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Germany’s Ulla Salzgeber Clings to Narrow Lead in Individual Olympic Dressage

The race for individual medals in Olympic dressage is playing out according to predictions, in spite of questionable performances from the leaders and outstanding tests by their followers. Still in the lead is Ulla Salzgeber of Germany on Rusty, but the gap has been eaten up by defending Olympic champion Anky van Grunsven from The Netherlands on Salinero. Salinero won today’s Speciale with 77.800%.  Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat and Beauvalais, second today to van Grunsven, are in third, with American Debbie McDonald and Brentina close behind in fourth.

After an outstanding Grand Prix test on Saturday, Ulla Salzgeber’s sixteen year old Latvian gelding Rusty came into the ring today spooky and a little on the muscle. His biggest mistake was in the one tempis, where Salzgeber was unable to recover the count after the half way point. She later explained that the windy conditions today were to blame for Rusty’s inattentiveness. “The letters in the warm up ring blew over, and when the stewards put them back they just blew over again. For me it was clear I would have problems when I went in. it was not unexpected for me that it was a little bit difficult today.” In spite of the mistakes and spooks, Rusty was rewarded with 74.840%, which combined with the Grand Prix score from Friday, keeps him just ahead of Salinero.

Anky van Grunsven was pleased with Salinero’s effort today. The ten year old gelding has spectacular, if somewhat unstable passage, and the test was for the most part mistake-free, but by no means free of tension. “I had my problems in the Grand Prix with Salinero being afraid in the ring and spooky and nervous. So this morning with the wind I also thought it would be difficult. But I schooled him earlier this morning a little bit. In the warm up he was very good for me and a little more quiet than for the Grand Prix. There were little things but the feeling was very good.”

Now in third place overall, Beatriz Ferrer-Salat rode Beauvalais through a fluid and harmonious test today, and was pleased with her horse. “He wasn’t bothered by the wind. I think it was a very clean test and brilliant, so I’m very happy.” Also putting in their trademark clean and correct test were Debbie McDonald and Brentina. They are close behind the Spanish pair, and the battle for bronze in the final on Wednesday may well be as close as that for gold and silver.

McDonald’s teammate Robert Dover crept up the leader board today with an exciting test on Kennedy; he improved his placing of ninth after the Grand Prix up to to sixth overall. Another rider experiencing upward mobility was Denmark’s Andreas Helgstrand, who rides Lars Pedersen’s old partner Cavan. He moved up from twenty-second to tenth after the Speciale with marked improvements in the piaffes.

Individual dressage competition will culminate on August 25th, when the top fifteen from the Speciale compete in the Grand Prix Freestyle to Music.

The Canadian team did not qualify for the Grand Prix Speciale, the first of two individual rounds, since they did not make the top 25 in the Grand Prix. Team Chef d’Equipe Gwynne Rooke says that she is nevertheless happy with the team’s performance. “Each one delivered on the day what they had to deliver.” Canada improved its world ranking by one position here in Athens, and the average score for the team members was higher than it was just two years ago at the World Championships in Spain. Canada did not even qualify to compete with a team in Sydney, so by all counts, the Canadian team is moving in the right direction. “It was demonstrated to us that it’s just a long slow climb back up there to the place where the judges want to pay attention to you” concludes Rooke. “I think that in order to get that to happen we have to send our top horses to Europe. I think that our athletes recognize the issues and I think the management of dressage does too. It’s just a matter of getting the resources to make it happen.”

Judging Panel:
President - Dieter Schuele (GER), Beatrice Burchler-Keller (SUI), Francis van Rooy Verbeek (NED), Wojciech Markowski (POL), Mariette Withages (BEL).

Results – Grand Prix Speciale

1. Anky van Grunsven/Salinero (NED) – 77.800%
2. Beatriz Ferrer-Salat/Beauvalais (ESP) – 75.760%
3. Ulla Salzgeber/Rusty (GER) – 74.840%
4. Debbie McDonald/Brentina (USA) – 74.760%
5. Robert Dover/Kennedy (USA) – 74.040%

Individual Standings After Grand Prix and Speciale

1. Ulla Salzgeber/Rusty (GER) – 76.524%
2. Anky van Grunsven/Salinero (NED) – 76.004%
3. Beatriz Ferrer-Salat/Beauvalais (ESP) – 75.213%
4. Debbie McDonald/Brentina (USA) – 74.067%
5. Hubertus Schmidt/Wansuela Suerte (GER) – 72.887%
6. Robert Dover/Kennedy (USA) – 72.833%
7. Jan Brink/Briar (SWE) – 72.265%
8. Martin Schaudt/Weltall (GER) – 72.008%
9. Carl Hester/Escapapdo (GBR) – 71.553%
10. Andreas Helgstrand/Cavan (DEN) – 71.147%

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