Pathway to Paris 2024: Equestrian dressage qualification system explained

The Chateau de Versailles will be the backdrop of the Paris 2024 dressage competition, which has been compared to equestrian ballet. Once again, a maximum of 60 athlete-horse pairs will take part, but first they will need to showcase their elegance over the two-year qualification period to be in with a chance of winning an Olympic medal. 

By Marta Martín
Picture by Getty Images

Equality is one of the principles of equestrian - a unique Olympic sport in which men and women compete for the same medals in the same events.

And Paris 2024 will be no exception. Once, again there will be three equestrian competitions - dressage, jumping and eventing. And each of them is unique, including within the qualification process.

Dressage is nicknamed the equestrian ballet and is the most advanced form of horse training. In this judged event, the duo formed by the horse and the rider perform artistic movements to the rhythm of the music.

At Paris 2024, the equestrian ballet has a stage that suits the magnificence and elegance of the dressage - the Chateau de Versailles.

But before they ride for the medals, find out the answers to the main questions about the dressage qualification process for Paris 2024

How many athletes will compete in dressage at Paris 2024?

In dressage there will be two medal events at Paris 2024: the individual and team competitions.

There will be a maximum of 60 athletes per event (for men's and women's) taking part in the competition, with a maximum of one per NOC for the individual competition or three per team for the team competition.

All of them will fight for the medals against the amazing backdrop of the gardens of Chateau de Versailles.

To be eligible for the competition, athletes must be born on or before 31 December 2006 (no younger than 18 years of age in the year that the Olympic Games take place), while all horses participating in the Olympic Games Paris 2024 must be born on or before 31 December 2016 (no younger than eight years of age in the year that the Olympic Games take place).

What is the dressage qualification pathway to Paris 2024?

As the host nation, France has three quota places available in the dressage competition. However, the rest of the NOCs and pairs (athletes and horses) will need to navigate their way through a challenging qualification process before reaching Versailles.

Team qualification process

A total of 15 NOCs will take part in the team competition (three pairs of athlete-horse per team), one of those being the host nation. The other 14 teams will secure their quotas through FEI Olympic Group Qualification Events, which are as follow:

  • One quota (max. the pairs athlete-horse): host nation.
  • Six quotas (max. 18 pairs athlete-horse): the six highest ranked teams from the 2022 FEI Dressage World Championships, in August 2022, excluding the host country team.
  • Three quotas (max. nine pairs athlete-horse): the three highest ranked teams from the 2023 FEI European Dressage Championship from FEI Olympic Groups A and/or B excluding teams already qualified as host nation and through the World Championship.
  • One quota (max. three pairs): the highest ranked team from the Group C 2023 FEI Olympic Qualification Event, excluding teams already qualified.
  • Two quotas (max. six pairs): the two highest ranked teams from FEI Olympic Groups D and/or E at the 2023 Pan American Games, from the 26 to the 29 October 2023, excluding teams qualified as above.
  • One quota (max. three pairs): the highest ranked team from the Olympic Group F at the 2022 FEI Dressage World Championships (6-14 August 2022), excluding a team qualified as above. If the quota place is not filled at the 2022 FEI Dressage World Championships, the quota place will be allocated to the highest ranked team from the Olympic Group F at a 2023 Group F FEI Designated Olympic Qualification Event (dates & location TBD if applicable).
  • One quota (max. three pairs): Same principles as above with Group F, but with group G.

Individual qualification process

An NOC can qualify for a maximum of one individual place and only NOCs that haven't accepted a team quota are eligible to obtain an individual one. The total number of individual quota places for Paris 2024 is 15.

They are allocated as follows:

14 quotas (14 pairs athlete-horse) through the FEI Olympic Ranking (allocation through FEI Olympic Groups) and allocation through FEI Olympic Group Qualification Event and FEI Olympic Ranking.

And one quota through the FEI Olympic Ranking (allocation through overall ranking).

Allocation through FEI Olympic Groups (FEI Olympic Ranking) - 10 quotas

The 2* highest ranked pairs [1 athlete and 1 horse] in the FEI Dressage Olympic Ranking from each of the five groups mentioned below will qualify one individual quota place each for their NOC:

  • A - North Western Europe
  • B - South Western Europe
  • C - Central & Eastern Europe / Central Asia
  • F - Africa & Middle East
  • G - South East Asia, Oceania

Allocation through FEI Olympic Group Qualification Event and FEI Olympic Ranking - four quotas

The 2* highest ranked Individual Athletes from Olympic Groups D and/or E, maximum one per NOC, from the overall individual classification at the 2023 Pan American Games will qualify one individual quota place each for their NOC.

And the 2* highest ranked Athletes from the FEI Olympic Ranking for Olympic Groups D and E combined, maximum one per NOC, will qualify one individual quota place each for their NOC.

Groups D and E refer to:

  • D - North America
  • E - Central and South America

*Unless one or two individual quota places from that FEI Olympic Group has already been allocated to an NOC/NOCs from that FEI Olympic Group due to their withdrawal of a qualified team. In that case, there will be a reallocation of unused qualification places process.

