events, but the Japanese Federation felt that they had enough jumping candidates on the trail to Tokyo and so asked him to consider swapping to eventing in 2015. In 2017 he relocated to England to base himself with William Fox-Pitt, and that autumn, he finished second in the prestigious eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Blenheim, missing the win by a fraction of a second. He’d been eventing less than two years at that point and had done his first FEI event just a year prior. Since then, he’s been part of the family on the UK and European circuit, and has been kicking ass and taking names wherever he goes, including leading the dressage at Luhmühlen CCI5* in 2019, winning CCI4*-S classes at Ballindenisk and Chatsworth and a CCI4*-L at Camphire on different horses, and finishing top ten at a number of events, including Blenheim CCI4*-L, Boekelo CCIO4*-L, Little Downham CCI4*-S (on two different horses in the same event), and Tattersalls CCI4*-S. He also got four horses qualified for Tokyo. In short, he’s bossing it.

Travelling reserve: Ryuzo Kitajima with Feroza Nieuwmoed – 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (VDL Groep Zagreb – Uthodina, by Frisbee Kerellec), owned by Riding Club Crane

THE NETHERLANDS

Merel Blom and The Quizmaster. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Merel Blom with The Quizmaster

12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Albaran xx – Zarah-Maro, by Casco), owned by Stal Hulsman B.V. and Blom Sports Stables

4*/5* dressage average: 30.7

XC speed rating: 4.4

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: This is a second Olympics for Merel, who rode at Rio and both the 2018 and 2014 WEGs with the late Rumour Has It NOP. She’s also ridden at four European Championships, and piloted The Quizmaster to second place at the Six-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers in 2015. She qualified two horses for Tokyo, but opted to bring The Quizmaster instead of her Dutch National Champion Ceda NOP. In their six FEI runs over 2020 and 2021, they’ve finished in the top ten five times – and the other time was simply a withdrawal prior to cross-country. It was a major disappointment for the Netherlands not to qualify a team for Tokyo, but Merel should be able to notch up a respectable individual place – they’ll likely score between 31 and 33, and they’re quick across the country. Their showjumping is something of a question mark and they’ve had the odd blip on cross-country, but Merel is experienced at creating confidence-building situations for her horses, so this shouldn’t cause any issues on their current form.

Fun fact: Merel isn’t just an exceptionally good rider – she’s also a smart cookie. She’s got a master’s degree in financial law and balanced her studies with training and competing at the top level, finishing thirteenth in her CCI5* debut at Pau while still a student.

The Netherlands’ Janneke Boonzaiijer and ACSI Champ de Tailleur. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Janneke Boonzaaijer with Champ de Tailleur

14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quidam de Revel – Vera, by Oberon du Moulin), owned by HJC Roozendaal and Lieke van der Werf

4*/5* dressage average: 32.7

XC speed rating: 3.4

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 24-year-old Janneke will be an unknown entity to many eventing fans outside Europe – she stepped into this slot at Tokyo after some unfortunate green blips from Tim Lips’s Herby ruled him out in the final weeks before departure. This is her first Senior championship; she’s ridden at two Young Rider European Championships, earning team silver and individual seventh in 2017, and two Junior European Championships. With Champ de Tailleur, who she took the ride on in 2018, she’s notched up some promising results, including top tens at Strzegom CCI4*-S and Pratoni CCI4*-L. They’re ordinarily low-30s scorers, but had a tricky final event at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S, scoring 42.9 and knocking two rails. They did, however, romp home just one second over the optimum time. This will be an educational experience for them more than a competitive one, but they should be able to finish in the top half of the pack.

Fun fact: Janneke comes from an eventing family: her father, Gert, competed to four-star and her sister, Henrieke, also competes internationally.

NEW ZEALAND

Jesse Campbell and Diachello. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Jesse Campbell with Diachello

11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado – Visser Cholin, by Chello I), owned by Kent Gardner and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 30.6

XC speed rating: 4.9

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Produced to CCI2*-L by Italy’s Giulio Guglielmi, Danny joined Jesse’s string in early 2018 and promptly finished second in the CCI2*-L at Houghton Hall, adding just a solitary showjumping time penalty to his 27.1 dressage. From then, Jesse has produced him conservatively and sympathetically, amassing just eleven FEI runs through their partnership and allowing the rangy horse to grow into himself. This has allowed the horse time and space to learn, and it’s also taken the pressure off them both, as the long-term goal of producing him to be a successful five-star and team horse has far outweighed any concerns about winning every run along the way. Instead, Jesse has been happy to run the horse steadily around CCI4*-S classes, and as a result, the horse has largely gone under the radar.

