In the experienced hands of Olympian Steffen Peters of San Diego, Calif., Legolas 92 has become a familiar face on the worldwide dressage stage and a cornerstone mount for the U.S. Dressage Team.
Four Winds Farm’s 14-year-old Westphalian gelding has racked up an impressive resume since his international debut in early 2012 as the heir apparent to Peters’ legendary mount, Ravel. He’s already earned 28 CDI Grand Prix division victories; won three consecutive U.S. Equestrian Federation National Grand Prix Dressage Championships (2012, 2013, and 2014) and reserve championship honors in 2015; had impressive performances at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final, and the famous Aachen (Germany) CDI5*; and most recently claimed team and individual gold medals at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
While Legolas 92 is a force to be reckoned with in the dressage arena, at home he’s a sensitive kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. “He tries to act tough but in reality he’s a sweetheart. I can always see on his face exactly what he’s feeling,” said Peters. “He’s actually quite an emotional horse with a big range of personality from silly and fun-loving to wary or stubborn in almost an instant.”
Here’s your guide to understanding the “real” Legolas 92:
- He’s always ridden first. “He’s not the easiest horse to ride, and it takes quite a bit of focus and concentration on my part because he’s so sensitive,” said Peters. “So I ride him first of all the horses in the barn so that I’m fresh and at my best for him.”
- When he first came to the United States in late 2011, Legolas was in for a culture shock and a serious bout of homesickness. “I was quite worried about him when he first arrived here,” Peters explained. “He was perfectly healthy, but he was so sad to have left his home in Germany. He was incredibly reserved and would just stand in the back of his stall and refuse to interact with others. It easily took a month for him to start to come around.”
Legolas and his steadfast friend, groom Eddie Garcia.
- Now Legolas is a ham, and clamors for attention from anyone walking by his stall. “He’s definitely come out of his shell and is Mr. Personable now,” laughed Peters. “He can even be downright pushy in the barn. If I walk by and he doesn’t think he has gotten enough attention or treats, he starts banging the stall door or he’ll chase me along the paddock fence to get my attention.”
- But that doesn’t mean that just anyone can be his friend. Peters noted that Legolas remains suspicious around strange people, and doesn’t particularly like visits from the veterinarian. “You have to earn the right to be his friend, and that’s his personality under saddle too—he’s not the most confident or outgoing horse. He can be very insecure and is afraid of doing something wrong. Even though he’s a mature Grand Prix horse, he’s still a shy little boy inside.”
Legolas will pout if he feels like he doesn’t get enough attention, and can be wary of strangers.
- Legolas draws strength from his work and has learned to appreciate his adoring fans in the dressage arena. “Now that he understands what his job is and that people are clapping for him, it continues to boost his confidence,” said Peters.
- Legolas can be noise sensitive, which has led Peters to take extra measures to prepare his mount for freestyles at major events, where loud is the name of the game. “Last year I installed a heavy-duty speaker system in our covered arena and we school with it,” Peters explained. “The music blasting from up above is a particular challenge for him, so when it gets dark we take him in there with the freestyle playing loud, over and over. He’s gotten much better about it, but he can still be reactive to blaring music and noises in the arena. Even around the barn we like to keep things consistent and fairly quiet for him.”
- The big bay gelding is a fun-loving kind of guy. Two of his favorite games are “Throw the Lead Rope” and “Grab My Tongue”. He also shares a special joke with Peters. “Sometimes at shows I sit in front of his stall, and he’s very good at reaching out the door, finding my shoelaces, and untying them. It’s quite the game for him to fiddle with the knot and get the laces loose, and he’s become an expert at it.”
“Throw The Leadrope” is a favorite game for Legolas.
- While Legolas’ trust in his rider is impressive and has paid off in the competition arena, his special “person” is groom Eddie Garcia, who knows just how to soothe any anxiety no matter where they travel around the world—as well as the gelding’s favorite places to be scratched. “He just loves Eddie, and they spend a lot of time together,” noted Peters. “Eddie is his rock.”
Legolas and Eddie.
- As he looks far into the future, Peters believes Legolas will still be happily zipping around well into his senior years. “He’s a very forward, energetic kind of guy, and I don’t think he’s ever going to let age slow him down. He’s one of those that will still be this way when he’s 25. We should all be so lucky!”