Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 20
There were no tears for Steffen Peters at the close of the CDI5* Grand Prix on Thursday night, as there had been two weeks ago when he scored a personal best to win the CDI-W Grand Prix freestyle aboard Suppenkasper at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.
In contrast, there were only hugs and smiles to cement the winning 76.23 percent he earned with “Mopsie” in the CDI5* Grand Prix for the Special. The victory—their seventh consecutive in Wellington—was an ode to the progression of Four Winds Farm’s 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Spielberg—Upanoeska, IPS Krack C).
“It was challenging at the beginning for both of us, but now, for several rides, it’s been working out pretty good,” said Peters.
Peters was joined in the top three by Sabine Schut-Kery, who rode Sanceo, and Canada’s Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu, who finished third with All In. “The ladies are getting closer and closer,” he said. “I’m not resting on that 76 percent. I can’t.”
It’s no secret that Suppenkasper is a hot horse, and his development hasn’t been a walk in the park for Peters. To increase the rideability of the 18.2-hand horse, Peters utilizes several exercises:
• “Making Sure The Gas Pedal And The Brake Are Working Equally Because The Gas Pedal Is Always Working”
“I have to be really careful, simply with the tempo overall,” said Peters. “It’s a horse that has so much energy, and nowadays the trot for the Grand Prix and for the Grand Prix Special is ridden, even in the half-pass, borderline medium trot. I simply have to be very careful that he doesn’t take advantage of that and get too excited about it.
“So, in training, there’s a lot of times it’s a much smaller trot, and making sure that each and every half-halt means a lot to him, that he really listens to my seat,” he continued. “So, there’s a lot of exercises within the gait, bringing him forward and back. It’s not just between the gaits, but even in the [gaits]—extended walk, collected walk; medium trot, collect the trot; medium trot, piaffe, extended trot, piaffe; extended canter, pirouette canter—so that he stays really adjustable and that the energy never works against me, that it works for me.”
• When The Piaffe Meets An Excitable Horse
“He’s so eager to go forward,” said Peters. “The horse has so much tremendous power. Even just to go in the first extension, I was just holding him back. There was not a single moment where I was pushing him. His desire, even in the piaffe, is to go forward. I ride it—I do five or six steps, and then I actually do a halt. Instead of leaping forward into trotting or running into the passage, we sometimes do a halt or even a rein back and say, ‘Listen, buddy, we stay here a little longer.’ Sometimes we do 18 or 19 steps, that he knows not after 13 or 14, that we get out of there. That wasn’t possible even six months ago, so it’s a huge step ahead.
“When he gets excited, the piaffe still needs to be a little straighter,” he added. “It’s getting better, and we constantly school a lot in shoulder-fore position to both sides in the leg-yield position, and we even do piaffe turns where he has to balance the piaffe a bit more without swaying. It’s clearly improving. The judges are giving him higher marks for the piaffe, especially the judge at C, and that’s exciting.”
The exercises will benefit your hot horse, too.
“A horse that has endless energy; that’s the horse that would benefit from that,” said Peters. “Unfortunately it’s an FEI rule we’re supposed to ride with spurs, but [Suppenkasper] goes even better without spurs. It’s a super sensitive horse that simply takes time. We knew two, three years ago that he would have to turn 12 and 13 years old before he really shines. You can’t allow him to trot as big and canter as big.
“I don’t believe in making a hot horse that’s 9 or 10 years old tired so that you have the brain at that time, but their body is used up at 12 and 13 years old,” he added. “We knew it would take time, and horses seem to peak when they’re 12 to 14 years old, and hopefully that’s happening with Mopsie.”
As you work on these exercises with your horse, keep the following tips in mind.
“Sometimes, you just have to accept that it takes a seatbelt, that there are some explosions,” said Peters. “Really accept that you cannot ride a horse like [Suppenkasper] too long. You can’t make this horse too tired, so short warm-ups. If you have to do two warm-ups—each 20 minutes—that’s fine. But this is easily a horse that can get cooked if you do more than 20 minutes, and we experienced that many times before.”
Letting Fear Go
Katherine Bateson-Chandler wasn’t sure how Thursday’s CDI5* Grand Prix for the freestyle would unfold when she entered the ring with Alcazar, the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Jane Clark.
After all, their last five-star was in July 2019, and in September, Bateson-Chandler decided to give Alcazar (Contango—Polina, Ferro) a four-month break from international competition.
“He had a pretty intense summer; he did two Nations Cups and a bunch of other smaller shows in England as well,” said Bateson-Chandler. “He’s done a lot, and they just need a break at some point, so I just had to bite the bullet and say, he needs a break.
“He did a lot of hacking, and he does [Aquatred horse treadmill] and things to keep his body fit and his mind happy, and not over train,” she added. “I just had to trust that it would work, and that’s scary. Trust is the biggest thing in this sport. Just to be able to trust them is difficult for us dressage riders because we want to control everything, practice everything every day, so, to not do that was a bit of a test, and he’s been a good boy.”
As it turns out, Bateson-Chandler had no reason to fear, and they topped Thursday’s Grand Prix with a leading score of 71.93 percent. In preparation for her five-star return, Bateson-Chandler’s focus has been on building Alcazar up slowly.
“This is a long season, and I think we’ve got a long way to go for our qualifications for Tokyo,” she said. “I didn’t want to come out too early, and I wanted to make sure we can come out and build. If we come out and peak right now, then you’ll have nothing left.
“Our qualification system is quite intense and quite long and can take a lot out of these horses, especially now he’s 15,” she added. “I’ve just got to be a bit more careful where and how. I’ve sort of had to have faith and trust in him now because he’s done this enough, and I’ve done it with him to know that we know each other well enough that we can pull it out without a ton of preparation. So, I’m super proud because it is a little bit of a risk, and it’s quite scary.”
Better With Time
Zodiac MW loves to work, and he puts his best foot forward each time he steps in the arena. His rider Megan Lane of Canada has loved his work ethic from the moment she sat on him five years ago, and the now 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Rousseau—Mieranda H, Amethist) is only getting better as time goes on.
“I’m riding for a personal best every time,” said Lane. “Zodiac is feeling better and better with each show. I’ve been working with Belinda Trussell and Robert Dover a little bit. Belinda, for the past few months, has been amazing, so I’m really happy with the progress that we’ve made together, so I’m excited for the road to Tokyo.”
En route to her Olympic dreams, Lane rode Zodiac to win Thursday’s CDI3*Grand Prix for the Grand Prix Special. It was a full-circle moment for Lane, who introduced Zodiac to his first Stateside Grand Prix in Wellington.
“He wasn’t really in work when we got him as a coming 8-year-old, so I started him [at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival],” she said. “Global has developed him into the horse he is today.”
In working with Trussell, Lane has learned how to better channel her strengths with Zodiac. She’s also grateful for her groom Evelyn Lucas and Zodiac’s owners Deer Ridge Equestrian, for their support.
“[Belinda has] really helped me with becoming a more sensitive rider, and finding the most power in him with as little effort from me as possible,” Lane said. “So, that’s been a lot of fun.
“His rideability in the ring is really what we’re going for now,” she added. “In the last month and a half, it’s really developed the direction that we’re looking for. He’s not yet where he is in schooling, but it’s definitely progressing, so I’m super excited for the next couple of months.”
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