A third-place finish at Lignières in Danny’s second CCI4*-L changed all that. Though we’d all gotten used to seeing double- digit time penalties on cross-country, Jesse saw the event as a perfect opportunity to take the handbrake off and allow a more established and bold Danny to put his education to the test at speed. It paid off marvellously, and the gelding romped home easily just one second over the time. Eleventh place in tough conditions at Kentucky this spring sealed the deal and showed off how classy this pair are. He’ll be an asset to this team effort and could well feature in the top ten himself.

Fun fact: Danny’s a firm favourite among the team at Jesse and wife Georgie’s Wiltshire base, where he’s Mr Perfect in every way – except, of course, when he gets bored on his holidays and jumps the farm’s five-bar gates for fun. This is Jesse’s Olympic debut, and he’ll be a joy to watch across the country: he got his start retraining ex-racehorses and has trained with Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson, so his feel and tact are exceptional.

Jonelle Price and Grovine de Reve. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Jonelle Price with Grovine de Reve

13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Hermea de Reve – Erkina Jane, by Rimilis), owned by Therese Miller and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 31.9

XC speed rating: 4.2

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Though the partnership between Grovine de Reve and Jonelle is fairly new – they only joined forces in early 2019 – Reve brings championship experience to the table. Produced to CCI3*-S by Rodney Powell and then to CCI4*-L by Dan Jocelyn, Reve was part of the Kiwi effort at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, where he finished 38th after a 32.8 dressage, a clear cross-country round with 13.2 time penalties, and two rails knocked on the final day. That was to be his last competition with Dan, and since then, we’ve seen some exciting results from the horse, including top-ten finishes in Event Rider Masters classes at Wiesbaden and Jardy and a second place finish in the CCI4*-L at Camphire. More recently, he stepped into the spotlight when finishing 12th at Pau CCI5* in 2020 and then third at Kentucky this spring. He’s fast – and ridden by the fastest woman in the world – and tends to post marks that are consistently around 30. His showjumping is improving but has let him down in the past – right now, it’s 50/50 whether he’ll go clear or knock one. Kentucky proved that on his day, he could be a dark horse shout for a medal – and the Kiwi team will be looking to change their fortunes at the Games. This will be Jonelle’s third Games – she was part of the bronze medal winning team at London 2012.

Fun fact: Tim and Jonelle aren’t the only power couple on an equestrian team together at this Games – Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhoud have been together more than a decade and both competed on the Dutch dressage team.

Tim Price and Vitali. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price with Vitali

11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contender – Noble Lady I, by Heraldik xx), owned by Joe and Alex Giannamore and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 26.2

XC speed rating: 3.9

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: The announcement of Vitali as Tim’s ride for the Kiwi team might have come as something of a surprise to many – after all, he has five-star winners in his string, and only paired up with the gelding in October of 2020. Admittedly, Tim’s original aim had been to ride 18-year-old Wesko here for his last hurrah, but the gelding sustained a minor injury in the build-up and was retired. Vitali is extremely talented but green, with just 12 FEI runs under his belt. He was originally intended as a ride for Jock Paget, but when Jock opted to relocate back to New Zealand, fellow Kiwi James Avery inherited his yard, sponsorship, and horses, and produced Vitali through the FEI levels to his first CCI4*-S at Blenheim. They led the dressage there – despite the groom forgetting to put studs in, and despite Vitali never having run an Advanced – added just 2.4 time penalties on cross-country, and ultimately finished sixth after James lost his reins on course and they pulled a rail. That was their last competition together, back in 2018, and though the horse flitted from yard to yard a bit after that, he didn’t compete in an FEI event again until this April, when he and Tim won Strzegom CCI4*-L in their first international run together. They then finished sixth in the seriously competitive CCI4*-S at Luhmühlen last month, and led the dressage at Barbury CCI4*-S in July, pulled a highly uncharacteristic two rails due to the crowds, and then executed a planned withdrawal. The Olympics will be just their third international cross-country run together, but Tim’s as experienced as they come and Vitali, who has eight FEI top tens in 12 runs, should rise to the challenge as a dark horse contender.

