The stunning venue at Baji Koen set the stage for the long-awaited start of equestrian competition at these delayed Olympic Games. A hot, humid evening and an empty stadium greeted horses and riders as they kicked off dressage with the Grand Prix.

Three groups of 10 horses/riders compete on each of the two days, with the top two athletes from each group, and the six athletes with the next best scores (including ties) qualifying for the Individual Final (Grand Prix Freestyle). The members of each group are determined by World Rankings so that there are top riders included in each flight.

The FEI Grand Prix test, in which all athletes must participate, is also a qualifier for the team competition. The qualification ranking will be decided by the results of all three team members (no drop score as in the past).

The top eight teams in the Grand Prix (and those tied for eighth place) will qualify for the FEI Grand Prix Special on July 27. During the period between the Grand Prix and up to two hours before the start of the Grand Prix Special, the chef d’équipe may substitute an athlete/horse combination. However, the substitute combination will not be entitled to compete in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle, which will decide the individual champion.

Canada’s sole entry on this opening day was Chris von Martels with Eclips (Apache x Olympic Ferro), a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding that he co-owns with Barbara Soederhuizen. The pair had a lovely, active test featuring solid transitions and generous movement front and behind, but had a slightly early change and a bobble in the final passage up centreline. Still, their score of 68.059% seemed a bit low.

The team silver and individual bronze medallist at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games riding Zilverstar, von Martels, 38, has only been paired with Eclips in the Grand Prix division since the spring of 2020, but the pair won team bronze at the Wellington 2021 FEI CDIO 3* Nations Cup and scored 79.095% at a CDI 4* in Tryon.

Von Martels commented after his ride about the Olympic atmosphere and his horse’s performance. “There’s always a big difference between the warm-up and the arena, obviously, and even without the spectators there is still a lot of atmosphere in there. But I’m actually very happy with my horse; of course we had a lot of expensive mistakes that cost us quite a few points, but overall I’m thrilled with him, I think he’s an exceptional horse. This is still his first real year in Grand Prix. Obviously I was hoping for a different result, but that’s also part of the sport.”

Part of that outcome could be attributed to their relatively short time together, roughly 16 months. “Not such a long time, as far as a Grand Prix or Olympic career, [compared to] how much longer the other combinations perhaps spent together. But I do feel that we have a very good, I’d like to say, relationship and friendship.”

“There’s a lot of great things that we have done together in that short period of time but we need a little bit more exposure in the big, big, big arenas to be able to do what we can.”

In the team standings, The Netherlands holds the lead ahead of Denmark in silver medal spot and Great Britain in bronze. Canada currently sits 11th with two members riding on Sunday.

Automatic qualifiers for the Freestyle from today’s 3 groups include:
Charlotte Fry, Everdale (GBR) 77.096%
Therese Nilshagen, Dante Weltino OLD (SWE) 75.140%
Dufour Cathrine, Bohemian (DEN) 81.056%
Edward Gal, Total US (NED) 78.649%
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, TSF Dalera (GER) 84.379%
Sabine Schut-Kery, Sanceo (USA) 78.416%

Complete results here.


  • Victoria Max-Theurer (AUT) had to withdraw Abegglen NRW due to an acute tooth abscess. Because the horse was withdrawn after the first horse inspection the pair cannot be replaced by an alternate, so the Austrians now do not have a team.
  • One of the most thrilling performances of the day was by the young (9) Total US with Edward Gal (NED). The black stallion looks and performs much like his legendary dad, Totilas, with extravagant movement that was rewarded with 78.649%.

Edward Gal (NED) with ride Total Us (by Totilas). (FEI/Christophe Taniere)