Steffen Peters & Ravel Break 80% in Grand Prix Special for 1st Time
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
GLADSTONE, New Jersey, Sept. 9–Steffen Peters and Ravel broke the 80 per cent barrier for the first time in the Grand Prix Special Friday in their four-year reign as America’s top dressage psrtnership and among the elite combinations in the world.
On the same day the pair turned in their personal best score in the second of three contests to become the USA Grand Prix National Champion, Steffen switched mounts to ride Weltino’s Magic in the Prix St. Georges to assure himself the leading member of the American team for the Pan American Games held only once every four years and in Mexico next month.
“That’s a first,” said Steffen of San Diego, California after the score of 80.083 per cent in the Special and 79.789 per cent in the St. Georges.
The score that surpassed their previous best set at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last year when the pair collected two individual bronze medals may be the result of a new fitness program in which the 13-year-old KWPN gelding by Contango works out on a treadmill.
The margin of victory over the second placed Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida,and Calecto V on 73.417 per cent and third placed Lauren Sammis of South Orange, New Jersey, on Sagacious HF on 67.958 per cent pretty much locked up the national championship for Steffen and Ravel, owned by Akiko Yamazaki and who won the Grand Prix Thursday. The Grand Prix counts for 45 per cent, the Special 30 per cent and the Freestyle to be held Sunday 25 per cent.
The Freestyle will be the second performance of the new music they debuted at Aachen, Germany, in July. It was so successful the sellout crowd in the 4,500-seat stadium gave it a resounding thumbs up by booing the score that was lower than that for Totilas. The music is an orchestral and choral rendition of the score from the movie Avatar and replaced the popular Coldplay accompaniment.
Steffen and Ravel came within a mere fraction of a point of claiming only the second individual Olympic medal for an American at the 2008 Games, then went on to claim in 2009 the World Cup and sweep the CDIO at Aachen, Germany, the world’s most prestigious horse show, then follow it up with two individual bronze medals at the World Equestrian Games in 2010.
“He was a tiny bit behind me yesterday in the Grand Prix and today in the warm up too,” Steffen said. “I had to wake him up a little bit more than usual and he said ‘OK, I better pay attention.’ He carried that through from the first step into the arena to the last halt. He was so in front of me… he was absolutely super.”
The five judges thought so, too. The pair received five perfect 10s–two from Americans Linda Zang (for the first and last halts) and two from Jane Ayers (for right haf-passes) and one from fellow Californian Axel Steiner (also for the first halt).
Their comments: “So good!” (Gustav Svalling of Sweden), “Super!” (Hilda Gurney of California), “A joy to watch.” (Jane Ayers), “I’ll put him in bubble wrap.” (Axel Steiner).
But a major factor in Ravel’s continuing development is the use of a treadmill. Steffen admitted his initial skepticism, but his wife, Shannon, pressed him try the treadmill and he said the results are the evidence he looks for before adopting new training and fitness methods.
The routine is for Rave to walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes on the flat, five minutes on an incline, another five minutes on the flat and then seven or eight minutes on a steeper incline.
“I have noticed a little more definition in his hindquarters,” he said. “That little bit of extra fitness is the reason that he’s scratched the 80 per cent mark or gone over.”
No treadmill for Steffen, though. “I get incredibly bored on the treadmill. I run on a flat surface.”
Tina Konyot and her 13-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion, the defending National Grand Prix champions, said the much improved weather Friday helped in her ride on Calecto, team mates of Steffen and Ravel at the 2010 WEG.
“I could actually hold on to the reins today,” she said in referring to Thursday’s Grand Prix when she explained the rain-soaked reins slipped through her hands. “I really struggled holding my reins.”
She said that Calecto is getting “stronger and strnger” and has developed confidence in himself. “There have been problems in the past but I think that is behind us. I haven’t ridden the Grand Prix Special this year. It felt comfortable and smooth. There is a weakness in the extended trot, but that’s my weakness not his.”
Lauren said that her 2007 Pan American Games team gold and indifidual silver medal mount had been back in work for eight weks since major sinus surgery during the summer.
“I’m not quite where I’d like to be,” she said. “He didn’t make one mistake today, clearly it was rider error.”
A sad note was the apparent lameness of Currency DC ridden by Susan Dutta of Wellington, Florida, and owned by her husband’s Dutta Corp.
The 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding who has been competed by Susan on both sides of the Atlantic since starting his Grand Prix career 18 months ago, was warming up when he suddenly went lame. The cause was being investigated by veterinarians, but there was nothing immediately apparent.
An unusual fact–at least a check of the records did not disclose contrary evidence–is that this is the first Grand Prix national championship in which two married couples are competing against each other, and both are from California.
Steffen Peters is riding Ravel whule his wife, Shannon, is on Odessey.
Kathleen Raine and her Breanna who placed fourth in the Special Friday and her husband, David Wightman on Partous finished in eighth place.
Kathleen and David, whose horses had problems with the torrential rain that is rare in Southern California, clearly enjoyed the return of sunshine Friday and both mounts showed their approval of improved weather with good performances.
Isabelle Leibler on Watson 108 won the Young Rider Team Test earlier Friday with a score of 70.263 per cent.