Fun fact: Tim Price is currently World #2, just five points behind Oliver Townend in the #1 spot. Their results this week could change everything.

Travelling reserve: Bundy Philpott with Tresca NZPH – 15-year-old New Zealand Sport Horse gelding (Fuego du Parlet – Paradise NZPH, by Barbarian), owned by Brian Philpott and the rider

POLAND

Poland’s Malgorzata Cybulska and Chenaro 2. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Małgorzata Cybulska with Chenaro 2 

12-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Chequille – Dayenne, by Dinaro), owned by Marzenna Walden

4*/5* dressage average: 31.8

XC speed rating: 3

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 23-year-old Malgorzata – known as Gosia – is one of the youngest riders in this year’s field, and she rides a horse she’s produced from a five-year-old. Together, they’ve competed at a Junior Europeans and two Young Rider Europeans, and in 2019, they made their Senior debut at the European Championships at Luhmühlen, jumping a polished clear and finishing just outside the top 30 despite a major spinal surgery for degenerative disk disease earlier that year, which meant she couldn’t ride for six months. They’ve proven they can go sub-30, but are more likely to sit in the mid-30s this week. More importantly, they’ll want to deliver a characteristically confident, if steady, cross-country round, like they did in their final run at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S in June – not a run like the one they had at Baborowko in May, where they picked up 40 penalties on course. Getting home will be the key, because Poland no longer has a substitute pair if things go pear-shaped for any of the riders.

Fun fact: Gosia balances her eventing with studying Psychology at the University of Warsaw. She celebrates every major success by going out for sushi, so she’s certainly making her Olympic debut in the right country.

Jan Kaminski with Jard

11-year-old Polish Half-Bred gelding (Czuwaj – Jucznia, by Chef Supreme) owned by Marcin Kaminski

4*/5* dressage average: 35.3

XC speed rating: 4.9

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: The 2018 Polish Champion steps into the team following the sad elimination of lynchpins Pawel Spisak and Banderas at the first horse inspection. This is his second Senior Championship: he competed at the 2019 Europeans as an individual with Jard, but was eliminated on cross-country day, and has ridden at two Young Rider Europeans. As a sub combo, he and Jard have an important role: get home safely, without heroics, so that the team can complete. We haven’t seen them contest a long-format event since the Europeans in 2019, and he’s had some issues in short-formats since then, so expect them to take some alternative routes and make some sensible decisions under team orders. This effort will build valuable experience for the future for this young team.

Fun fact: Jan works as chef d’equipe for the Polish Young Rider squad alongside his own competitive career.

Joanna Pawlak and Fantastic Frieda. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Joanna Pawlak with Fantastic Frieda

12-year-old Hanoverian mare (For Edition – Pirola, by Pinkus), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 42.3

XC speed rating: 3.1

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: At 30, Joanna is the oldest rider on this young team of up-and-comers, and though she’s competed at Junior and Young Rider Europeans, this will be her first time representing her country at a Senior Championship. She and Frieda won’t make waves in the first phase, nor will they be particularly speedy across the country, but they’re reliable show jumpers and ordinarily very consistent across the country. They’ve had blips in two CCI4*-S events over the past year, so like Jan, they’ll need to make sensible decisions and prioritise a team completion and experience.

Fun fact: In 2018, Joanna was awarded Athlete of the Year at Wroclaw University of Technology, where she studied Geology. She’s a multitalented sort: she won a gold medal at the International Biennial of Children’s Art for her ceramics as a teenager, and has contested lots of singing competitions as a trained soprano.

Travelling reserve: none. Jan Kaminski and Jard have stepped into the team to replace Pawel Spisak and Banderas, who were spun at the first horse inspection.

PUERTO RICO

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by Abby Powell.

