Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Peters Earns A Perfect Record At The Dressage Affaire

Steffen Peters is on a roll with big wins across the board in the CDI.

Maybe it was Steffen Peters’ hometown advantage, or perhaps it was the depth of his string. Certainly his superior riding skills contributed immensely to a winning weekend that would exceed most riders’ wildest dreams.

Normally a tough competitor, Peters proved unbeatable at The Dressage Affaire in Del Mar, Calif., March 13-15, and left the show with five CDI wins aboard three horses.


Steffen Peters is on a roll with big wins across the board in the CDI.

Maybe it was Steffen Peters’ hometown advantage, or perhaps it was the depth of his string. Certainly his superior riding skills contributed immensely to a winning weekend that would exceed most riders’ wildest dreams.

Normally a tough competitor, Peters proved unbeatable at The Dressage Affaire in Del Mar, Calif., March 13-15, and left the show with five CDI wins aboard three horses.

The most emotional triumph came on Ravel. Peters, San Diego, Calif., rode Akiko Yamazaki’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Contango—Hautain) in his second CDI and second Grand Prix class ever. The pair won their first Grand Prix two weeks ago at the Mid Winter CDI in Burbank, Calif., after eight months off for an injury.

“He was entered for this same show last year, but two weeks before the show I felt a little something not perfectly right in one of his front legs,” said Peters. “That’s when we discovered an injury that required a five-month layoff. We decided to do eight instead. There was nothing to gain by bringing him back sooner. The first of November he went back to work and, knock on wood, everything has looked perfect since then.”

Peters said he had the normal fears about Ravel’s soundness after that first show back, but the gelding showed no problems in his jog after the show.

“I’m excited about Ravel,” said Peters. “After the first show, I had a good feeling, but you just don’t know. He stepped it up a notch over here. Today in my final salute I was just shaking my head. I still have a hard time believing that he just started this. This is our second show, and all the tests he’s done so far have been very clean. There hasn’t been a single mistake. That’s highly unusual for a horse just starting out.”

Ravel did indeed perform a clean Grand Prix and impressed the judges for 71.75 percent, almost 3 points ahead of second-placed Susan Blinks and Mark.

“He tries so extremely hard,” said Peters. “There’s not a single ounce of tension in him. It’s still amazing to feel how supple this horse is every single day. There’s not a stiff bone in his body. All his joints are so loose. Combining all this makes him one of those horses that are very rare.”

There’s More To Come

Peters did admit that he’s still holding back in certain places with Ravel. The flying changes could be bigger, and his piaffe isn’t yet on the spot.

“The flying changes were the hardest movement for him to learn,” explained Peters. “He tried way too hard. If I pushed a little too forward, he would do them croup high. I have to start him out very collected, and then afterwards I can push him quite a bit. My biggest worry is always the first change in the two-tempis and the one-tempis. Every rider says a prayer for a single movement when they go in the ring, and this is our movement that still needs to be done on the careful side.”

Peters also said that while Ravel can piaffe in place, he sits so much in the movement that he might easily take a step backward, and that would be a bad habit for him to learn.

“Right now it’s about going in there and doing it clean and honest,” he said. “That mission was perfectly accomplished.”

To qualify for the Olympic selection trials, Ravel must score at least 63 percent in the Grand Prix at two qualifying competitions and complete the Grand Prix Special at one and the Grand Prix freestyle at the other.

So far, Ravel has done the Special twice, winning both times, but he’ll need to complete a freestyle at a CDI to finish his qualifications. Peters plans to use a previous freestyle (one he’s used with Grandeur) to start, but by May Ravel should have his own music.

“He was a good boy in the honor round, and that was also the case in L.A.,” said Peters. “That makes me hopeful that he can handle a bigger crowd for the freestyles. We’ll give that a try in a couple of weeks.”
Peters’ second Grand Prix ride, Prince, did debut his Grand Prix freestyle in his inaugural CDI. Prince borrowed another one of Grandeur’s tapes from the music of Riverdance and won the freestyle (70.95%), but Peters wasn’t as pleased with his Grand Prix test.

“The open Grand Prix tests were better,” he admitted. “There were too many mistakes today. We had a mistake in the one-tempi, and the zigzag half-pass, both of them coefficients, and that’s always quite expensive.”


Peters wasn’t too concerned about Prince’s mistakes, since DG Bar Ranch’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Hemmingway—Wimpel) has time yet to perfect his performances.

Still, Peters can’t count on holding the top spots forever. The 14-horse Grand Prix field looked strong. Blinks, also from San Diego, put in an excellent Grand Prix test with Mark (68.79%) and an even better Grand Prix Special (69.24%) to take second place both times.

