On Independence Day, USA’s Steffen Peters & Ravel Do it Again at Aachen, the Grand Prix Special CDIO

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Steffen Peters & Ravel beeing cheered by 40,000 spectators in Aachen's main stadium after winning the Grand Prix Special CDIO on Independence Day. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz
Steffen Peters & Ravel beeing cheered by 40,000 spectators in Aachen's main stadium after winning the Grand Prix Special CDIO on Independence Day. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, July 4–Steffen Peters and Ravel gave America an Independence Day present Saturday by winning the World Equestrian Festival Grand Prix Special CDIO .

Peters and Ravel, who won the Grand Prix CDIO Thursday, the first Americans to do so in almost a half-century, scored 76.917 per cent, one-third of one per cent ahead of 2008 Olympic individual gold medalists Anky van Grunsven and IPS Salinero of The Netherlands on 76.583 per cent. The Special was the first Peters and Ravel have performed since the Beijing Olympics a year ago.

Team Ravel and friends. Tom Meyer, equine physical therapist, Shannon Peters, George H. Morris, and USEF Dressage Managing Director Gil Meerick. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Team Ravel and friends. Tom Meyer, equine physical therapist, Shannon Peters, USA Jumping Chef d'Equipe George H. Morris, and USEF Dressage Managing Director Gil Merrick. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

With his wife, Shannon, and Ravel’s owners, Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, as well as U.S. jumping Chef d’Equipe George H. Morris looking on, the crowd of 5,000 spectators gave the American pair a huge ovation after their win Saturday.

At the victory gallop in Aachen’s main stadium which was packed with 40,000 spectators, Peters and the 10-year-old gelding out of Contango received a standing ovation.

“This was definitely my best Independence Day… this is exciting,” he declared to dressage-news.com.

The excitement over a new pair at the top of the dressage world and the nail-biting finish Saturday brought almost universal accolades and glee among spectators, riders, owners and others.

Anky van Grunsven and IPS Salinero "going for it!" © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Anky van Grunsven and IPS Salinero "going for it!" © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

“Isn’t this weird,” van Grunsven shouted to this correspondent as she rode into the arena for the victory gallop.

“The USA and the Dutch on top at Aachen.”

Joining Peters and Ravel and van Grunsven and Salinero in the victory gallop was third-placed Hans Peter Minderhoud on Exquis Nadine who scored 74.500 per cent.

Aachen, in a land where horse sports are second only to soccer in popularity, is frequently a showcase for Germany and its prowess. Only twice in 32 years has a nation other than Germany won the dressage Nations Cup. In the 54 years of the Aaachen dressage Grand Prix, a German has been the champion on 38 occasions.

However, the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO is still to come on Sunday where Peters and Ravel will face the world’s greatest exponent of the musical event, Anky van Grunsven.

Peters said that “it’s pretty amazing… I still have a lot of horse left. That’s surprising after such a demanding test like the Grand Prix Special.”

In the Special, the American combination had two major mistakes, the first one the transition from passage to trot extension. Ravel broke into canter which Peters described as a “bobble,” and which the judges punished him with 3s and 4s and the progressive percentages displayed on scoreboards around the arena showed their scores plummeted to 73 per cent from 81 per cent. The second mistake was in the pirouette to the right which Peters attemped to make smaller but it did not go as planned.

Owner Akiko Yamazaki with Ravel and groom Rafael Hernandez after the Grand Prix Special CDIO. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Owner Akiko Yamazaki with Ravel and groom Rafael Hernandez after the Grand Prix Special CDIO. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

However, four of the five judges placed the American pair first, while Dr. Wojciech Markowski of Poland placed them third behind van Grunsven and Salinero and Great Britain’s Emma Hindle and Lancet.

Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

Van Grunsven gave Peters some “nerve-wracking” moments as he watched four rides later when she received a 10 and some “well deserved” 9s.

“It was very obvious she was going for it, not holding back,” he said, “and that’s what the competition is all about.”

And going for it again after a long rest for Salinero after the 2008 Olympic individual gold medal–her third Olympic individual gold–was what van Grunsven did.

“Coming fifth in the Grand Prix Thursday was a great motivator,” she said.

At the Dutch championships she had to think about whether to give up high performance competition with Salinero or “fight for it.”

“I found I really want to stay in the sport because I enjoy it. But that alone is not enough. I don’t want to be fifth again. I want to ride with the knife between my teeth. I now want to enjoy it and win.”

Anthony Kies, creator of the Exquis World Dressage Masters watching his horse, Exquis Nadine being ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Anthony Kies, creator of the Exquis World Dressage Masters watching his horse, Exquis Nadine being ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com