Lauren Billys with Castle Larchfield Purdy

19-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Karistos – Hallo Purdy, by Hallo), owned by the Purdy Syndicate CCC and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 35.6

XC speed rating: 2.3

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: California-based Lauren claims her Puerto Rican heritage through her grandmother, and became the first Puerto Rican eventer to go to the Olympics when she competed at Rio with Purdy. She and Purdy have had some recent blips, including a rider fall in the tough CCI4*-S at Kentucky this spring and a 20 at Galway Downs before that, but prior to that, they’ve picked up good results including second place in Rebecca Farm’s CCI4*-L, a win in the Twin Rivers CCI4*-S, and a top twenty at Fair Hill CCI4*-L. As one of the oldest horses in the field, Purdy will realistically be bowing out after this Games, so the aim won’t be to change the world: it’ll be to go out there and enjoy every second of the last hurrah of what has been a wonderful partnership over the last seven years.

Fun fact: Lauren majored in chemistry and wine at Cali State, making her absolutely the person you want to hang out with at the competitors’ party. She fundraised to make the trip out to Tokyo, and has been involved in contributing to others’ causes, too, including relief efforts for horses in Puerto Rico after the hurricane in 2017.

RUSSIA

Andrey Mitin and Gurza. Photo by Arnd Bronkhorst/www.arnd.nl for the FEI.

Andrey Mitin with Gurza

14-year-old Trakehner mare (Kwazimodo – Gabonya, by Bant), owned by Ferdinand Kibizov and the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 33.1

XC speed rating: 5

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Like many riders from Eastern Europe, Andrey largely competes at events with very small international fields, such as Minsk, which often has just three or four riders in a four-star. That means that this pair has several wins and second places on their FEI record, but it’s a slightly different story when they step onto the world stage. The aim at this Games, Andrey and Gurza’s second, will be to complete: they were eliminated at Rio, but have looked more confident and reliable since. This can partly be attributed simply to good health – Andrey underwent shoulder surgery prior to Rio and injured his hand just before the Games.

Fun fact: Russia’s riders will have to compete under the Olympic flag this year, rather than their nation’s flag, because of a ban on Russian athletes of all disciplines in the wake of the doping scandal of 2019.

Mikhail Nastenko with MP Imagine If

10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan – Fast Morning Flight, by Errigal Flight), owned by Tatyana Gura

4*/5* dressage average: 38.4

XC speed rating: 2.9

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: MP Imagine If is one of the youngest horses in this year’s field, but she’s had slightly more exposure to the wider eventing world than we’d ordinarily see from Russian combinations: her last outing was at Strzegom, though she picked up a 20 there, and she competed at the Young Horse World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers as a six- and seven-year-old. She’s amassed a collection of top ten placings in Russia and Belarus, though again, that doesn’t necessarily translate to the world stage, and Mikhail’s aim will be to give her a good, educational experience in what is his second Olympic appearance.

Fun fact: Mikhail represented Ukraine until 2009, when he opted to switch to riding for Russia. He comes from a traveller background, which is how he was first exposed to horse riding.

SOUTH AFRICA

Victoria Scott-Legendre and Valtho des Peupliers. Photo courtesy of Victoria Scott-Legendre.

Victoria Scott-Legendre with Valtho des Peupliers

12-year-old Selle Français gelding (Tinka’s Boy – Etna Pierreville, by Rosire), owned by the rider

4*/5* dressage average: 36.6

XC speed rating: 3.1

Reliability rating: ☆

Predicted poles: 3

The need-to-knows: This is an Olympic debut for Victoria and her horse, who represented South Africa at the 2018 WEG, though they had some issues on cross-country day and withdraw before showjumping. This will be a big ask for the inexperienced gelding, whose form doesn’t suggest he finds the four-star level particularly easy – though his final FEI run at Lignieres last year, which ordinarily has quite a tough track, was a steady clear. They haven’t run in an FEI event since then. Giving the horse an educational, confidence-building run is the goal here.

Fun fact: Like Lauren Billys, Victoria fundraised to make the trip to Tokyo. She grew up in South Africa and studied at the University of Pretoria, but relocated to France in 2013 to base herself with Rodolphe Scherer. She now runs a business with her husband, French eventer Edouard Legendre.

