The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, postponed by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

With the ongoing coronavirus situation, third- and fourth-wave concerns and slow vaccine rollouts in many countries, how these Games will look is still very much in question. The Olympic Playbook for Athletes and Officials outlines strict protocols including Covid testing, avoiding physical contact and even “supporting athletes by clapping rather than singing or chanting.” (good luck with that on the soccer pitch!)

The prospect of Canadians travelling to Japan to cheer on their teams became a non-starter when on March 22nd officials confirmed that, after weeks of speculation, no overseas spectators would be allowed at these Olympics.

FEI Adjusts Eligibility Criteria Deadlines

All riders are required to complete Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MER) by a certain date in order to qualify to compete at the Olympic Games. Since the Games were postposed for a year, and it was impossible for many athletes to compete during the Covid-19 pandemic, the FEI made modifications to the athletes’ eligibility criteria. This includes the introduction of the “Confirmation Result” for the three disciplines for those athlete/horse combinations that had already achieved the Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MER) during the original period of January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019. Those combinations must now achieve an additional confirming result during the period January 1, 2020 – June 21, 2021.

Rescheduling the MER deadline to June 21, 2021 ‒ three weeks later than the corresponding deadline in 2020 ‒ is intended to maximize opportunities for athlete/horse combinations (including new combinations) to obtain their MER. According to an FEI spokesperson, “This has been introduced to ensure that all Athlete/Horse combinations that will compete at the rescheduled Olympic Games have achieved an appropriate result during a reasonable period of time before the Olympic Games.”

With so much still up in the air we look at Canada’s equestrian athletes, how they will be selected and who the top prospects are at this point – with the understanding that the landscape could look quite different in the next few months.


Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu and All In. (Susan Stickle photo)

Eligibility: Canada’s team eligibility was based on their result at the 2019 Pan American Games, where they won a gold medal. EC plans to send a team of three horse/rider combinations; the performance objective for the Canadian Dressage team is a top-8 finish.

FEI MER: Horse and rider must achieve a minimum score of 66% twice in a Grand Prix test at two different CDI3*/CDI4*/CDI5*/CDI-W/CDIO events, from January 2019 until the MER deadline of June 21, 2021. The scores include an individual score from an FEI 5* judge on the panel who must be of another nationality, i.e. not a Canadian judge.

EC Qualification: Qualification scores must be achieved at CDI3* or higher. Athlete/horse combinations must compete in a minimum of three Grand Prix, plus three Grand Prix Specials in 2021. EC Qualification period runs from January 1, 2020 to June 13th, 2021.
*A minimum of one Grand Prix and one Grand Prix Special score must be achieved after April 1st, 2021** and will count towards the athlete’s final ranking average. Also, rider/horse combinations must compete in at least one Grand Prix Freestyle in 2020 or 2021 to be considered for nomination.

For Canada to send a full team to the COC for the 2020 Games the final ranking average for the team must be 70% or higher. The athlete/horse combination with the highest final ranking average will be nominated to the team; the final two athlete/horse combinations, as well as up to two athlete/horse combinations named as reserves, will be nominated in an effort to field the best possible team. Most recent scores and consistency will be considered, and previous international experience will be taken into consideration.

Timeline: Declarations for the 2020 OG for all disciplines had to be submitted by Monday, November 2nd, 2020. At the time of this writing a full list of Canadian equestrian athletes declared for Tokyo 2020 in all three disciplines was not made available from EC.

Announcement: Athletes (including alternates) will be privately informed of their nomination on or before Friday, June 18th, 2021. EC will officially announce the team after the athletes are notified in writing of their nomination. The COC athlete nomination deadline is June 30th, 2021. A quarantine/staging camp will be held sometime between July 5th – July 22nd, 2021 at a location TBD.

Selection Committee: The Dressage High Performance Advisory Group (HPAG) will comprise the nomination panel and consists of:
• Team Manager – Christine Peters, (also Discipline Manager)
• Technical Expert – Joan Macartney (Former FEI Dressage Judge)
• Team Veterinarian – Dr. Alan Manning
• Dressage Committee Rep. – Victoria Winter
• Athlete Representative – Wendy Christoff
• High Performance Director – James Hood (ex officio)

Remaining North American Qualifying Events: *
March 31-April 4 – AGDF Wellington Florida
April 8-11 – Rancho Murieta, California
April 15-18 – Ocala Florida
April 22-25 – Tryon International EC, NC
May 21-23 – Ottawa, Ontario
June 4-6 – Cedar Valley, Ontario

* EC has noted that in the event of one or more of the above shows indicated in bold are cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, EHV-1 outbreak or other unforeseen circumstances, a minimum of two Grand Prix plus two Grand Prix Special classes in 2021 must be completed to be considered for nomination. If all 3 of these shows are cancelled, no CDI scores would be required after April 1st, 2021.

Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu and All In currently lead the way, already logging a number of generous qualifying scores this year. They should be a shoo-in for the team, with piles of international experience backing them up.
Lindsay Kellock and Sebastien have been making their mark at AGDF with personal-best scores and while her Lima gold medal Pan Am ride was Floratina, this pair could make the team.

