Thursday, May. 23, 2024

Peters Debuts Ravel At Mid Winter Dressage Fair

It’s been a long time coming, but this talented horse’s first performance on the show circuit promises a big future.

“Nerves of steel” describes Steffen Peters pretty well, but even this experienced rider experienced some stomach twinges as he headed down centerline for the first time with Ravel in the Burbank CDI at the Mid Winter Dressage Fair, Feb. 29-March 2.

“I felt as sick as the first time I went to the Olympics,” he admitted.
PUBLISHED
WORDS BY

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s been a long time coming, but this talented horse’s first performance on the show circuit promises a big future.

“Nerves of steel” describes Steffen Peters pretty well, but even this experienced rider experienced some stomach twinges as he headed down centerline for the first time with Ravel in the Burbank CDI at the Mid Winter Dressage Fair, Feb. 29-March 2.

“I felt as sick as the first time I went to the Olympics,” he admitted.

Akiko Yamazaki bought the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Contango—Hautain) two years ago as a potential Olympic prospect, but an injury last year set them back.

“It’s been such a long year, patiently waiting and giving him time to heal from his injury,” said Peters. “The recommended time was five months, and we gave him eight months.”

But Ravel started back to work on Nov. 1, and Peters was finally able to make his inaugural Grand Prix start at the Burbank CDI, in Burbank, Calif., where they proceeded to win the Grand Prix (69.08%) and the Grand Prix Special (69.32%).

“I tend to agree with the judges—it was a conservatively ridden test,” said Peters. “But the first time out was not a test to blast through the arena.”

Peters, San Diego, Calif., said that the break was good for Ravel mentally, if not so good for his fitness and muscles. “He really settled down over the last year. He is so sensitive and full of electricity. I was worried about the lay up,” he admitted.

Therefore, he couldn’t have been happier that the sensitive gelding reacted so well to the atmosphere at the CDI, unlike his temperamental stablemate, Lombardi, who spun at X and tried to leave the arena in the Grand Prix before putting in a respectable test for fourth place (67.20%).

“They could see a tiny bit of tension in the collected walk [in Ravel’s test],” said Peters. “I rode it slowly and carefully. There were no spooks. In the honor round when the other horses acted up, he kept things perfectly together. That was the first time I’d seen him in those circumstances.”

A Change Of Plans

Peters originally intended to show Ravel, Lombardi and his third Grand Prix mount, Prince, in the CDI, but it turned out that he wasn’t allowed to show three horses in the Grand Prix at this competition.

So Prince, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Hemmingway—Wimpel) owned by DG Bar Ranch, contested the open classes instead and won both his Grand Prix classes (69.47%, 66.80%).

ADVERTISEMENT

“He’s scheduled to do his first CDI next week,” said Peters. “I can take all three for the show at the end of the month. For next week, I decided Lombardi is 17 and doesn’t need to show that much. He’s got enough experience.”

And it wasn’t just the big tour classes that Peters dominated. He also won the CDI Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I with Montango, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Contango— Benellie) owned by Mary Keenan.

Nick Wagman trained and competed Montango in the small tour before Peters took over the ride in December, and Peters complimented his former rider on the horse’s excellent preparation.

“He’s also a sensitive, hot horse,” said Peters. “He has some nice talent for piaffe, but it’s a little too soon to show it in the Grand Prix. We decided for this show season to qualify for the Intermediaire I Championship.”

The one thing Peters has spent time perfecting with Montango is his walk.

“He was a little bit on the difficult side in the walk, and I was concerned that he wouldn’t relax enough,” he said. “I don’t believe in wearing a horse out so he’s tired and walks because he has no more energy. After every exciting movement like a pirouette or piaffe, I practice the walk over and over again. The hotter horses anticipate a movement from the collected walk, so it’s important to ride from collected walk to extended walk over and over again.”

An Emotional Return

Peters wasn’t the only nervous rider in the Burbank CDI. Leslie Morse knew her weekend would be emotional, but she had no idea Kingston’s return to the show ring would leave her quite so undone.

“I was a basket case. I forgot to salute. I was an emotional wreck,” said Morse.

Two years ago Kingston suffered a severe tendon injury in the field, and Morse didn’t know if her international Grand Prix stallion would ever return to competition.

“I was told he couldn’t be a trail horse,” she said. “Horses don’t come back from this kind of an injury. He’s amazing.”

The 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Voltaire—Gisnette) spent an entire year resting before Morse began the slow process of bringing him back.

“I did a lot of walking and then slowly started building up his wind and muscles,” she said. “He needs muscle. He’s so large. We did a lot of hill work. But not just up hills, more like when you go to the gym and work out with weights. We would do 15 repetitions and three sets.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Morse hoped to show him earlier this year before debuting in a CDI, but rain kept Kingston home. “I wouldn’t take a chance on any slippery footing,” she said.

So when she entered the arena for the first time in the Grand Prix, it wasn’t surprising that she had a lot running through her head.

“After the first corner he came into extended trot, and he just flew off the ground,” recalled Morse. “I went into a panic thinking he was going to hurt himself. I was so afraid. As I became more afraid, the worse I rode. I did the passage almost at C, not the corner. It wasn’t near the letter. In the walk I looked like a drunken soldier. Poor Kingston was trying to do his job. I was crying when I came out. The two years had swelled into me, and I came out and broke down.”

Despite Morse’s difficulty, Kingston still scored 64.20 percent in the Grand Prix behind barn mate Tip Top 962 (66.08%). Morse said her ride on Tip Top was affected by her emotion as well.

But by the Grand Prix freestyle, she was more focused, and Kingston easily won (71.45%). He also earned the FEI high score of the show.

“I said, ‘I’m going to ride it like we did at home,’ ” said Morse. “He did everything perfectly. He didn’t break a sweat.”

Kingston is still performing to music from Pirates Of The Caribbean, but Morse updated the music and much of the choreography.

“He has a whole different passage now. He’s had to relearn how to use his leg,” said Morse. “A little bit of rest, and he comes back, and his passage is amazing. Now he’s lofty and hangs in the air. He’s really passaging.”

Morse said that Kingston has matured a lot in his time off, and their bond has deepened and strengthened.
“He’s more secure,” she said. “His job is easy for him now. Before we were just learning it and traveling the world at the same time. Being hurt made him appreciate his life.”

Kingston’s not the only who is more appreciative these days. “I schlepped him all over the place and took him for granted,” said Morse. “Now I appreciate how special that is. I think I ride him differently, and I’ve learned from the years.”

Although Morse was disappointed in herself in that first Grand Prix ride back, she’s already put it behind her in her quest to make the Olympic team.

“We have to buckle down and get the job done,” she said. “Our team needs a solid horse like this, this year, one who can score 70s internationally.”

Sara Lieser

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse