Gladstone, N.J., Sept. 11
Steffen Peters has gone to Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games and World Cup Finals, but after his triumvirate of wins aboard Weltino’s Magic in the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Intermediaire I Championship, he’ll head to Guadalajara, Mexico, for his first Pan American Games.
Although the team isn’t official, Peters will be joined by Heather Blitz on Paragon, Cesar Parra on Grandioso and Marisa Festerling on Big Tyme according to their overall placings in the selection trials. It will be the first team experience for Blitz and Festerling, while it will be Parra’s first opportunity to represent the United States, since he rode for his native country of Colombia until 2009 when he switched nationalities.
“If you look at the top four horses, every single horse has a chance to win a medal. When you put that on one team, it’s a hell of a team,” said Peters. “Of course the individual medals will be interesting, but my priority and 90 percent of this whole adventure is the team effort. That’s what I’m so excited about.”
Peters, San Diego, Calif., has won individual and team medals before but never team gold.
In today’s freestyle class, Peters scored a record 81.25 percent riding to the sounds of 7and5, a new age group he found on iTunes. He made some strategic choreography choices for Jen Hlavecek’s 9-year-old Westphalian gelding (Weltino—Diva, Diamond Boy).
“He’s a powerful horse, and he can be a little strong once in a while. So I have to be careful that I break things up a little bit,” said Peters. “For instance, if I school a bunch of diagonals in a row with extended trot, I simply can’t keep things together. He gets longer and stronger. That’s why I decided to put the half diagonals in the extended trot to keep a little more control.”
He also pirouettes after the extended canter to ensure that Magic is prepared for collection at any time, and he did an impressive line of tempi changes down centerline.
“I feel his trotwork is more impressive than his canter work, and that’s why I did it at the end,” said Peters.
Watch video of Weltino's Magic's freestyle.
Blitz, Wellington, Fla., also went with unusual choreography for Paragon, an 8-year-old Danish Warmblood (Blue Hors Don Schufro—Pari Lord, Loran). She entered at the walk and continuing with walk before picking up canter to music from Cirque du Soleil’s KÁ show. The test earned the pair their third red ribbon of the show on 77.30 percent.
“I did want to start with not such a big impression at first because I think it’s kind of expected with my horse. I came in not with his most powerful stuff in the beginning, as a little bit of a surprise,” said Blitz.
“In the middle I put two trot extensions and two canter extensions all back to back to bring the audience up to an emotional high and then you can feel that. The rest of the test goes back down to a quiet level again.”
Watch a video of Paragon's freestyle.
Parra’s test didn’t go as well as he’d hoped with Grandioso breaking to trot in the tempis, a mistake he also made in the Intermediaire I. “I had a tough time trying to put it all together today,” he admitted about the ride on the 10-year-old Westphalian gelding (Grozzo Z—Hauptstutbuch Popocateptal, Palisandergrund).
That gave Festerling, Moorpark, Calif., the opportunity to sneak into the third spot with her Beatles-themed freestyle (73.30%), although she still ended up fourth overall in the championship on Big Tyme, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Saros van ‘t Gestelhof—Elvira, Wendekreis).
“It’s exciting of course. I’ve had this horse since he was 4. It’s been a long time starting with him as a young horse,” she said. “At the end of the freestyle, it didn’t seem real at first. It hasn’t sunk in. I was so happy to go in there every day and have him perform like that.”
As Parra, who has a farm in Whitehouse Station, N.J., is the only local rider, the other three will keep their horses at nearby farms until the beginning of training camp on Oct. 2 with U.S. Technical Advisor Anne Gribbons.
Ravel Wraps Up Another Grand Prix Championship
As if winning all three small tour classes and making the Pan Am team wasn’t enough, Peters also claimed a trio of victories in the Grand Prix, finishing an incredible weekend of competition by winning the freestyle on Ravel (81.10%) ahead of Tina Konyot on Calecto V (77.60%) and Shawna Harding on Come On III (73.40%).