Beyond that it could be a bit of a toss-up between Naima Moreira Laliberté with the international veteran Statesman or I Do Kiss, Jill Irving and Arthur, Diane Creech with Chrevis Christo, and Chris von Martels with his new ride Eclips. Several others who had qualifying scores last year but have not yet stepped into the ring in 2021 include Megan Lane and Zodiac MW, and Jaimey Irwin and Donegal. It will be interesting to see how the final qualifying events shape up.

Show Jumping

Eric Lamaze and Dieu Merci van T & L. (Mario Grassia/CHI Al Shaqab 2021)

Originally, prospective candidates were ‘strongly encouraged’ to attend WEF and Spruce Meadows, but as the latter’s summer tournaments have been cancelled, and due to the current equine herpesvirus situation, plans have changed somewhat. According to Karen Hendry-Ouellette, Manager of Sport – Jumping, “We will not be adding anything to the criteria as a requirement to replace Spruce Meadows. We had originally suggested athletes attend Spruce Meadows, however with borders remaining closed and the change in dates to September this is no longer possible. Also with the current outbreak of EHV-1 as well as Europe being shut down to the middle of April, the plans for our High Performance athletes remains uncertain past end of circuit in Florida.”

Eligibility: While Canada originally earned a team spot at the 2019 Pan Am Games, it was lost with the positive drug test of Nikki Walker. Now we will send just one athlete as an individual, earned via Erynn Ballard’s 13th place finish at those Pan Ams.

Timeline: During the second week of April 2021, the list of individual athletes will be narrowed down to the top five individuals. The Jumping Discipline Manager will privately inform 2020 OG athletes (including alternates) in writing of their nomination on or before Monday, June 14, 2021. An official announcement will follow. The COC will submit to OC the Definite Sport Entries on or before Monday, July 5, 2021.

FEI MER: Is quite extensive and can be found here, page 2.

EC Qualification: A number of factors will come into play during the selection window including past major games experience, Nations Cups results of 4 faults or less, percentage of clear rounds in FEI competition, and World Rankings. Any athlete/horse who achieved full MER during the original qualification period of January 1-December 31, 2019 must achieve an additional confirming result during the period January 1, 2020 to June 21, 2021.

Selection Committee:

  • Mark Laskin (Chair)
  • Gail Greenough
  • Mike Lawrence
  • Beth Underhill
  • Marni Von Schalburg
  • Assisted by High Performance director James Hood and Jumping manager Karen Hendry-Ouellette

Remaining North American Qualifying Events:
March 30-April 4 – CSI4 Wellington, FL
May 11-15 – CSI3 Lexington, Horse Park KY
May 18-22 – CSI3 Lexington, Horse Park KY
May 18-23 – CSI3 North Salem NY
May 25-30 – CSI5 TBird,Langley BC
May 31-June 5 – CSI4 Devon PA
June 1-6 – CSI3 Tryon International EC, NC
June 1-6 – CSIO5 TBird, Langley BC
June 8-13 – CSI3 Tryon International EC, NC
June 9-13 – CSI4 Traverse City, MI
June 16-20 – CSI3 Lexington KY

Eric Lamaze would be the obvious choice as he started the year off well with several of his mounts, including Dieu Merci van T&L, a horse he has publicly stated re: Tokyo, “I will definitely go with this horse” if given the nod, but Chacco Kid has also been very consistent for him.

Others campaigning in Florida this past winter include Amy Millar and Truman, who were the stars of the Canadian Team in the Nations Cup with two clear rounds (and a confirmation result); Tiffany Foster with Figor;  Erynn Ballard is partially qualified with the Ilan Ferder-owned Kamilla D, and Mario Deslauriers and Bardolina 2.



Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D’Argouges.

Eligibility: Canada has qualified to send two individuals to Tokyo on the strength of FEI Olympic Rankings for Group D.

– Dressage: Minimum 55% percent (45pp or less)
– Cross-Country: A clear round (0 jumping penalties) or a maximum of 11 points for activating one frangible device. Exceeding the optimum time by no more than 75 secs (3* & 4*) and 100 secs (5*)
– Jumping: not more than 16 jumping penalties in stadium.
An athlete/horse combination that achieved the full MER only during the period January 1-Dec 31 2019 must achieve an additional “Confirmation Result”.

EC Qualification: The Selection Panel will consider performances in international CCI 5*-L, CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S competitions in 2019-2021. Results at 4*/5* level prior to 2019 may be considered. Reliable XC performances without jumping penalties will be taken into consideration, as well as current fitness and soundness, among other factors.


Selection Committee:

  • James Atkinson
  • Penny Rowland
  • Assisted by High Performance Director, James Hood and Eventing Manager, Fleur Tipton (ex officio)
  • assisted by veterinarian Dr. Anne Baskett

Timeline: Chosen athletes and owners will be informed on or before June 21, 2021, the official announcement will happen at an undisclosed date following. Definite entries will be expected to attend a training camp at a date and location TBA.

