June 10—Gladstone, N.J.
Talent and ability are necessary qualities for a top Grand Prix horse, but ask Steffen Peters what he values even more, and he’ll say it’s the willingness to try.
That desire to try put Legolas on top in the Olympic Grand Prix Special, his second win in two days at the Olympic selection trials at the U.S. Equestrian Festival Dressage Festival Of Champions. It’s also something he shares with his champion stablemate Ravel.
“They both offer so much in the ring,” said Peters. “Ravel is overall a bit more of a supple horse with a bigger canter, but the honesty is there and that willingness to give 100 percent in the ring each and every time. That is worth more than talent.”
Legolas topped the Special on 77.93 percent with Tina Konyot and Calecto V not far behind (76.66%). Todd Flettrich slotted into third place with Otto (73.06%), trading places with Jan Ebeling and Rafalca, who finished third in the Grand Prix, but fourth in the Special (72.04%).
The Special marked the halfway point of the selection trials—the Grand Prix horses will repeat the Grand Prix and the Special on June 15 and 16. Each test counts for 25 percent of the final tally. Peters has already received a bye with Ravel, and he can’t ride two horses in the Olympic Games, although Legolas will likely travel with the team as a back-up. That leaves two team spots up for grabs as well as an individual place.
Since Legolas, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding (Laomedon—Fürstin, Florestan II) owned by Akiko Yamazaki’s Four Winds Farm, is still a young Grand Prix horse, Peters was most pleased to lay down a clean test with no mistakes.
“Throughout the season we’ve had a mistake in the one-tempis. We would either get the ones on the diagonal or on the centerline, but this is the first time he’s done both,” he said. “The bottom line is that at this point it’s still making him really clean in the test. I can’t really get on the throttle with him. It’s just a bit too soon. I still have to tell him not to do too much in the passage. If I let him do as much as he wants to, he gets a bit uneven behind, so I have to tone it down a bit.”
Trying too hard in the ring is also something Konyot has to think about with Calecto, her 14-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion (Come Back III—Bahera, Rastell).
“He wants to offer so much. Sometimes I have to sit very quiet and tell him it’s OK,” she said. “He wants to please me. He has that mentality in general to want to be a good boy.”
Konyot also said she struggles with treating Calecto like a competition horse instead of a pet.
“Sometimes I wish that I could be more serious or stronger at times with him. I love him so much,” she said. “I’m into trail riding him. He goes swimming with me and through creeks. He opens all the gates while I’m riding bareback. I get strict instructions from [USEF Dressage Technical Advisor Anne Gribbons] that I’m not allowed to do all these silly things with him. Anne says be concentrated and stop playing games with him until this is over, and then you can do whatever you want to do, which I intend to. I do a little bit of jumping with him. He’s my buddy.”
A strong relationship also helps Flettrich get the most out of Otto. “Otto is getting a bit older, and I’m getting older, but I think we’re getting better like a good bottle of wine,” he joked. “He puts his big heart into it, everything we do.”
Flettrich was struggling with a back injury at the beginning of the week, and he said he felt stiff, which, when combined with the nerves of competition, led to a disappointing Grand Prix test.
“I wasn’t as confident yesterday,” he said. “Today I said, ‘What do I have to lose? I might as well just go!’ It’s my best score in the Grand Prix Special. He did everything I asked of him. He puts his big heart into it, everything we do.”
Watch the tests live on the USEFNetwork.com.