Dressage Grand Prix Concludes with Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro in the Lead

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Although you wouldn’t know it by watching her calm, confident ride, there’s a lot of pressure on Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin. With the incredible Valegro, Dujardin has won virtually every top honor in the world of international grand prix dressage, including individual and team gold at the 2012 Olympics. She’s in Rio to defend her title, and so far, she’s poised to do it.

In their first ride of these games, Dujardin and Valegro earned a perfect 10 early on in the extended trot and 10s from three judges in the two-tempis. They even racked up one 10 in a sea of 9s in the difficult canter pirouettes. Other than a slight misstep in piaffe, Dujardin and “Blueberry” locked down a nearly perfect test, finishing with an 85.071

Dujardin’s teammate and coach, Carl Hester, had a solid ride with Nip Tuck today, save for one unexpected moment early on when Nip Tuck had a pretty substantial spook. Hester was able to channel the horse’s energy to a good ride, but a bit of residual tension made for a lower score than the pair is capable of. A score of 75.529 left them in 15th place at the end of the day.

With good results from Fiona Bigwood and Orthilia and Spencer Wilton and Super Nova II yesterday, Great Britain is currently ranked second and still has a chance of repeating its unprecedented team gold from 2012, but they will have to surpass the formidable German team. Kristina Broring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH posted an 82.257 today, even with some minor errors. This put them just ahead of overnight leader Dorothee Schneider, also of the German team.

Living dressage legend Isabell Werth of Germany was the final rider on the schedule today. Werth comes with an impressive record—five gold medals and three silver over the course of four Olympic games—but a relatively inexperienced horse. Weihegold OLD is just nine years old, making her one of the youngest in Olympic competition. But the pair had an excellent test for an 81.029. By that point, Germany’s spot at the top of the leaderboard had already been secured; Werth’s third-highest individual score of the day simply served to widen the margin ahead of second-placed Great Britain.

U.S. Dressage Team Currently in Third

Steffen Peters is the most experienced rider on the U.S. team this year, having competed in three prior Olympics. He’s in Rio with his 2014 World Equestrian Games and 2015 Pan-American Games mount, Legolas 92. The pair turned in a solid, consistent test with 8s and 9s for the all-important piaffe and passage work. These movements are scored with a coefficient of two, meaning they carry twice the importance of most other elements of the test. Legolas is among the most talented in the field for these movements, and Peters made the most of it. Their score of 77.614 was good enough for sixth place by the end of the day.

Laura Graves and Verdades have emerged as the American pair to contend with in recent years. With successful outings at the 2014 WEG and 2015 PanAms, they made their Olympic debut today with a good performance. They lost some points in the one-tempis and a visibly tense final halt and salute, but earned some back with good marks in the canter pirouettes. They ended as the top-finishing American pair with a 78.086, edging just ahead of Peters for fifth place.

All four American horse-and-rider pairs are in the top 25 and will continue into the team and individual Grand Prix Special tomorrow. The U.S. team is currently in third place, but less than a point separates them from the fourth-placed Dutch team, so they’ll have to be flawless to remain on the podium. Germany has a two point lead over Great Britain, leaving very little room for error for riders from both teams.

Tomorrow’s dressage competition is not scheduled for broadcast on network or cable TV in the U.S. However, you can watch the live stream at NBCOlympics.com beginning tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. ET. Find out more about watching the equestrian events at the Rio Olympics here.

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