Olympic qualification the aim for Irish Dressage team

The Irish Dressage team for the 2019 Longines FEI European Championships (left to right) Anna Merveldt, Judy Reynolds, Heike Holstein and Kate Dwyer
The Irish Dressage team for the 2019 Longines FEI European Championships (left to right) Anna Merveldt, Judy Reynolds, Heike Holstein and Kate Dwyer

After months of preparation and anticipation, the 2019 Longines FEI European Dressage Championships get underway at Rotterdam in The Netherlands this week, where the Irish ‘Girls In Green’ arrive with the aim of securing Olympic team qualification for the first time in history.

A total of 70 Dressage athletes from 24 countries will contest the medals with 15 nations fielding full teams. Five European nations – Germany, Britain, Sweden, Netherlands and Spain have already qualified for Tokyo 2020 following their performances at the 2018 World Equestrian Games.

Three tickets to Tokyo are up for grabs this week for teams who have not yet qualified for the Olympics, with Ireland set to battle with Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg and Portugal.

The Grand Prix competition to decide the team medals and Olympic qualification places is spread over two days. Kate Dwyer riding Snowdon Faberge will be the first Irish combination into the arena, followed by Heike Holstein with the Irish-bred Sambuca at 1.40pm. The remaining two Irish riders, Anna Merveldt with Esporim and Judy Reynolds with Vancouver K, were in action on Tuesday.

Horse Sport Ireland has appointed Milan Djordjevic as Chef d’Equipe for the European Dressage Championships. Milan, a Serbian born FEI Steward, has officiated at numerous high-profile international Dressage competitions and brings over 20 years experience as a high-performance rider, coach, Dressage judge, steward and event organiser in the Balkan region.

Djordjevic is really looking forward to the challenge of the European Championships and is expecting some big performances from the Irish Girls in Green:

“Being part of such a wonderful team is truly an honour. The Irish team and I share the same passion for horses, and we see horses with the same eye. They love their horses and they keep dressage on a natural and classical level.

“The experience in this team, at the very highest international level, is a wonderful platform – they are true professionals with exceptional horses, and I am very excited about the Championships.

“Their performances and progress have been fantastic, and it has been a pure joy to watch them this year. Great results from Aachen tell us that they are ready to show us much more at the European Championships.”

The Grand Prix Special for individuals takes place on Thursday, followed by the Grand Prix Freestyle to Music on Saturday.

Ireland has also sent a team of Para Dressage athletes to the European Championships, with the competition set to start on Wednesday.

Rotterdam is also hosting the European Show Jumping Championships this week, starting on Wednesday, where the Irish team will be hoping to secure Olympic qualification for Tokyo.