Equestrian Sport NZ has today made the announcement that despite best endeavours New Zealand will not be represented in either Dressage or Para-Dressage at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

High performance general manager Jock Paget took his hat off to the riders who had been pushing hard to achieve the necessary qualifications but had been hampered at every turn by the effects of the Covid pandemic.

“I sympathise with the riders and applaud their efforts to exhaust all options,” he said. “We have worked closely with the New Zealand Olympic Committee to do everything we can to try and qualify combinations and we thank them for their flexibility but unfortunately it’s not to be this time.

“We will have to turn our attention for Dressage and Para-Dressage to the world championships next year.

New Zealand had qualified a single spot in Dressage through the efforts of Wendi Williamson and Don Amour MH topping the Group G rankings. The nation had also qualified two in para dressage.

No combinations in either the Dressage or Para-Dressage had been able to achieve the ESNZ Olympic nomination criteria. Once the 2020 Olympic Games were postponed and covid impacted travel for international judges, the NZOC approved alterations to the nomination criteria to allow the grand prix special to count towards performance criteria scores, with the number of scores required lowered from four to three.

At that stage, it was hopeful CDI FEI dressage competitions would be able to be held in both New Zealand and Australia, but once again COVID got in the way of that and they never eventuated. More recently, ESNZ looked at considering national level grand prix results to count towards riders’ performance criteria scores. However, none achieved the scores required at the necessary level of events to prove the possibility of a top 16 performance at the Olympic Games. Plans by some athletes to head to Europe to campaign were dashed by COVID and EVH-1.

Equally there were no Para-Dressage combinations that achieved the nomination criteria either. The Land Rover Horse of the Year Show was meant to be the last qualifying opportunity for combinations and when that was cancelled that impacted the selection events further.

“There is so much skill, hard work, commitment and sacrifice that goes into qualifying and then actually lining up for an Olympic Games, let alone trying to do it in the middle of a global pandemic,” he said. “I trust this will be good fuel to their WEG campaigns next year.”

Had dressage joined Eventing and Jumping at the Tokyo Olympic Games, it would have been just the third time ever, New Zealand had all three represented at a single games.

By ESNZ, 5 June 2021