West Palm Beach, Fla., Jan. 28—As the first to go in the last set of riders in the freestyle at the World Dressage Masters, Steffen Peters found himself in the uncomfortable position of patiently waiting ringside to see if anyone could top his score of 83.70 percent with Ravel.
Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin was last in the ring, and if anyone could do it, it was going to be her mount Valegro.
“I came out and watched Charlotte, and I went over and said, ‘I think you have it,’ ” said Peters. “When the scores came up, I felt like I was on a team in a major playoff, and I’d kicked a field goal with 1 second left.”
Peters beat Dujardin, but only by the slimmest of margins: .05 percent.
“It felt wonderful. Ravel was even more powerful than last night,” said Peters. “He was still very relaxed for the walk tour. His changes and the pirouettes felt great. To be this close to another top horse and top rider in the world is a great honor. I’m very excited.”
Dujardin was cheerful about receiving the red ribbon for the second night in a row. “I had a great ride tonight,” she said. “I was a little bit worried going in there after last night’s prize giving [where Valegro stood straight up on his hind legs]. He kind of got himself in a right state, which he doesn’t normally do. But he went in, and he dealt with the atmosphere well. I felt like I had a lot more to ride today than yesterday. He was a little bit too hot for me yesterday, and I was hanging on for dear life. Today he felt much more with me.”
Neither test was foot-perfect, but both were pretty darn close. Valegro broke to canter on his first centerline, which should have shown off his magnificent extended trot. Peters had a tiny resistance in one of his canter pirouettes. The two horses have different strengths—Ravel is all gooey suppleness, while Valegro is rocket-propelled energy.
But it came down to degree of difficulty. “My floor plan is still very easy,” admitted Dujardin. “I’m going to create a new floor plan now that I can put a bit more degree of difficulty in it. He was only young last year, and we kept it very simple.”
Dujardin hadn’t ever actually practiced her freestyle when she rode it for the first time at the 2011 FEI European Championships with the then 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Negro—Maifleur, Gerschwin).
“That was the first time ever going through it, and it was a complete disaster,” said Dujardin, 26. “I had to make it up in there. I thought, ‘I’m never going to do that ever again.’ So we went home and made this freestyle. It’s the same floor plan with different music. Now he’s ready to make the degree of difficulty more.”
Wim Ernes, who was the president of the ground jury, agreed. “For me, technically, Valegro and Ravel were almost equal. The degree of difficulty of Ravel’s freestyle was slightly higher, so it made a difference there of half a point. That was the difference in the marks. Valegro has to build up in the kür, but I think he can do a high degree of difficulty in the future.”
For Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven, who finished third for the second night in a row, it was all about enjoying her new Broadway-themed big band freestyle with Favourit.
“I had a lot of fun in there today. I’m very thankful to Cees Slings for this wonderful freestyle that I rode for the first time tonight,” she said. “It was a lot of fun. It was also a lot of concentration just to stay in the right moment the whole time. It felt really great. It was a great atmosphere to ride in there today.”
Close to 2,000 spectators filled the stands of the sold-out show at the Jim Brandon Center.
“We have grown here over the last four years in Wellington,” said WDM CEO Anthony Kies. “It shows that a dressage show can stand on its own. Normally in Europe we have jumping and dressage together in one show. What is happening here with close to 10,000 people over the three days is fantastic for dressage.”
To get complete results from the freestyle, visit the World Dressage Masters website.
To view the tests, visit USEFNetwork.com.