Blinks, 49, gained national acclaim for top performances at the World Equestrian Games in 1998 and 2002 and in the 2000 Olympics with Flim Flam. Doug and Louise Leatherdale bought Mark for her in 2005 after Flim Flam died, but injury has prevented the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Edison—Gina) from competing until now.

Blinks also showed the talented, young Robin Hood. The 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Jazz—Lionne) was a bit tense at times during the Grand Prix and Grand Prix freestyle, but he demonstrated immense talent for passage and will certainly be one to watch in the future.

The small tour also showcased strong contenders. Peters once again emerged victorious in the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I aboard Montango, but he won the I-1 by only .05 percent over Elizabeth Ball and Orion.

Peters started riding Mary Keenan’s 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Contango—Benellie) in December. Nick Wagman trained him previously. Montango also won his CDI classes two weeks earlier at the Mid Winter CDI.

“So far he’s put in three clean tests,” said Peters. “Today in the I-1 we had some problems in the three-tempis. He thought about the one-tempis, which I haven’t schooled for two weeks, but it popped up today. I always appreciate a horse’s effort, but there are no bonus points for that. He also had one little mistake in the zigzag half-pass where he changed behind and then in front. It simply can’t go great all the time.”

He Can Teach Too

While Peters certainly earned enough glory for himself over the weekend, he also helped a few of his students take home honors of their own.

Laura Cooper won the developing horse Prix St. Georges (67.81%) with her own Settino and earned a personal best in the open Prix St. Georges class (71.25%).

The adult amateur from San Diego, Calif., started training with Peters in September of 2007.

“[Peters has] got a way that really prepares you for the test,” said Cooper. “He’s amazing. He makes you so strong for the test. He teaches you how to prepare the horse. You go down centerline, and you know what you’ve got every single time.”

Cooper, 32, imported Settino, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Jetset-D—Vanessa) as a 4-year-old from the Netherlands and contested the young horses classes with him at every level. She trained him with the help of Jan Ebeling but took last year off to have a baby.

“This is the last year he can do the developing horse classes,” said Cooper.

“My goal is to go to the [2008 USEF National Developing Horse Dressage Championship] in Lexington, Ky. He’s qualified now with two scores. The plan is that he’ll do his first CDI at the end of the month in L.A. We’ll see how it goes.”


Peters encouraged Cooper to show in the open classes, even though she’s an amateur. “I want to do CDIs with him, and he’s quality enough to do that, so I may as well go in the opens and test the waters,” said Cooper.

A full-time mom now to 1-year-old Zachary, Cooper previously worked as a real estate agent. She credited Peters for her achievements.

“I call him ‘The Wizard’ because he knows how to make things go right for you,” she said. “It was the preparation that I do at home with Steffen. He really taught me how to ride pirouettes and how to fix it in the instant before something goes wrong. To anticipate where your horse is, if you feel an issue right before you go into it, how to correct it and fix it in the ring.”

Another fan and student is Ashley Schempp, who won all three of her young rider classes in the CDI with Mowgli.

“I’ve been riding with Steffen for three years,” said Schempp. “He’s in a league of his own. He has a way of getting a message across very directly. At some level you emulate what you see, and to be around Steffen and Shannon [Peters’ wife] makes you want to do your best.”

The 20-year-old is a junior at San Diego State University and hopes to ride for some accolades this year at the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships and at the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Young Rider Dressage Championship. She finished second in the USEF championship last year and currently sits in fifth place on the USEF National Young Rider Ranking list.

“This show was good at making me step up my personal game,” said Schempp. “I tend to be conservative, and I was able to push this week. It was a combination of encouragement from Steffen and watching the other rides.”

Schempp bought Mowgli, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Investment—Zolite) almost five years ago.

“He’s very cute and super talented, but his conformation isn’t built for this sport,” said Schempp. “He has killer movement and a big heart.”

Schempp said her Prix St. Georges test (65.00%) was an improvement over her team test (63.37%) because she rode more conservatively in the first test.

“Taking those risks is a big step mentally for me, but my second ride improved,” she said. “As long as it improves, I’m happy. On Friday Mowgli took over a little bit. He was trying to call the shots.”

Another improvement for Schempp was that her top hat stayed on in her second test, since it bounced off during the team test and hit Mowgli on his hind end.

“It happened in L.A. too,” admitted Schempp. But her mother has promised her a new, better-fitting top hat for her 21st birthday.

Fortunately, Schempp was well prepared for any wardrobe catastrophe during her tests.

“I danced for 11 years,” she said. “They teach you to keep going if your costume malfunctions. I did jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop. You learn that if something happens, you have to keep going. It makes you think quickly on your feet.”

Sara Lieser




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