With the Paris Olympics this summer on his radar, Steffen Peters headed to the HITS Del Mar Dressage Opener CDI, held Feb. 2-4 in Del Mar, California, with Suppenkasper to earn another set of qualifying scores, and he achieved his goal, winning the CDI3* Grand Prix (75.52%) and the Grand Prix Special (72.76%).
Suppenkasper, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Spielberg—Upanoeksa, IPS Krack C) owned by Four Winds Farm, had a quiet summer in 2023 after finishing fourth in at the FEI World Cup Final (Nebraska). They entered the ring next at a CDI-W in Thermal, California, in November, where Peters got another set of Olympic qualifying scores. In Del Mar, they not only added to those scores, Peters got confirmation his longtime partner is still getting stronger.
“The last competition was in November, and even there we saw some improvement in the piaffe compared to the World Cup,” he said. “He can hold the piaffe more in place, is more uphill and is barely swaying.
“The first piaffe in the Grand Prix had no swinging, and he received a bunch of 8.5s and one 9. That’s a first for him,” Peters added of their performance at Del Mar. “Overall, it was a very good test with a lot of uphill power. I’m really trying to make him trust that he can do the piaffe in place. Before it caused him too much tension and confusion when I asked for it, and now that he is stronger and more balanced, I can ask him to do 15 steps in place, and he finally seems to understand it.”
Watch their winning Grand Prix Special test, courtesy of Horse&Country TV:
While Peters was feeling strong over the weekend, it was just two months ago that the 59-year-old rider was hospitalized for blood clots in his lungs and left leg.
He’d flown to Germany to visit family and spent three days there before flying back home to San Diego for a day. Then he hopped on another plane to the Equine Affaire in Massachusetts before going home again.
“It was simply too many hours on an airplane,” he said. “At first, I thought I had symptoms of pneumonia, which I had before, which makes it very painful to breathe. As we usually do in the horse business, you just kind of work through it and exercise and tough through it, but there was one day where I told [my wife] Shannon, ‘I can’t breathe,’ so we went to the urgent care, and they sent me straight to the hospital, and with proper medication I was able to breathe again.”
Peters stayed overnight at the hospital, where doctors located blood clots and put him on blood thinners. He has another scan in March, but since his hospitalization, he’s had no residual pain.
“I didn’t feel my lung capacity was restricted,” he said. “I kept swimming and working out and riding—a little bit against the advice of the doctors—but that seems to be a pretty common way of dealing with illnesses in the horse business!”
He said doctors were not surprised he got blood clots.
“They said it’s a very common thing to happen to active athletes,” he said. “Serena Williams had it from traveling. Simply too many hours on a plane, not getting up during the flight. It can happen, and I’m very grateful this medication seemed to work right away.”
As he got back to riding, he felt “Mopsie” understood to take it easy with him.
“While I wasn’t feeling that good and didn’t have all my strength [over the winter], he seemed to pick up on that and deliver even more in the training,” he said. “He delivered even more in the show arena last weekend.”
Peters also won the CDI1* Prix St. Georges (71.11%) and the Intermediaire I (70.79%) with Mani’s Endeavor, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Morricone—Flox, Foundation 2) owned by Nasrin Mani. Jennifer Hoffman campaigned the horse in the FEI young horse classes and competed him at the FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championship for Young Horses when he was 6.
Peters started riding him last August.
“Endeavor belongs to who I call my Persian mom, Dr. Nasrin Mani,” he said. “She’s been a wonderful friend and has been extremely helpful connecting me with the right doctors when my body needed some help. I’m very grateful for her, and on top of that I get to ride her wonderful ‘Endeavor.’ The plan for him would be for him to continue to do the CDIs on the West Coast, and he’ll come with us to Europe to do some small tour shows. I’m grateful I was allowed to take the reins.”
Peters describes Endeavor as a kind and talkative horse.
“When I come in the barn in the morning, just like Mopsie he knows the engine noise of my four-wheeler,” he said. “He starts talking and gets his cookies. He’s a really solid citizen, a very forward-thinking horse. I always find it fascinating when I have hot horses like Mopsie and Endeavor, how kind they can be on the ground and how respectful and sweet they can be when you handle them.”
He’s not sure if the gelding will get to Grand Prix yet, and he plans to spend more time at small tour this year.
“He still needs to settle down quite a bit in the show arena,” he said. “The walk needs to improve a little bit. That’s just a matter of time and a lot of exposure to a lot of exciting venues.”
Peters has plans for one more CDI this winter with Mopsie to earn his last set of qualifying scores for Paris. He currently sits atop the USEF rankings. He’ll head to Europe in the spring to compete at a handful of shows that U.S. riders are required to attend. If he goes to Paris, this would be Peters’ sixth Olympic Games.
“Even in Tokyo I learned to enjoy it a bit more,” he said. “We’ve had so many wonderful teams, and I’m not even talking about the quality of the horses and riders, but the quality of character in the teams in Rio and Tokyo; that makes all the difference in the world. I hope we can put another team together like those in Paris.”