In this series, the Chronicle follows six riders as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams in Hong Kong in 2008.
[The Olympic Games] are almost here. I told my groom, Rafael [Hernandez], that I wish they would happen next week. Ravel is so ready to go.
We’ve had reporters out from Holland. [Peters is in Aachen, Germany, where the U.S. team is quarantining before heading to Hong Kong.] The press is quite active here. I had three reporters who called me and wanted to get predictions for the team and individual placings.
With the press that we’re getting here, it’s really starting to sink in that we get a chance to represent the United States and try to do exactly what we did at home.
I was extremely excited to have both horses go so well in the selection trials. I was counting on it a little bit more with Ravel, but that Lombardi did a wonderful Grand Prix and a great freestyle on the last weekend was very exciting. At 17, even coming over here, he’s still very fresh and absolutely ready to go.
Sometimes Lombardi can be unpredictable. He proved that in the Grand Prix Special when he decided to be a goofball in the walk to the piaffe transition. But that definitely was an exception. With his gaits, there are still plenty of highlights in the test. He’s still a very strong horse.
With Ravel, I knew it would be a bigger crowd than he’s seen before. When you perform in front of a big crowd there’s more electricity in the air. I was a tiny bit concerned about that, but my concerns disappeared after the first weekend. The last hurdle we had to clear was to ride the freestyle in front of an even larger crowd on the last day.
When I practiced the freestyle on the Thursday before the competition, the volume setting for the music
was a little bit loud. He was a tiny bit nervous at that time, but as soon as we turned it down, it worked out great.
I was so happy with him in the freestyle on Sunday when the music and the crowd didn’t bother him
at all. The feeling that I had from the freestyle, that’s exactly what I’d
love to take into the Grand Prix in Hong Kong.
A Quiet Time In Quarantine
I had a wonderful, uneventful trip over to Europe. The horses arrived in great shape. They took it easy for the first couple of days, but everybody is back in full training now. July 16 was our last day outside quarantine. In quarantine, things get more restricted.
Any horse and all the equipment that goes to Hong Kong have to be in a separated area. We were in one barn, and now everything moved into a fenced area.
Horses got a nasal swab, blood test and a Coggins test. Any horse that comes up with something positive is kept in a separate, isolated area. All the other quarantined horses are stabled by nation.
It’s quite restrictive. The shoeing tools had to go into quarantine. The farrier can’t bring anything else in. [Ravel and Lombardi were scheduled to get their shoes on July 25.]
Bedding in Hong Kong is provided. A container of hay was shipped over already. The various feed companies that provide the grain for us met us in Aachen. They want to make sure that the horses stay on the exact same food. That’s being shipped over there as we speak.
Outside the fence there are security people who check your security badges 24 hours a day. We have John Zucker inside. John works for us at every single show. He came over with us and stayed with Ravel and Lombardi from the first night. We get out of here at 7 p.m., and then he stays until 7 a.m. During the day we are always there. He’ll do that right through quarantine. It’s so convenient to have someone keep an eye on the horses all of the time.
The Dutch will quarantine in the Netherlands. In quarantine I will have a chance to watch all the other competitors except the Dutch. I’m looking forward to that. There are certain slots for each nation. It’s always very helpful and certainly interesting.
|Prince Finds A New Home
[When the series started, Steffen Peters had three Olympic hopefuls. Ravel and Lombardi competed in the selection trials, but Prince was sold in May.]
Prince was a little bit inexperienced at the Grand Prix level, but there were some fantastic highlights during the time I was riding him. Right from the start, the Grand Prix was quite good. The second one was not so good, but the third one was a 68 percent. He won a freestyle. There was no doubt it would take him a little bit longer, but at his age he has a wonderful career ahead of him.
Kylee Lourie is the new owner, and Andrea Doelling is currently the rider until Kylee’s daughter Victoria will take over. I worked with Andrea for two months after he was sold. Those two clicked very nicely. I think Prince will have a wonderful future within the Lourie family.
I’m friendly with everyone. I believe in strong competition when you come down the centerline until you do your last centerline, but that’s where it ends for me. I believe in treating people with great fairness. I think that’s what you also get in return.
Rising To The Occasion
Leslie Morse, Sue Blinks and Michael Barisone are all here from the United States. Sue and Michael will stay in Germany and train. Leslie will head to Hong Kong with Kingston as the traveling reserve. Lombardi will go back to the United States when Ravel goes to Hong Kong.
Over the past two years, I’ve had some wonderful highlights. The fourth place in the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, and the third place at the FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas, Nev., stand out.
That fourth place was not even a full percentage point out of the individual medal. I have to be honest. That makes you even more hungry.
But another highlight was that first Grand Prix with Ravel after a long frustrating year in 2007 where he spent eight months just walking. Finishing that Grand Prix test with Ravel in Los Angeles meant so much to me. That said to me that we’d really made it to this level, and we’d made it pretty good.
The first test meant just as much to me as the last test at the trials when Ravel won the championships. Those are good memories from the past two years.
It’s amazing what the Olympic spirit can do to you. We’ve seen that many times over the years. To be a part of that is pretty hard to put into words.
You always have to try to rise to the occasion. That’s what I was able to do with Floriano at the World Games.
In that competitive atmosphere at the Olympic Games, the standards and expectations that the top international riders ride with definitely uplift you a little bit. You try to match what they’re putting into the ring. Over the years this has always inspired me. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.
My hopes are that Ravel and I can put the performance in that we’ve done at home. There’s a little bit more room until Ravel is totally maxed out in the percentage. If we can top what we did at home a tiny bit, I’d be extremely happy. The rest is up to the judges and God’s good humor.
Steffen Peters, as told to Sara Lieser