London Olympics are Ravel’s Last Championship
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LONDON, Aug. 3–Ravel, the horse that Steffen Peters has ridden into American dressage history, is likely performing in his last championship after a career that won a World Cup title, individual world championship medals and came within a whisker of the first individual Olympic medal for the United States in 80 years.
The 14-year-old KWPN gelding (Contango x Hautain x Democraat) is looking at retirement after completing his mission of delivering one of the top six scores–77.705 per cent–that elevated the United States to fifth place in the first phase of the Olympic team competition that saw what may be the greatest number of extraordinarily talented horses and riders go head-to-head.
What remains for Ravel is to deliver his best again to give the United States as high a place as possible in the team standings when the second phase is held next Tuesday at this royal park that is England’s oldest at 600 years and has become an iconic centerpiece of the Games in this horse-loving nation.
Ravel was bought by Akiko Yamazaki as a stallion in 2006 with the aim of competng at te 2008 Olympics. Ravel was gelded after arriving in the U.S.
At the 2008 Games, Ravel and Steffen came within a fraction of a percentage of winnng the first Olympic individual medal for the United States since Col. Hiram Tuttle and the aptly named Olympic in 1932, but was denied by a ground jury whose procedures forced the International Equestrian Federation to fire its own Dressage Committee, too late to help the American combination.
He went on to win the World Cup title in 2009, only the second American combination to do so.
Then, the pair became the first from the U.S. to sweep the CDIO5* of the Grand Prix, the Special and the Freestyle at the 2009 World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, the greatest horse show on Earth. And at the 2010 World Equestran Games in Kentucky won two individual bronze medals.
In a return engagement at the Aachen CDIO Freestyle in 2011, the knowldgeable crowd made it clear by their applause that Ravel was the champion and not the mighty Totilas who was awarded more judges’ marks.
Whether one loves the relaxed but correct harmony of the partnership or Ravel’s ears, the horse is the most recognizable symbol of American dressage in the modern era.
“This could be Ravel’s last competition,” Steffen told dressage-news.com at a reception in the USA House for the dressage and jumper teams next to Greenwich Park, the venue for Olympic equestrian sports. “Both Akiko and I have never mentioned the word ‘retirement.’
“We both know when talking about the Olympics this will be it for him. There is nothing left to prove. He doesn’t owe us anything, but we owe him a ton.
“We owe him everything.”
Legolas, a 10-year-old Westfalen gelding (Laomedon x Furstin x Florestan II) was bought by Akiko late last year as a successor to Ravel, and won the U.S. Grand Prix Championships this year. Steffen’s tentative schedule is to compete Legolas in selected events in Florida next winter.
Steffen said that if he had been told Ravel and he would pull off a 77 per cent in the kind of company in London, “I wouldn’t have believed it.”
“We made the right decision to give him six weeks off and not compete in the selection trials in Gladstone (New Jersey) two months ago,” he said. “We’re grateful for the support from the U.S. federation by giving us a bye. That was a real blessing because Ravel could come to these Olympics fit and ready to produce his best for the team.”
Was he disappointed that the U.S. was not a contender for a medal with his team mates, Jan Ebeling and Rafalca and Tina Konyot and Calecto V? Midway through the team competition, the U.S. is in fifth position behind Great Britain. Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark and too far back to have a hope of a medal
“You can’t help it when you come to these Olympics you always hope to get a medal with the team,” said Steffen of San Diego, California.
“Jan and Tina put in scores that were higher than we posted in Kentucky at the WEG. To me, the glass is always half full. I’m just happy that the three of us can move on to the Special.”
As to an individual medal that will be decided on the musical freestyle scores a week away as the finale for equestrian competition at these Games on Aug. 9?
“We are starting from scratch and Ravel’s history is that he is best in the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle.
“Let’s face it, a medal is pretty much out of reach. But you never know. Hopefully we can improve our score a little bit.
“That’s what Ravel did in the last six years.
“Whatever happens, I couldn’t be happier with him.”