Remaining North American Qualifying Events:
April 2-4 – CCI4*-S Tryon NC
April 8-11 – CCS4*-L/S Paso Robles, CA
April 9-11 – CCI4*-S Elkton, MD
April 9-11 – CCI4*-S Fairburn GA
April 21-25 – CCI5*-L/4*-S Lexington KY
May 5-9 – CCI4*-L/S Allentown NJ
June 2-6 – CCI4*-L/S Bromont QC

Eventing especially is tricky to predict this time around due in large part to the fact that there have been so few upper-level events recently ‒ only one CCI5*-L at all in 2020 at Pau, France ‒ plus the difficulty crossing borders, so there appear to be just a handful of candidates at this point.

Colleen Loach and Peter Barry’s Qorry Blue D’Argouges got off to a rip-roaring start in 2021, placing 2nd in the CCI4*-S at the Red Hills International in Florida in mid-March. Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes were 5th in the division; Holly Jacks-Smither and Candy King were 7th; Jacks-Smither and More Inspiration placed 4th at the Stable View Spring FEI CCI4*-S in late March. Pan Am graduate Dana Cooke and FE Mississippi were 5th in the CCI3* at Carolina International.

All eyes will be on the Land Rover Kentucky 3-Day Event where Canadian entries besides Loach, Slezak and Jacks-Smither include Hawley Bennett-Awad/Jollybo, Lisa Marie Fergusson/Honor Me, and Waylon Roberts/Lancaster in the CCI5*-L. In the CCI4*-S Canada will be well-represented by Kyle Carter/Reddy Or Not, Colleen Loach/FE Golden Eye and Vermont, and Jessica Phoenix with Watson GS, Wabbit, Pavarotti and Bogue Sound.



Lauren Barwick and Sandrino. (Susan Stickle photo)

The 2020 Paralympic Games will take place in Tokyo August 24th – September 5th, 2021.

Eligibility: Canada has qualified to send a team (of three or four) to these Olympics by being the highest-ranked team not already qualified on the FEI Paralympic Team Ranking List for the Americas.

FEI MER: To be eligible for selection, athlete/horse combinations must have achieved at least one 62% percent score at a FEI Para Equestrian 3* or above in an Individual or Team competition between Jan. 1, 2019 and July 5, 2021.

EC Qualification: The EC qualification period runs from January 1st, 2020 to July 5th, 2021. Technical qualification scores must be achieved at CPEDI3* or higher competitions. All six scores submitted for consideration submitted by July 6th, 2021 must be 67%, or higher and must include a minimum of one Team Test, one Individual Test and a maximum of two Freestyle Tests.

Should Canada not have enough eligible athlete/horse combinations with a ranking average of 67% or higher to fill a team, then nomination of those with a lower ranking average will be subject to the approval of the HPAG.

Selection Committee:
• Technical Leader – Clive Milkins
• Team Veterinarian – Dr. Alan Manning
• Para Dressage Committee – Elizabeth Quigg
• Athlete Representative – Ashley Gowanlock
• Team Manager – Christine Peters, DTM (non-voting)
• High Performance Director – James Hood (ex officio)

Timeline: The HPAG will inform the 2020 PG athlete/horse combinations and alternates officially in writing of their nomination on or before July 12th, 2021. Nominated combinations plus alternates will be required to attend a pre-2020 PG Quarantine/Staging Camp likely between August 5th – August 24th, 2021 at a location TBD.

Remaining North American Competitions:
May 20-23, 2021 Ottawa, ON
June 4 – 6, 2021 Cedar Valley, ON
June 17-20 Tryon NC

If both Canadian events are cancelled for whatever reason, and no nationally-sanctioned replacement Tokyo qualification event(s) can be held, athletes with no 2021 scores will be allowed to carry 3 scores forward from 2020 and/or the The FEI Para Dressage World Ranking List will be used to select athletes who have no scores from 2021 for consideration.


Paralympic and WEG veteran Lauren Barwick (Gr.3) and Sandrino have had some great 75+ scores lately in Global Dressage Festival competition in Florida.

Winona Hartvikson (Gr.1) and Onyx had some good scores in 2020, as did Jody Schloss (Gr.1) with Lieutenant Lobin. Jason Surnoski/Phoenix and Lee Garrod/Question (Gr.5) had qualifying scores in 2020.

Across the pond, Roberta Sheffield (Gr.3) and WonkyHorse (Fairuza) have achieved the original MER but still need a 2021 result. While they have been training hard, there have been no opportunities to add to their 2020 scores due to the current EHV-1 lockdown in Europe. She is planning to go to some European shows once the lockdown is lifted, and the Hartpury CPEDI3* in the UK July. “It’s going to be a bit nerve-wracking trying to negotiate all the rules and regulations regarding Covid, Brexit and EHV1 but going to give it our best shot,” Sheffield said. “Fairuza is going beautifully, she’s matured, the extra year was perfect for her. I’m excited to get out there competing and representing Canada again when I can.”


For more information about the Tokyo Olympics, visit