Steffen Peters Gets Strong Support from Legolas Owner & US Dressage Chief Over Elimination from World Cup Final

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Steffen Peters riding Legolas in the Freestyle that brought a standing ovation from the crowd of almost 11,000 and cheering and clapping that was so exuberant it spooked the horse, © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters riding Legolas in the Freestyle that brought a standing ovation from the crowd of almost 11,000 and cheering and clapping that was so exuberant it spooked the horse, © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

LAS VEGAS, April 18, 2015–Akiko Yamazaki, the owner of Legolas, came out Saturday night in strong support of Steffen Peters as did U.S. dressage chief Robert Dover after the American pair was eliminated from the World Cup Final when a small amount of blood was detected on the horse’s side at the end of the Freestyle competition.

Akiko, who with her husband Jerry Yang also owns Ravel now retired and Rosamunde, an eight-year-old Rhinelander mare considered to have world class talent, said: “We fully support today’s decision and at the same time feel Steffen’s pain. We have nothing but praise and pride for his horsemanship and masterful riding which we all so admire and is Steffen’s signature.”

Robert Dover, the United States chef d’Equipe, said:  “”Sadly Legolas did have a tiny bit of red on one side following his test, the rules are clear and we understand the decision that was made.

“Steffen is the ultimate sportsman and true ambassador for the sport who has successfully represented his country in international competition for decades. When you watch riders, like Steffen, who are so loving and sympathetic to their horses, have something completely unexpected happen, all you can feel is immense empathy and sadness for them.”

Legolas, a 13-year-old Westfalen gelding, was found during the equipment inspection required of all horses leaving the arena to have a small amount of blood on his side. The pair had completed the Freestyle for a provisional score of 80.286 per cent and were enjoying the cheering and clapping of the crowd that also spooked the horse.

Steffen, known the world over for good riding, the quietest of aids and the love of the horse (“I listen to horses, not speak to them,” he often says) did not know when he caused the mark but thinks it could have happened when the noise-sensitive Legolas spooked after the ride as the pair were waiting for their scores to be posted.

The U.S. entourage watching Steffen Peters and Legolas including Robert Dover and Shannon Peters. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The U.S. entourage watching Steffen Peters and Legolas including Robert Dover and Shannon Peters. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Steffen, 50, of San Diego, California, a three-time Olympian and the top American rider for the past decade, accepted full responsibility and made no excuses.

“There was absolutely no doubt that all FEI Stewards, Dr. Mike Tomlinson and the president of the ground jury, Lilo Fore made the correct decision,” Steffen said of the elimination.

“Legolas is a sensitive horse, because of this I ride with a dull rounded end spur without rowels. I cannot explain when it happened, and I feel terrible for Legolas. I feel guilty and extremely embarrassed, and apologize to Akiko and Jerry, our Federation and our friends and supporters. But still very proud of Legolas who did a wonderful job in the Grand Prix and in the Freestyle.”

A review of photographs confirmed that Steffen was wearing dull spurs with no rowels.

Steffen and Legolas placed third in the Grand Prix and would have been fourth on a near personal best Freestyle score behind Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro, Edward Gal on Glock’s Undercover and Jessica von Brewdow-Werndl on Unee BB

Akiko, an amateur rider who not only owns horses that Steffen rides but is also a major supporter of U.S. dressage programs, said: “We are shocked we find ourselves in this situation but it doesn’t take away from how proud we are of Steffen and Legolas and the team.

“The trouble Steffen took to prepare Legolas to be comfortable in this environment was nothing short of extraordinary, recording cheering and applause, making an audio file, and playing it just enough times so Legolas would be used to it but not be scared. After the Grand Prix, I told Steffen how beautiful it is to see that nothing changes in his riding between home, the warm up and the ring, which is ultimate kindness for the horse.

“We fully support today’s decision and at the same time feel Steffen’s pain. We have nothing but praise and pride for his horsemanship and masterful riding which we all so admire and is Steffen’s signature.”