Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 22
As Steffen Peters held his helmet to his chest in salute of the national anthem—and 77.10 percent he earned in the CDI5* Grand Prix Special moments earlier, a personal best with Suppenkasper—his mount, affectionately known as “Mopsie,” was downing Mrs. Pastures cookies by the handful, courtesy of his groom Eduardo Garcia.
Without fail, Mopsie gets excited the minute the national anthem sounds on the loudspeakers, as he knows the victory gallop—his favorite part of the awards procession—is coming.
The Grand Prix Special closed the curtains on a week of CDI5* competition at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, and back-to-back victories for Peters and Mopsie, even with a minor bobble.
“It felt really good for [Mopsie], still after four shows now, to have this energy. It’s incredible; there still was another test in there afterwards,” said Peters. “The horse has so much go. I did not push him for one single extension. In fact, I was still holding back a little bit.”
They did have one mistake in the one tempis. “He’s done six tests without a mistake, so today he was allowed one. I’m not sure it was his mistake. There’s always the rider involved,” Peters said.
When the judges announced Peters’ scores to the crowd, he celebrated breaking the 76 percent marker that had become familiar in his tests with Mopsie.
“He’s been at a 76 for some time; I knew there’s a 77 in there,” said Peters. “We’re slowly, consistently creeping up a little bit, and without the mistake in the one tempis, we would’ve been even higher. So, very exciting to see Mopsie getting a 77.”
Debbie McDonald, U.S. dressage technical advisor, gave Peters feedback after his test.
“She thought before the one tempis I rode him just a little too forward on the short side to get a little bit more energy and ride the one tempis with risk, and I think she’s absolutely right; we didn’t need to do that,” said Peters. “The one passage on the very short side across from the judges wasn’t as good as the other, but otherwise she was pretty happy.”
Canada’s Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu and All In finished second to Peters with a score of 73.44 percent, a personal best.
“I was very excited with how he felt today,” said Fraser-Beaulieu. “I had a very short warm-up; 15 minutes, maybe a little bit too short, but again, he came out. He’s feeling better than ever.
“I thought the passage was pretty incredible today. Both extensions were completely my fault,” she added. “I pushed him too much; I was trying to beat Steffen. That was totally a rider error, but to come out and have two [73 percents], both days personal best, I actually feel like there’s more in there from him. So, it’s very exciting leading up to Tokyo.”
Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo closed out the podium in third place.
Rider Mistake, Avenged
In reflecting upon Thursday’s CDI3* Grand Prix, the qualifier for Saturday’s Grand Prix Special, Ashley Holzer had some regrets. She overrode Mango Eastwood—the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding she partnered with two years ago—and didn’t take into account how the scorching Florida heat would affect him, a factor behind their third-place score of 70.26 percent.
“I made some silly errors on Thursday, myself as a rider,” said Holzer. “It was extremely hot, and because he’s hot—he’s not a quiet horse—I brought him out early. Normally what I do is I walk him, but he couldn’t get cool, even when he was walking; he was just so hot.
“He was a little too fatigued heat-wise,” she added. “I went in, and I gave him a ride expecting a little too much of him. I went, ‘Whoa, Ashley, you’ve got to calm down. He’s a green Grand Prix horse; you need to ride him like a greener Grand Prix horse.’ When I realized I was riding too aggressively and I sat down and rode a little more with feeling, I think he came right back to me again. A little aggressive ego-riding and not in-the-moment riding.”
Coming into Saturday’s Special, Holzer decided to employ a more relaxed approach. Rather than prep the sensitive Mango in the warm-up ring, which sat adjacent to a Special Olympics competition, Holzer rode outside the ring to calm him down. Once the Special began, she rode with the focus of maintaining the calm, which earned them a winning score of 71.97 percent.
“It’s amazing that he was able to go in the ring and just pull off a performance,” said Holzer. “I didn’t really ride any movements, I just calmed him down and relaxed him a little bit. He went in, and he did not let me down. He is an amazing horse in that ring, and I know that amazing horses are rare, and I am very lucky to be able to have a horse like that and to be able to ride a horse like that.
“It’s what we work for, to feel that kind of chemistry where you work with the horse and have them work for you in the ring and really try his hardest, even though he’s very green at this,” she added. “He was out 10 days ago and sometimes 10 days is not a big time to rest, and he came back at it and gave it his best again today. I’m a very thrilled rider.”
Michael Pineo and Farrington finished second on 68.61 percent. Canada’s Megan Lane and Zodiac MW, victors in Thursday’s CDI3* Grand Prix Special qualifier, finished third with 66.78 percent.
Be sure to check out the March 9 print edition of the Chronicle for more from AGDF, and follow along online with all of our coverage. Be sure to follow us on social media: Twitter I Instagram I Facebook I COTH Podcast