It's All About Steffen Peters at the 2012 CDI-W Del Mar
Steffen Peters continues to wield the axe of power at the U.S. West Coast dressage competitions adding four victories to his tally at the 2012 CDI-W Del Mar in California, 8 - 11 March 2012. With Legolas he ruled the CDI-W Tour, while Ravel was brought to the venue to awe in the Special CDI tour.
Legolas Leads CDI-W Tour
In the the Grand Prix for Freestyle which had only two competitors in the class, Steffen and Legolas (by Laomedon x Florestan II) took the night with a very strong performance while Jan Ebeling and Rafalca (by Argentinus x Rubinstein) were second. Both had solid rides which earned them 75.809% and 71.468%.
Legolas's extensions looked stronger and more through and his piaffe and passage effortless. Most of his canter tour was good. However, there was a bit of swing in his tempi changes from behind and the only mistake was in the halt before rein back in which Legolas hesitated.
In his attempt to qualify for his third World Cup Finals, Jan Ebeling and Ann Romney's Oldenburg mare Rafalca also had a very solid test. The mare looked very engaged throughout.
"I'm delighted with his performance tonight," Peters told Eurodressage. "He is stronger than he was two weeks ago at the Burbank CDI,
which came through in his extensions and pirouettes. I'm a very lucky man to have two such wonderful horses."
Kur Magic from Legolas and Rafalca
In the Grand Prix Kur to Music Legolas borrowed stal mate Ravel's World Cup music and dazzled the crowd with a mistake free ride, which earned them 78.225%. It was Legolas first freestyle so the degree of difficulty in Ravel's Coldplay kur was toned down. Nevertheless the ride was masterful and the horse has showed improvement from each class. Overall, Legolas was much freer in all of his gaits, the passage steady and the piaffe brilliant and smooth. His half passes were uphill, open and swept across the arena. The canter tour was very strong this evening with the pirouettes being well under and well balanced.
"I honestly can't believe how amazing Legolas was tonight," Peters said after his second victory. "Everything worked perfectly. He truly earned the right to borrow Ravel's World Cup music."
Jan Ebeling and the 15-year old Rafalca finished second with 74.8% and grabbed a ticket for the 2012 World Cup Finals in 's Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, on 19 - 22 April 2012. Del Mar was a major success for the pair as they rode two personal best score's in the Grand Prix and Kur. Jan rode a mistake free Grand Prix Freestyle. The mare was in top form as they went up against Steffen and Legolas both evenings. Her passage had more lift and she was well under in the piaffe. The tempi's up the center line could not have been straighter.
"Rafalca was really on tonight," Ebeling commented. "She was so responsive to the aids, everything felt easy. She is getting better with each show. Last night's Grand Prix for Freestyle was one of her strongest tests and she delivered even more tonight." Ebeling's California trainer Christine Traurig added that "I am so proud of them. They were the best ever for this entire show. If they continue like this, and I don't see why they wouldn't, they will have a very strong foundation for the World Cup."
Ravel Remains on Form in the Lead Up to the Olympics
The Del Mar show belonged to Steffen Peters and his two partners, Ravel and Legolas, both owned by Akiko Yamazaki. In the CDI Grand Prix for Special, Steffen and his trusty ride Ravel (by Contango x Democraat) swept the board and won the class with 79.213%.
The covered arena at the Dressage Affaire in Del Mar can be very difficult and spooky for a lot of horses and that proved to be the case for most of the riders in the Grand Prix for Special. The only error free ride came with Steffen and his 14-year old Ravel, which looked confident and strong throughout the entire test. His extensions had reach and power and his second piaffe was on the spot, regular, and well balanced. The entire test was precise, error free and flowed from one movement to the next. Nothing rattled the pair and they easily went on to win the class.
"I'm very pleased," said Ravel's owner Akiko Yamazaki. "Steffen rode a very clean test, the geometry was spot on. Ravel was both powerful and supple. What can I say, they make it look easy."