SPAIN

Francisco Gaviño Gonzalez with Source de la Faye

15-year-old Anglo-Arab mare (Tresor du Renom – dam unknown), owned by Francisco Gaviño Carabantes

4*/5* dressage average: 42.6

XC speed rating: 4.4

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: This is a first senior championship for Francisco, who rode for Spain on Junior and Young Rider teams. He and his Olympic ride both stepped up to four-star for the first time at Barroca d’Alva in early 2019, grabbing a win in that auspicious debut. Since then, they’ve finished eighth in their one and only CCI4*-L at Pratoni and 10th in their final prep run at Strzegom CCI4*-S, though they’ve also had a couple of rider falls, one on cross-country and one in showjumping, in the last year.  The goal will be to use cross-country day for experience and then get to the final phase, where they really shine.

Fun fact: Francisco’s father was formerly the president of the Spanish Association of Anglo-Arab Horse Breeders. He trains with Australian team member Andrew Hoy, and has a Pharmacy degree.

SWITZERLAND

Switzerland’s Robin Godel and the former Andrew Nicholson mount Jet Set. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Robin Godel with Jet Set

14-year-old Spanish Sport Horse gelding (Nordico – Carina), owned by Jean-Jacques Fünfschilling and Olivia Sellar

4*/5* dressage average: 34.2

XC speed rating: 3.7

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: It’s an Olympic debut for 22-year-old Robin, but not his first Senior championship – he was part of the Swiss team at the 2019 Europeans, went to the WEG in 2018, and competed for the Tokyo team ticket on offer at the Boekelo Nations Cup finale in 2019. He’s experienced beyond his years and a very exciting cross-country rider – and that’s certainly been helped by the fact that the Swiss team now trains for this phase with Andrew Nicholson, whose influence suits Robin’s natural abilities well. His mount this week isn’t his usual top horse, Grandeur de Lully, but rather Jet Set, a former CCI5* ride of Andrew’s. He picked up the ride at the beginning of 2020, and they’ve since competed at nine FEI events, finishing in the top ten four times and never picking up a cross-country penalty nor dropped a rail. Their first-phase score will put them out of the hunt but they should be reliable in both jumping phases, and this will give them some seriously valuable experience as they contribute to the development of Switzerland as an eventing nation.

Fun fact: Robin is very nearly the youngest rider in the field – but Austria’s Lea Siegl is a day younger than him. He’s based at Avenches, the site of this year’s European Championships, where he coaches students as well as training for his own competitive endeavours.

Melody Johner and Toubleu du Rueire. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mélody Johner with Toubleu du Rueire

14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Mr Blue – La Guna de Rueire, by Bayard d’Elle), owned by Peter Hasenböhler and Peter Thuerler

4*/5* dressage average: 36.1

XC speed rating: 4

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This is a relatively new partnership: they came together in early 2020, and the horse has rather done the rounds of Swiss riders. He competed at the 2017 European Championships with Sandra Leonhardt-Raith, then at the 2019 Europeans with Tiziana Realini, though he didn’t have much luck on either occasion. Despite this, he’s picked up 12 FEI top ten finishes since the end of 2017, and in his eight runs with Mélody, he’s been top-ten six times. They’ve not picked up any cross-country jumping penalties and looked at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S to be getting along well. This is Mélody’s second championship – she also rode at the 2017 Europeans, though was eliminated – and if they carry on on current form, they could put a respectable result on their record in their Olympic debut.

Fun fact: Mélody started her career as a showjumper, and was Swiss junior jumping champion in 2003. She picked up eventing in 2013 after her husband, Benoit, issued her a challenge.

Felix Vogg and Colero. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Felix Vogg with Colero

13-year-old Westfalian gelding (Captain Fire – Bonita, by Bormio xx), owned by Jürgen Vogg

4*/5* dressage average: 29.2

XC speed rating: 4.3

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: 31-year-old Felix is the lynchpin of the Swiss team, with considerable experience including two WEG appearances, a trip to the Rio Olympics, and three senior European Championships, as well as sixth place in the CCI5* at Kentucky with Colero in 2019, when they lead the first day of dressage. They’re capable of putting some very, very good scores on the board, and posted a 23.9 on their last run at Avenches, but those scores can fluctuate into the low-30s. They’re fast and accurate across the country, and ordinarily they’re reliable over the poles, though they had a highly uncharacteristic three down at Avenches. On their day, they could sneak into the top ten. They’ve done so 26 times out of their 39 FEI starts.

