It’s in the Blood: Tokyo Olympics

Admittedly I always have mixed feelings about the Olympics when it comes to eventing, mostly because it isn’t the top level of our sport. Indeed, most of the horses and a large portion of the riders in the field have never contested a 5*. BUT, there’s definitely an aspect to it that is special, like getting to see more diversity than we usually do in these top level competitions – so many different countries, different people, and a slightly more diverse field of horses as well (we don’t often see horses bred in Russia or Spain or Poland!). So let’s look a little more closely at the horses in the 2021 Tokyo field, shall we?

Before we start, to clarify: these stats include only the 3 starting horses for each team and the starting individuals, not any of the reserves, except for a couple brief mentions where I will make it clear that it’s a reserve horse that I’m talking about. Basically, if it has a dressage ride time, it’s included in these statements, if it doesn’t, it’s not. (note: I have updated to reflect the last minute changes to Team Australia and Team Ireland)

Alright, let’s roll.

Let’s start off easy: of all the entered horses, more than half of the field was born in one of these three countries: Germany, France, or Ireland. 16 horses in the field were bred in Germany, 15 were bred in France, and 11 were bred in Ireland (8 registered ISH, 2 registered SHBGB, one TB). Of note: out of the 8 registered as Irish Sporthorse, 2 are of traditional ISH breeding – the rest are part or full continental WB (usually Holsteiner or Selle Francais).

We are used to seeing at least a handful of full thoroughbreds at any top level event, but in Tokyo there is only one lone full TB in the field, Glenfly, who is an Irish-bred thoroughbred that competed unsuccessfully in national hunt races. However, even with only one full thoroughbred there is still a lot of blood present in this field. There are 4 horses by a full TB stallion (these stallions are Ostermond xx, Presenting xx, Albaran xx, and Seigneur D’alleray xx) and 5 horses out of a full TB mare. Additionally there is also a lot of French AngloArab blood present, with one horse registered AA, 1 horse by full french AA sire, and 4 out of full AA mare.

Source de la Faye, French AA by Tresor du Renom X out of a mare by Veganum X

The average blood percentage among all the entrants (again: calculating only the starters, not the reserves, and tossing out the handful of horses that have an incomplete pedigree) is 55%. The horse with the lowest blood percentage comes in at 22%, with the highest being 100%. If we toss the full TB, the next highest is 90%. This average is pretty on par with what we see at most 4* and 5* level events.

Moving on to the sire’s side of things, the most represented sire is Holsteiner stallion Contender, who is seen within the first 3 generations of 7 horses, 3 via his son Contendro. Selle Francais stallion Diamant de Semilly is next up, being the sire of 2 and the sire’s sire of 2 more. Selle Francais (but 82% blood) stallion Jaguar Mail has three direct offspring in the field (one out of a full AA mare, one out of a high blood British mare, and one out of a low blood dressage mare). Three more stallions are represented by 2 direct offspring each: Selle Francais stallion Mr. Blue, Rheinlander dressage stallion Fidertanz, and Trakehner stallion Windfall. Two horses are by Contendro out of a Heraldik xx mare, and another is by Contender (Contendro’s sire) out of a Heraldik xx mare.

Diamant de Semilly – ICSI for horses
Diamant de Semilly, best known as a massively successful jumper sire

On the dam’s side of the pedigree, the most represented damsires are Heraldik xx (3 horses) and Rock King (3 horses). One mare, Rock Me Baby (by Rock King out of a Shaab xx mare), has two offspring at Toyko: Balham Mist by Mill Law on the Swedish team, and Colorado Blue by Jaguar Mail for Team Ireland. Also worth noting that one of the mares competing, the aforementioned Source de la Faye, already has an offspring competing at FEI level (Ultrasource del Cerro). He’s a 7yo currently competing at 2* level, and he completed Lion d’Angers last year, following in his mother’s footsteps.

Speaking of Lion d’Angers (how’s that for a segue) we have a LOT of horses in the field that came up through the FEI Young Horse classes. 55% of the horses in the field competed in these classes (which are 6yo 2* or 7yo 3*) on their rise up the levels. Even more impressively, 42% of the horses in the field competed at the Young Horse World Championships at Lion d’Angers at least once. Their success at that venue ranged from podium finishes to eliminated, but they did qualify and compete there.

James Avery NZL Vitali Mondial du Lyon cross 2017 S. Baily
a young Vitali competing at Lion

Looking inward at our own US horses, two of them (if we count our reserve) competed in the USEA Young Event Horse program. Tsetserleg did one YEH class as a 5yo, scoring 79. Mai Baum did one YEH4 class, scoring 74, and one YEH5 class, scoring 73. Needless to say, neither of them took the YEH world by storm and neither made an appearance at Championships.

Trak lovers (there are always a handful of you and you know who you are) there are 3 Trakehners in the field for you. Or really four, if you count the one that is registered Westphalian but is actually by a TB stallion out of a full Trak mare (this is why we look at the pedigree, people, not the “breed”! Thanks for coming to my TED talk). Two of these Traks were bred in the USA and both are by Windfall – Vandiver (out of a TB x Trak mare) and Tsetserleg (out of a Trak mare).

While the overwhelming majority of the field comes from Holsteiner and/or Selle Francais jumper lines, there are a few traditionally dressage-oriented sires with some representation as well. On the sire’s side of the pedigree we see: De Niro (grandsire of 1), Sandro Hit (grandsire of 1), and Fidertanz (sire of 2). On the dam’s side we see each of these stallions in one horse each: Wolkentanz, Royal Dance, and Donnerhall.

Fidertanz (Fidermark x Ravallo)

As for a few fun little random facts:

  • fischerchipmunk is one of 7 full siblings. He’s by far the most successful sibling, one other has evented to 3*, and one has showjumped to 1.35m.
  • Tullabeg Flamenco has two full siblings, both eventing at FEI level – one at 2* and one at 3*.
  • Totem de Brecey’s dam also produced 5 successful showjumpers who competed from 1.40m to 1.60m.
  • Diachello, Z, and Fuiloda G all had dams that showjumped successfully in addition to being broodmares.
  • One rider, Lara de Liedekerke of Belgium, is on a homebred horse. Alpaga D’arville is by Wonder Boy out of a full TB mare.
Alpaga (front) being ponied from Lara’s 2014 WEG partner Ducati when we visited her farm in Belgium in 2015

Let the games begin! Who are your favorites?

4 thoughts on “It’s in the Blood: Tokyo Olympics

  1. I plan to watch the livestream, since it’s at a reasonable time EST. No favorites, but looking forward to learning more!


  2. Wow – thank you for this analysis! It’s so interesting to see common threads through the pedigrees and the diversity.


  3. I am biased toward Glenfly bc he’s the only full TB. The rest is just interesting. I hope you’ll do a follow-up post and hone in on the bloodlines of the top finishers. 🙂

    I saw a similar post on FB about dressage bloodlines at Tokyo. Holler if you didn’t see it and want to be tagged.


  4. Thank you for talking Trakehner! Explaining the difference between a breed and a registry is great. Such a great unbiased article.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s