But Peters’ elation at dominating the 2011 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival Of Champions was slightly tempered by a few out-of-character mistakes from Ravel, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Contango—Hautain, Democraat) owned by Akiko Yamazaki.
“Obviously it got a little tough on the finish line today. There was one piaffe that didn’t really happen,” said Peters. “What’s too bad is that it makes me forget about all the other movements that were so good. The changes, half-passes and pirouettes were even better than in Aachen [CHIO in Germany this summer where he placed second in the freestyle].
“This stuff happens. They’re not machines,” continued Peters. “I think he gave everything that he had in the Grand Prix Special [yesterday]. I usually have to do everything I can to keep him controlled in the honor round, and today he was extremely relaxed. I think it clearly shows us that he needs a break, and that’s what’s going to happen next month.”
Watch a video of Ravel's Grand Prix freestyle.
Konyot also had a few errors in her freestyle, but the overall performance was one of enthusiasm and energy to the crowd-pleasing music of K.T. Kunstall’s “The Black Horse And A Cherry Tree.”
“My horse felt fabulous today. I was very happy. It’s a constant improvement with him,” said Konyot, Wellington, Fla.
He had a minor bobble when he clipped himself with a hind foot in the first extension. “It stung him, but he’s a brave guy, and he came right out of it. From that point on he just flowed through it,” said Konyot. “I think we made a couple mistakes in the ones down the centerline, but overall I was very pleased with it. We’re on an upward swing.”
Konyot will celebrate her 50th birthday in New York City tomorrow and head back to her summer base outside of Toronto.
Pik L Proves His Merit
When Kya Endreson first rode Pik L, she was a bit intimidated by the schoolmaster’s impressive past. The 18-year-old Hanoverian stallion (Pik Bube II—Abaja, Abajo xx) has twice traveled to the Pan American Games with different riders as well as showing countless juniors and young riders how the game is played.
But as she began to build a partnership with him, Endreson only felt joy and appreciation for the opportunity to ride such an experienced horse, and today she also enjoyed the thrill of leading the victory lap in the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Junior National Championship after topping the Junior Individual test (70.73%) for an overall average of 70.61 percent.
“It was so awesome. I feel so lucky to ride such a great horse. I’d like to thank [owner] Anne Sparks for letting me have the ride and thanks so much to Scott and Susanne Hassler for all of their help,” gushed the 16-year-old from Southern Shores, N.C.
Endreson has been a working student for the Hasslers for the past year and takes classes online so she can focus on her riding.
She rode in her first CDI at this year’s North American Junior and Young Rider Championship (Ky.) and earned team gold with the team from Region 8.
“It was the first big competition I’ve ever done. I was definitely really intimidated, and I did let the pressure get to me a bit,” Endreson admitted. “Now I feel like I have more confidence at this show, and I just try to stay relaxed.”
Reserve champion Rachel Chowanec also had some troubles at the NAJYRC, so it was a bit of a relief to have her tests go so well this weekend with Embrujado XI, a 13-year-old PRE gelding (Juicioso XI—Embrujo XI, Jopo).
“We got to Kentucky, and he had a mental breakdown. Then I kind of had a mental breakdown. We went in pretty confident, and then our scores went down and down,” she said.
So the 17-year-old from Columbia, Conn., spent the week before the national championships going back to basics with Lendon Gray’s help. For the last two years she’s been a working student for Beth Baumert, but she rode with Gray before that, and the little tune-up was just what she needed to earn an overall average of 67.62 percent and place second in both Junior tests. It also gave her the confidence to keep riding when things started to go badly in her Junior Individual test today.
“We went down our centerline, and I asked him to collect a little bit, and he didn’t want to do that at all,” said Chowanec. “I came around the first corner, and I saw our score was a 50. And so getting the score to go back up was difficult, but it kept going up. I was very happy with him, and he felt great.”