By George Williams
Another year is here and 2023 is looking to be an exciting year for dressage. Because the Paris Olympics are in 2024, we will have the Pan American Games and the European Championships in early September in Riesenbeck, Germany. These two important competitions will determine what other nations will qualify to send a dressage team to the Palace of Versailles. Fortunately for the top six nations from the 2022 World Championships in Herning, they have already qualified. Of course, France as the host nation receives an invitation.
The U.S. is the only country from the American continents to qualify. This means that countries from North, Central and South America will be fighting for the two spots allocated from the Pan Am Games. There are three slots allocated to the European Championships as well. Spain, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Belgium and Switzerland will be among the countries battling it out for those qualification places. In early June through an event in Pilisjaszfalu, Hungary, one team from Central & Eastern Europe and Central Asia regions can qualify for the 2024 Olympics.
The Pan American Games will be held in the fall in Santiago, Chile, from October 20–November 5. Equestrian sports have been a part of the Pan Am Games since the first one held in 1951 in Buenos Aires. As it has been in the past, mixed teams will be allowed. In other words, teams can be made up Small Tour (Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I) and Big Tour (Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special) combinations. Only those countries with at least two athletes competing in the Big Tour will be eligible to qualify for the Olympics. Most likely the U.S. will send a mixed team. We are in the middle of the qualifying process, and it is a little too early to hazard a guess of who will be on the team that will be representing our country.
Meanwhile, back home in Omaha, Nebraska, the FEI World Cup Finals will be held April 5–9. They were held there once before in 2017. Having been at that event, I have to say Omaha proved to be a great place to host the Finals. The venue worked quite well. It had a great atmosphere with a healthy and fun, electric feel to it. You could easily watch the warmup while browsing through the many vendors. The hotel I stayed at was incredibly convenient. It was just across the street from the venue, so it was an easy walk with even an overhead walkway if I didn’t want to go outside. If you are a foodie, I discovered that Omaha has several good restaurants. Fun fact: Omaha is where the Reuben sandwich was invented.
The World Cup Qualifiers are still happening, in the North American League and the Western European Leagues as well as the Central European League. The Palm Beach Derby CDI-W March 2–5 is the last one in the North American League. For a couple of years now, the qualifying process has been harmonized between the leagues around the globe. This is the third year the NA League has used the point system instead of percentages for ranking purposes. The point system has been used by the Western European League for years and the athletes there are very familiar with how it works. Perhaps because it was introduced to the North American League just before COVID-19 hit the world as a pandemic, it has taken a bit for the impact of that change to really sink in. As an athlete, it can require a different strategy when planning the competition calendar. For the 2023 Finals, most of our athletes now know and understand the “new” system. It’s too early to predict all who will be there, but you can follow the different League standings on the FEI website at FEI.org or you can look for my column next month where I plan to cover some of the combinations qualified for the FEI World Cup Finals.
The Wellington Nations Cup CDIO3* is this month, February 23–26. As it has from its inception, it will be a mixed-team format similar to that used at the Pan Am Games. A U25 Nations Cup is held alongside the CDIO3*. New in 2023 is the addition of the U25 division at the North American Youth Championships. This will provide a great stepping stone for our young combinations just starting at the Grand Prix level.
Of course, in 2023 we will have our National Championships at the Festival of Champions in August at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois. The dressage calendar stays full right up to the end of the year and 2023 will be the 10th year for the USDF Regional Championships series final, aka the US Dressage Finals, in Lexington, Kentucky.
Whether competing nationally or internationally, 2023 is going to be an exciting year for dressage.
Photo by Ruby Tevis