Aug. 8, 2018
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
When Steffen Peters rides down the centerline at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon in a month’s time he will be building on a career that already includes more combined world championships with more medals than any other American.
Steffen has dominated American dressage for most of this century–finishing at the top of the U.S. horse and rider rankings at two of the last three World Games as well as two of the previous three Olympics. Since the WEG was created in 1990 as the combined world championships of international horse sports held once every four years, he is still the only American to have won an individual medal–two at the 2010 Games in Lexington Kentucky. He also has team bronze from the 2006 WEG.
Now, the rider who turns 54 years old right after the WEG dressage competition Sept. 12-16 is on a team in which Laura Graves and Verdades are No. 3 in the world and at the top of U.S. dressage as they were at the 2014 WEG and 2016 Olympics. Rio Games team mate Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet as well as his 2012 London Olympics and 2014 WEG team mate Adrienne Lyle will ride Salvino in their first championship.
Steffen, based in San Diego, California, has been selected for the team on Rosamunde, the 11-year-old Rhinelander mare that he has competed for the past five years, at Big Tour for the past three years. Suppenkasper, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding acquired last year as a prospect for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, has been named as an alternate. Both horses are owned by Four Winds Farm of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang that also owned Ravel and Legolas.
“I hope I can be there for my team,” Steffen told dressage-news.com in the understated manner that has won him fans around the world.
And he doesn’t mince words when asked about his performances on the two horses he rode as part of an American group of long-listed combinations that earned scores on the Florida and California winter circuits to compete at three shows in Europe seeking selection for the team for Tryon.
Were the results at Rotterdam, Netherlands in June; Leudelange, Luxembourg and the premier World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany in July what he expected?
“I would say, ‘no,” he replied. “I definitely would have said ‘yes’ after Rotterdam and Leudelange but not Aachen. That is obviously disappointing.
“But historically speaking, any time I had a show where things didn’t work out great the next show was usually better, that’s the WEG.”
Of the seven United States Festival of Champions Grand Prix titles won by Steffen, three were on Legolas and two on Ravel, the superstar that Steffen competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and two individual bronze medal performances at the 2010 WEG. The duo was only the second American to win the World Cup, which the pair did in Las Vegas in 2009. The combination has been the only one from the Western Hemisphere ever to sweep the prestigious Aachen CDIO, an accomplishment three months after the World Cup title.
Tryon will be the seventh straight Olympics or World Games for the German-born Steffen. He’s also squeezed in two Pan American Games, both with gold medal performances, as well as five World Cup Finals, including the 2009 gold.
Only Robert Dover, coach of the U.S. team since 2013 who will be managing the Tryon Games campaign, has had a longer and more distinguished career in American dressage, competing on six Olympic teams for four team bronze medals, 1986 world championships, WEGs in 1990, team bronze in 1994 and then 1998, seven World Cup Finals and seven-time national Grand Prix champion.
Steffen said he had gone into Aachen as the final selection event with both horses feeling “great,” having shown improvement at Leudelange two weeks earlier. The rides on Rosamunde began well as he “rode my butt off” with the score peaking at about 77 per cent in the Nations Cup Grand Prix Special after the first trot and passage. A mistake in the canter was extremely costly.
“It was a perfect learning experience for the WEG,” he said.
For Suppenkasper, whose barn name of “Mopsie” he adoped from Helen Langehanenberg who developed the horse, the mission was accomplished of exposing him to the intimidating Deutsche Bank Stadium at Aachen. The German Olympic rider and her groom who cared for Suppenkasper visited with bunches of bananas and carrots at Aachen.
Four years ago, Steffen was hospitalized with what he described at the time as a “horrible experience” with pneumonia that put him in the hospital while campaigning in Europe ahead of the World Games. And, not uncommon for riders, had also developed some back problems.
Those issues, he said, are behind him and he’s “feeling great… in wonderful shape.”
The training center in Belgium where the Americans were based over the summer contained a well equipped gym.
“The routine after lunch was a quick double shot of espresso then go into the gym for a daily workout where I usually saw Kasey and Adrienne,” he recalled. “I feel very fit. We’re keeping up this routine.”
Most important is the WEG, at home and with a team that Robert Dover says may be the best America has ever sent into competition. Quite a commendation considering the U.S. won team silver at the WEG in 2002.
The Americans are working hard to be on the podium, but none speak of color of the medals. Germans make it clear they see the Americans as their biggest challenge for gold.
Steffen, though, is focused on what he can control.
“The good thing,” he said of Rosamunde, “is there is no major issue we have to work with. We simply have to be a bit more careful in the one-tempis, ride that a little more collected, a little less risky.”
Since returning home to California and mandatory time in quarantine, Rosie was “very happy and clearly excited to go back to work” last weekend.
He’s not planning to introduce anything new in the preparation of both horses, “just polishing things.”
The horses leave at the end of August to meet up with the rest of the team.
How does he think this WEG will be?
“I think when you go to the games, the Olympic Games or the World Games, there’s always that little extra adrenaline that hopefully makes your riding better.”
Source: Dressage News