Allocation through overall ranking (FEI Olympic Ranking) - one quota

One individual quota place will be allocated in descending order of the highest-ranked athletes in the dressage's FEI Olympic Ranking

What is the Paris 2024 dressage competition format and schedule?

There won't be many changes to the competition format of Tokyo 2020 at Paris 2024, as the number of athletes remains the same - 60 (each one is a combination of athlete and horse), and will be composed of two Open events: individual and team competition - each with its own set of medals.

In both the individual and team events, the horse and rider follow music, performing artistic movements that will be judged. The judges take into account the elegance, ease and fluidity of the movements that are given a mark out of ten, while the horse has to show the three paces (walk, trot and canter). There are also some movements that are predetermined and all of the participants have to perform them.

The athlete-horse pair with the highest score will win the gold medal.

At Paris 2024, the equestrian competition will take place from 27 July to 6 August.

READ MORE: The competition schedule for Olympic Games Paris 2024 has been released

Equestrian dressage athletes to watch at Paris 2024

When it comes to dressage, Germany are the powerhouses of the sport. At Tokyo 2020, German combinations topped the podiums in both the individual and team competitions.

Isabell Werth (with horse Bella Rose) is one of the country’s stars, after becoming the first-ever rider to win seven gold medals at the Olympics when she triumphed in the team event at Tokyo 2020 alongside Dorothee Schneider (Showtime FRH) and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (TSF Dalera).

Werth also won silver in the individual event, finishing just behind her compatriot Von Bredow-Werndl.

In the process of winning silver, Werth broke another record, with 12 Olympic medals in her career, she is the joint most decorated equestrian Olympian ever.

Werth has planned to make Paris 2024 her final competition, after announcing to DPA after Tokyo 2020 that she will retire after the next Olympics, where she will be 55 years old. "Paris is a turning point", she said.

In the team event, the two teams that won silver and bronze were the United States and Great Britain.

Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin may be the most outstanding non-German dressage rider, after she won a bronze medal in the team and individual events at Tokyo 2020 alongside her horse Gio. In the process, she became Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, with three golds, one silver and two bronzes.

And she has the chance to add even more to her medal tally, as she announced she is aiming for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

Dressage qualification timeline to Paris 2024

  • 6-14 August 2022: FEI Dressage World Championships (Herning, DEN)
  • From the FEI Dressage World Championships 2022 – 31 December 2023: Period for NOCs to obtain a team quota place (NOC Certificate of Capability)
  • December 2022 (Exact Date TBC): FEI to publish List of Olympic Ranking Events (and ranking rules) and List of 2023 MER Events
  • 1 January 2023 – 31 December 2023 (TBC): Ranking Period: FEI Olympic Ranking - Dressage
  • 1 January 2023 – TBC 2024 (“MER Deadline”): Period for Athletes and Horses to obtain the FEI minimum eligibility requirements
  • Dates TBD: FEI Dressage European Championships, Riesenbeck, GER. FEI Olympic Groups A, B
  • Dates TBD 2023: Designated FEI Olympic Qualification Event. FEI Olympic Group C
  • 20 October – 5 November 2023: Pan American Games (Santiago, CHI). FEI Olympic Groups D & E
  • Dates TBD 2023: FEI Designated Olympic Qualification Event, FEI Olympic Group F. Only if a team quota place cannot be allocated to an FEI Olympic Group F NOC at the FEI Dressage World Championships 2022
  • Dates TBD 2023: FEI Designated Olympic Qualification Event, FEI Olympic Group G. Only if a team quota place cannot be allocated to an FEI Olympic Group G NOC at the FEI Dressage World Championships 2022
  • December 2023 (exact date TBC): FEI to publish list of 2024 MER Events
  • Dates TBD: The Tripartite Commission to confirm in writing the allocation of Universality places to the NOCs (where applicable).
  • Dates TBD: FEI to inform NOCs/NFs of their team quota place allocation
  • Dates TBC 2024: The NOCs to confirm to the FEI the use of the allocated team quota places to the FEI. If an NOC withdraws their team quota place by this date or had not confirmed their NOC Certificate of Capability as of 31 December 2023, the NOC in question will be eligible for an Individual quota place.
  • Dates TBC 2024: FEI to inform NOCs/NFs of: 1. allocation of Composite Team(s) quota place(s); 2. reallocation of one Individual place to each NOC that has withdrawn their Team quota place; 3. allocation of Individual quota places. Determination of Individual quota places and Composite Teams based on FEI Dressage Olympic Ranking.
  • Dates TBC 2024: NOCs to confirm use of allocated Individual quota places and Composite Team(s) quota places to FEI.
  • Dates TBC 2024: FEI to reallocate all unused quota places.
  • Dates TBC 2024 (“MER Deadline”): Deadline to achieve the minimum eligibility requirements. FEI Nominated Entries.
  • One day after the MER deadline: FEI to receive FEI Certificates of Capability (Athlete and Horse combination).
  • 8 July 2024: Paris 2024 Sport Entries deadline.
  • 26 July - 11 August 2024: Olympic Games Paris 2024.

Find out more about the qualification system for other sports that will feature at Paris 2024.

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