Sue Blinks and Doug & Louise Leatherdale's Dutch warmblood gelding Robin Hood (by Jazz) took second place in the Grand Prix for Special, with a 68.957%. This was Blinks' first time back in the ring after a year of health issues that almost ended her riding career. It wasn't known until early this year if she would be able to compete again.
Sue rode the sensitive gelding tactfully and had a few errors in an arena that is environmentally very challenging. The trot tour was well ridden with no mistakes. The canter tour was a bit more challenging with mistakes in the two tempi's and loss of impulsion in the pirouettes, but overall, her cautiously ridden test was a nice comeback to competition.
"I'm just so excited to be showing again," Blinks told Eurodressage. "I've had some health issues this past year that were very difficult. I'm proud of Robin he was a good boy. We have some things to work on, but it's a nice way to start back."
Robin Hood's owners Louise and Doug Leatherdale added that, "we are so proud of Sue. We weren't sure she'd be back in the ring. This was a great evening and a good start. We really couldn't be happier."
Third placed Guenter Seidel had a tough ride on his Feinbrand offspring Fandango. With small issues and mistakes in the two tempi's and an irregular piaffe their score of 68.234% was quite generous.
Personal Best Score for Ravel in Grand Prix Special
In the Olympic Grand Prix Special on Sunday 11 March 2012, Steffen Peters and Ravel captured victory with a personal best score of 80.289%. The pair has an error free ride that also delivered several 10's. The dark bay gelding moved with power and grace throughout the technically challenging Special and the highlights were the trot half passes that showed reach, power and grace as well as the transitions between movements, which make a significant part of the Grand Prix Special.
"The passage to canter transitions are hard, I rode him more passively through them, which allowed Ravel to handle the transitions smoothly," Peters explained. "Ravel is feeling incredible. His back is much stronger now so I can allow him to be more open through the movements. Before I had to ride him a bit more round to help him. Now it's easy for him."
The second place in the Special was a very close call between Guenter Seidel and Fandango (70.422%) and Kathleen Raine on Breanna (70.4%). Seidel's ride was good but there still were some imperfections in the tempi changes.
"I hate to make mistakes like we had in the one tempi's but overall I'm really happy with him and we're still figuring each other out," said Seidel who has only been riding Fandango for several weeks. "It's really difficult when you don't bring a horse up through the levels. You really get to know them that way. But everything is there, I just need to work the technical issues."
Kathleen Raine's ride was also very good, but the pair had a costly mistake in the passage to extension in which the mare broke into canter for a stride. Other than that they had a clean test.
Kathleen was really happy with her mare. "She was much more relaxed today. It started in the warm up and carried over to the arena," she said. "She stayed with me throughout the entire test."
Next stop for Kathleen and Breanna is the CDI San Juan Capistrano on 29 March - 1 April 2012. Between now and then the pair will work on strengthening. "The quality of the gaits is there. Now we need to focus on strengthening the mare," said Raine. "We'll work with Christine Traurig and focus on the technical details."
Peters Requests Bi for Gladstone
Next on the list for Ravel and Peters is the Del Mar National on 26 - 29 April 2012 in California where the pair will compete in the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle.
"Maintaining a performance level for the 80's is very difficult and much different than maintaining for the 70's," Peters explained. "To even dream about a medal in the Olympics your performance level has to be in the 80% range. Anything else won't cut it."
As America's strongest Grand Prix combination, Steffen and Ravel will be petitioning for a bye for the U.S. Olympic Selection trials in Gladstone.
Ravel's owner Akiko said that that she is "very happy. Steffen and Ravel had a great show and their performance in the Grand Prix Special was definitely an 80's ride. They have proven that they are at that level. There's no doubt. Ravel is stronger than he has ever been. What makes it difficult for some people is that Ravel is so supple and makes it look so easy that the power of his movements gets underestimated."
Text by Astrid Appels/Sheryl L Ross
Photos © Sheryl L Ross