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June 12, 2014

Peters Wins With Room For Improvement At U.S. Dressage Festival Of Champions

Steffen Peters didn't have a mistake-free test aboard Legolas, but it was still good enough to win the Grand Prix on 75.16 percent at the U.S. Dressage Festival Of Champions. Photo by Sara Lieser.

Gladstone, N.J.—June 12

Steffen Peters might’ve pulled off another blue-ribbon performance with established Grand Prix partner Legolas 92 in the Grand Prix class at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions, but that doesn’t mean he was entirely happy with his ride.

“Certainly not our best,” Peters, of San Diego, admitted of the test, which earned a score of 75.16 percent.

“Nature always wins, and that’s what happened in the first piaffe,” he said with good humor. “He had to go to the bathroom. That was a tricky spot to start from.”

Peters also had other uncharacteristic mistakes sprinkled throughout his test aboard Four Winds Farm's 12-year-old Westphalian gelding.

“Lately, I’ve been so worried about the one-tempis, but they are working, and then, unfortunately, a little mistake in the twos,” Peters said. “So not our best go, but we are looking forward to improving that in the Grand Prix Special.”

While he didn’t blame the tight schedule, Peters did admit that riding two horses in the Prix St. Georges earlier in the day, which he won aboard Rosamunde and placed second with Apassionata, plus coaching his assistant trainer Dawn White-O’Connor in that test (she placed seventh with Aristo), left him a little short on time for his Grand Prix mount.

“I wish I had another 10 minutes in the warm-up, and in the middle of it two horses got drug tested, so it was just a really busy morning, but it’s OK,” he said. “That is what we sign up for, and we do what we had to do.”

He said he’ll school the changes a bit differently on Legolas’ day off before the Grand Prix Special. “We’ll focus mainly on the changes: do a quick warm-up, the changes, and the whole workout is most likely going to be a 20-minute school and nice walk for a half hour,” he said.

Nipping right at Peters’ heels and finishing second in the Grand Prix was Jan Ebeling and Rafalca, the mare Ebeling rode in the 2012 Olympic Games.

“I think she’s been very consistent and is in a very good place for me to mentally go, because I know what I have, and there is no fear factor,” Ebeling said. “There is not a single movement where I think, ‘Oh my God, I wish this would be over.’ Everything feels very easy.”

Rafalca enjoyed a light schedule this spring as the 17-year-old Oldenburg mare knows her way around the Grand Prix ring.

“She was on, she’s very fit, and I think the strategy I’ve had over the past few months of not showing her a lot seems to be really paying off,” said Ebeling, of Moorpark, Calif.

Ebeling scored 73.32 percent, finishing less than a point above Tina Konyot and Calecto V. Konyot, like Peters, admitted she could’ve ridden a better test.

“Overall it wasn’t a bad test, but he maybe felt a bit tired today and didn’t have the same kind of spark he normally can have,” she said.

Quick with a joke, Konyat added, “I’m so happy Jan finally had a chance to beat me!”

Talent On The Way Up

If Peters saw room for improvement in his own Grand Prix, he was effusive over the performances of the riders behind him: Adrienne Lyle, Caroline Roffman and Laura Graves—all under the age of 30—tied for fourth in the Grand Prix on 72.54 percent.

"Us old guys over here need to see that," he said. (He's 49, Ebeling is 55, and Konyot is 52.) "It was truly exciting. This is really what we want in the sport. We want to have the depth and the quality and the quality of horses too, so it was very exciting."

He also lit up when discussing the peformance of his next generation in horse power in the Prix St. Georges.

“I’m just excited that both mares were so extremely rideable today,” said a beaming Peters of “Rosie” (75.97%) and “Pia” (72.92%).

At only 7, this was Rosie’s first championship, and Peters was highly impressed by her efforts. “She’s such an amazing horse," he said. "Nothing fazed her today. She can be spicy and is a horse with a lot of energy, but she was so relaxed today. For her to do all this coming off the airplane and going straight to work—I’m almost speechless. I’m just so excited about her and, needless to say, I love this horse.”

If Rosie can be spicy, Pia is the opposite.

“We usually have to motivate her a little bit,” said Peters. “The neat thing is I didn’t have to do this at all with her in the test. She really went, and both felt just so beautiful in the bridle; there was no difference. They were both equally supple, and I honestly had a blast riding both of them.”

Olivia Legoy-Weltz grabbed third place with Rassing’s Lonoir. She was late to the press conference though, as she does all her own grooming and care for “Lono.”

“I definitely gave away some points on accuracy,” she admitted of her test. “It’s really hard to get him around an 8-meter circle.”

She added with a laugh, “They tend to be interpretational. I don’t get artistic marks for like 8½ or 9, so he’s still a lot of horse to pilot. I was really thrilled with his relaxation in the test. That was probably the best he’s ever been.”

Lagoy-Weltz, Reston, Va., had a feeling the test was going well when Lono silently cantered his circles.

“He didn’t whinny in the test today!” she joked. “A lot of the time, when I get to that point to canter, he’s like ‘Oh my God! Someone save me; it's dressage!’ and he whinnies, but he was really good and just kind of motored around. At this point, that’s huge for him, getting him to that place where he feels like he knows what I’m doing.”

She added wryly,  “There’s a strap on the front of that saddle for a reason, and I do always ride with the helmet.  I’m really pleased with the direction it’s going. Today was his all-time high.”

The final class of the day was the Brentina Cup, and Katrin Dagge won it with Dream Of Love on 64.66 percent.

Find full results on FoxVillage.com.

Classes start again tomorrow at 8 a.m. Eastern Time. The order of go begins with the young riders, then juniors, ponies and the Intermediaire I.

Read all the Chronicle's coverage from the U.S. Dressage Festival Of Champions.

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