Dressage is described as horse dancing because of the rhythmic footwork, pirouettes and otherwise fancy moves that the horses display in a routine set to music in the arena.
The U.S. dressage team had their horses dancing beautifully in Tokyo this week.
The team of Adrienne Lyle, Steffen Peters and Sabine Schut-Kery rode to team silver, the best U.S. finish in 73 years.
The U.S. qualified for the team competition in fourth place. Lyle and her horse Salvino were first to go, performing the series of tests for the judges. The two scored 76.109 percent.
“It was so nerve-wracking watching, being the first to go,” said the 36-year-old two-time Olympian from Wellington, Florida.
Her performance put the team in third behind Germany and Great Britain, and Peters was next up with Suppenkasper. Competing in his fifth Olympic Games, the 56-year-old from San Diego held the team in their spot with a personal-best score between the duo of 77.766.
Finally, it was up to Schut-Kery and Sanceo to anchor them home and they proved up to the test.
“Adrienne and I were of course watching Sabine in the stands and getting quite emotional,” Peters said.
Schut-Kery and Sanceo scored a career-high 81.596 percent to lift the U.S. past Great Britain.
The U.S. finished behind only Germany, which has won every Olympic team title since 1984 except for 2012. The silver medal equals the best finish ever for the U.S., which also won a silver medal in 1948, and is the second Olympic team medal in a row after winning bronze in 2016. Peters is the lone returner from that team in Tokyo.
Schut-Kery, making her Olympic debut at 52, gave the credit to Sanceo.
“Amazing, he was so with me, and it feels like a partnership, and so focused,” she said. “When I first went in he shaded a little bit at some shadow, but you know, just go down centerline and just do it. Not a big deal. He’s just amazing, so we give him all the credit for sure.”
Chef d’Equipe Debbie McDonald said it was “truly the dream team.”
“I am just so proud of this team,” she said. “They each persevered and delivered when their team needed them most. I am so elated by their accomplishment, and wow, what a moment to be remembered for this program.”
All three U.S. riders qualified for the individual final on Wednesday.
Lyle, however, withdrew from the competition, and a statement from U.S. Equestrian said that Salvino did not feel quite like his usual self in the morning.
That left Peters and Schut-Kery, who both finished in the top 10. Schut-Kery was fifth with a score of 84.300 percent and Peters 10th with a score of 80.968. In equestrian, there are no separate categories for women and men. All athletes compete together.