Fun fact: Felix, who was based in the US for two years, keeps the best of the best in his corner: he trains with Michael Jung, Bettina Hoy, and Andrew Nicholson. As a junior, he competed in the Swiss alpine skiing championships. No word on whether he keeps a pair of lederhosen on hand for special occasions. He’s actually German, so we expect so – though we mustn’t say that too loudly. His family has a rich history of representing Switzerland in equestrian sport: his grandfather evented at the 1956 Olympics, his mother competed at the Swiss equestrian championships in 1980, and his brother, Ben, rode at Rio.

Travelling reserve: Eveline Bodenmüller with Violine de la Brasserie – 12-year-old Swiss Warmblood mare (Galant Normand – Clarte de la Brasserie, by Cinema), owned by Mathias Bodenmüller and Christian Kohn

SWEDEN

Louise Romeike and Cato 60. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Louise Romeike with Cato 60

17-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contendro I – Melanocarpa, by Heraldik xx), owned by Hinrich, Louise and Susanne Romeike

4*/5* dressage average: 31.6

XC speed rating: 3.8

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: This is Louise’s Olympic debut, though she’s ridden at the 2018 WEG and three European Championships, picking up team silver in 2017 and team bronze in 2019. Cato 60, who was competed by husband Claas until 2020, ordinarily wouldn’t eclipse the likes of Wieloch’s Utah Sun or Waikiki in her string, but looked to come into his own enormously in his final run at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S in June, where he was fourth. They should contribute a strong finishing score to the team and could even nudge their way into the top ten individually, as they’ve been trending around 27 on the flat recently, are fairly quick and reliable across the country, and tend to be good over the poles, too.

Fun fact: Louise is married to German eventer Claas Romeike, whose father, Hinrich, won team and individual eventing gold at the 2008 Olympics with Marius, despite working full-time as a dentist. Louise used to balance her riding with working as a lingerie saleswoman, but after a trial weekend working for Germany’s Peter Thompsen, she decided to do the horse thing full time.

Ludwig Svennerstal and Balham Mist. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ludwig Svennerstål with Balham Mist

14-year-old British-Bred Sport Horse gelding (Mill Law – Rock Me Baby, by Rock King), owned by Andrew Ayres and Svennerstål Eventing AB

4*/5* dressage average: 34

XC speed rating: 4.8

Reliability rating: ☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: ‘Misty’ tends to either place or not complete, and there isn’t an awful lot in between – but their last handful of runs have seen them on good form, with an eighth place finish in a hot CCI4*-S class at Aston le Walls rounding off their 2021 season thus far. The CCI5* level has been an issue for them, with two rider falls and a 40pen in three runs – but the Olympic cross-country is set at four-star, which has historically been a more comfortable level for them. Ludwig is experienced at championships, with two Olympics, a WEG, and four Senior Europeans under his belt already, so he should be able to coax a solid performance out of the horse – but don’t expect them to fight for an individual medal. If they can finish on a score under 40, which they ought to, it’ll contribute to what could be a podium hunt for the team.

Fun fact: There are a few paternal half-sibling relationships in this field, but Balham Mist goes one better – he’s got the same dam as another entrant. That’s Colorado Blue, who’s been moved into the Irish team from the sub spot with Austin O’Connor. Both horses were bred by Kate Jarvey, a Boston native who owns Austin’s base, Attington Stud.

Therese Viklund and Viscera. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Therese Viklund with Viscera

13-year-old Hanoverian mare (Fidertanz 2 – Wilhelmientje, by Wolkentanz), owned by Lena Nyström

4*/5* dressage average: 29.8

XC speed rating: 2

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles:

The need-to-knows: This pair can produce a seriously smart dressage test, and have danced their way to scores in the mid-20s, including a 25.9 at their final prep run at Bicton CCI4*-S. Unfortunately, they also picked up their first 20 penalties since 2017 there, though as they’ve had eighteen consecutive clears at FEI events, we’ll let that one slide. They’re capable of being quick when Therese pushes for speed, but their final phase can let them down sometimes. This is a championship debut for the Swede, who relocated to Britain in 2020, and the partnership she has with this feisty little mare will serve her well this week. They could certainly impress.

Fun fact: Viscera only has one eye – though it hasn’t slowed her down in any way. She lost it in 2018 after a bout of uveitis, and Therese says she never felt any different after the fact. Travelling reserve: Sara Algotsson Ostholt with Chicuelo – 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Click and Cash 1155 – Expensi, by Empire 1115), owned by Patricia Oddshammar & Gunnar Modalen

THAILAND

Arinadtha Chavatanont and Boleybawn Prince. Photo by Pauline Chevalier/Saumur Horse Trials.

Arinadtha Chavatanont with Boleybawn Prince

17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Colin Diamond – Ann Brook Lass, by Clover Hill), owned by Karnchanaporn and Tanakom Chavatanont, Natthaya Lertrungamorn

4*/5* dressage average: 36.4

XC speed rating: 2.6

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Arinadtha comes forward as part of the first-ever Thai eventing team at the Olympics, led by trainer Maxime Livio. Her horse is a previous mount of Maxime’s, too – actually, he’s been the ride of pretty much everyone, from Dirk Schrade to Yoshi Oiwa to Dagmar Lipp – and ‘Mint’ first got the ride in 2016. She and Maxime have taken it in turns to do events with him since, and their results are generally consistent with the odd blip. They’re not here to be competitive, but to get the team home and gain vital experience.

Fun fact: 28-year-old Arinadtha has also show jumped at World Cups, even though she only began riding at the age of 15. Her eventing career began just five years ago. She’s a regular competitor and medallist at Asian Games and Championships, but this will be her first time competing on the world stage.

Weerapat Pitakanonda and Carnival March. Photo courtesy of the Thailand Equestrian Federation.

Weerapat Pitakanonda with Carnival March

10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cavalier Carnival – Ryans Cruise, by Atlantic Cruise), owned by Harald Link, Sureeporn Pitakanonda, and Nunthinee Tanner

4*/5* dressage average: 35.5

XC speed rating: 2.8

Reliability rating: ☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: ‘Bomb’, as he’s known to his pals, was part of the gold medal-winning Thai team at the 2019 Asian Championships, but this is a first championship on the world stage for the rider, who was previously based with Australia’s Sam Griffiths in the UK. Carnival March was formerly ridden by Piggy March (no relation), and she piloted him to ninth place at the Seven-Year-Old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers in 2018. Bomb took the ride in mid 2020, after the horse had had nearly two years off, and they’ve picked up a top ten in a CCI4*-L at Baborowko since – but they’ve had problems on cross-country in all three of their other attempts at the level. Their campaign this week will be about skipping the heroics and making sensible decisions instead to build experience and confidence for them both for the future.

Fun fact: He was inspired to try riding after watching The Legend of the Condor Heroes, a Chinese TV series that features some characters who rode.

Korntawat Samran and Bonero K. Photo courtesy of the Thailand Equestrian Federation.

Korntawat Samran with Bonero K

15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Son de Niro – Moonlight, by Damiro), owned by Nara Ketusingha and Vithai Laithomya

4*/5* dressage average: 35.8

XC speed rating: 2.8

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 2

The need-to-knows: Originally produced by Britain’s Roo Fox, Bonero K was briefly piloted by Spain’s Alberto Hermoso Farras in 2019 before ‘Nat’ took the reins in July of that year. After a couple of early teething problems, they were away flying, with eight consecutive clear cross-country runs at FEI events. A 20 in the CCI3*-S at Saumur earlier this year broke that streak, but they’ve finished ninth at the same level at Baborowko since. Like the other Thai riders, Nat’s main priority will be an educational completion – particularly as they don’t have a reserve rider – but they look the most reliable of the three and even come in with an FEI win under their belt, which they earned in a CCI3*-S at Barroca d’Alva at the end of 2020.

Fun fact: Nat won the 2019 Princess’s Cup at the Equestrian Rising Star Awards Night in Thailand. He has a degree in Sports Science from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Travelling reserve: none

USA

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Phillip Dutton with Z

13-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Asca – Bellabouche, by Babouche VH Gehucht Z), owned by Thomas Tierney, Ann Jones, Caroline Moran, Simon Roosevelt, and Suzanne Lacy

4*/5* dressage average: 30.9

XC speed rating: 4.7

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: The first of our Ameri-stralians on the US team, P.Dutty was actually named to the Aussie Sports Hall of Fame back in 2002. He relocated to the US in 2001 to put himself in a hub of the sport, and changed nationality officially in 2007. He’s long been the country’s most stalwart campaigner on teams, and this will be his seventh Games. He won individual gold at Rio on Mighty Nice, and Z finished 13th at the WEG in 2018. Though Z had a tricky 2019 with a few blips, he’s been on top form since, with six top-ten FEI runs in a row. They finished eighth at Kentucky this spring, and are fast, reliable, and super over the poles. Their 25.3 in a CCI4*-S earlier this year proved they can even scare the dressage leaders – but we’re more likely to see them post a high 20s score and climb after that.

Fun fact: Phillip is the oldest US athlete competing in any sport at the Olympics this year – and was at Rio, too. He was inspired by Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl at 43 this year: “I was very inspired by Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, because he kind of proved that there’s no set age or number for when you can do your best. I don’t think there’s a set number when you have to stop. I’d like to go for as long as I can, but I also don’t want to be stupid about it. I don’t see a retirement date at this stage. As long as I’m not embarrassing myself or the family, I think I can keep going for a while.”

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin with Tsetserleg TSF

14-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II – Thabana, by Buddenbrock), owned by Christine Turner, Thomas Turner, and Tommie Turner

4*/5* dressage average: 30.5

XC speed rating: 4.4

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 0

The need-to-knows: Boyd was born to be an Olympian – after all, both his parents were. His dad, Ross, competed for Australia in cross-country skiing while his mum, Toy, represented the USA in speed skating. This will be his third Olympics: he competed at London, though didn’t complete, and was in the top twenty at Rio. He’s also done three WEGs, including 2018 with Tsetserleg, and two Pan-American Games, winning team and individual gold with Tsetserleg in 2019 and helping the US earn a ticket to Tokyo in the process. Tsetserleg was the US National Champion in 2019 after finishing as the highest-placed American at Kentucky, where they were second, and in their last eight FEI runs, they’ve been first or second six times. Their Kentucky run this spring was unfortunate: they had a freak fall near the end of the course when Tsetserleg left a leg, as a couple of other ordinarily consistent horses did, and they haven’t had an international run since. He wasn’t originally named to the team, but has been swapped in as a reserve horse, and Boyd may need to nurture him a bit around the course to ensure his confidence wasn’t dented in Kentucky. If they can put that blip behind them, they can fight for a podium place.

Fun fact: Both Tsetserleg – who’s named after a town in Mongolia – and Doug’s ride Vandiver are by Windfall II, the Trakehner stallion with whom Darren Chiacchia won team bronze at Athens in 2004. Boyd first saw him as a four-year-old being ridden at a clinic in Texas and admits he thought he was nothing more than a fat, woolly pony. Fortunately, ‘Thomas’ didn’t take it personally.

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Doug Payne with Vandiver

17-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II – Visions of Grandeur, by Mystic Replica xx), owned by Debi Crowley, Doug Payne, and Jessica Payne

4*/5* dressage average: 34.9

XC speed rating: 4.2

Reliability rating: ☆☆☆

Predicted poles: 1

The need-to-knows: Doug and Vandiver were originally named as travelling alternates for Team USA, but stepped into the team after the withdrawal of Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. They haven’t finished lower than 12th in an FEI event since Burghley in 2019, where they took a tumble, but it hasn’t had any negative effect – they were twelfth at Kentucky this spring and won the CCI4*-S at Tryon earlier this year, which bodes well since Doug spotted some similarities between Tryon and Tokyo’s tracks while walking. They’re an experienced and solid pair and should deliver a strong result that helps push the US towards a long-awaited team podium place.

Fun fact: Doug likes to relax by…flying planes, which doesn’t sound relaxing at all. “Usually I just rent a plane from the flight school when I need it. It allows us more time to spend with family. It’s something different. My background is in engineering, so I really enjoy it; it gets your brain working. Frankly, the learning process to fly, there were a lot of similarities to riding. It’s helped me with teaching and thinking about different ways to learn,” he told the Chronicle of the Horse

Travelling reserve: Tamie Smith with Mai Baum – 15-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Loredano 2 – Ramira, by Rike), owned by Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell

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