Steffen Peters, Star on 3 Continents – Part 3 of 3
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
When Brandi Roenick was weighing her options on pursuing a career in dressage, the 18-year-old widely acknowledged as a future star in the United States moved to California to train full time with Steffen Peters.
Brandi had a pretty good idea about the commitment required to pursue her goal–she is, after all, the child of two athletic overachievers, a mother who is a successful dressage trainer and a National Hockey League All Star for a father.
With the blessing of her parents, she moved from her home in suburban Phoenix to learn as much as she can working for Steffen at his San Diego barn and as he travels across the United States and Europe with Legolas, the Westfalen gelding (Laomedon x Furstin x Florestan II) who will be 11 years old in 2013. Legolas was bought by Akiko Yamazaki a year ago as the successor to Ravel, now living in retirement in California. (See Story: Teenager Brandi Roenick Ready for Next Stage in Dressage Career)
For Steffen, he is just as excited to have under his wing a rider who has been on three successive North American Junio/Young Rider gold medal teams with three different horses, and has also claimed individual gold and silver medals.
“When Brandi won the double gold at this year’s championship I was just as excited as I was if I had won a major championship,” he told dressage-news.com.
“It’s exciting to see the young riders and junior riders, to be a part of their development.”
He worked with Jen and Bruce Hlavacek of Las Vegas on a lease of Weltino’s Magic, the horse he rode to double gold medals at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexio, in 2011. The Pan Ams are at small tour.
That lease is now over and the horse is up for sale again.
Steffen and his wife, Shannon, operate a barn with 65 horses, large for dressage anywhere in the world. About 30 of those horses are in training with he and Shannon while the remainder are with trainers/competitors David Blake, Lientje Schueler and Rebecca Rigdon.
And he gives about 30 training clinics a year, the most frequent being in Wellington with the Florida-based Australian Ilse Schwarz, in Maryland with Scott Hassler, the U.S. Young Horse coach, and Akiko Yamazaki the owner of both Ravel and Legolas who lives in Northern California. The clinic schedule took a big hit in 2012 when he was enlisted to become a rider/coach for U.S. Olympic hopefuls but now life is back to normal.
As a result of his schedule of competitions, clinics, symposiums and other appearances he gets to see a lot of riders across the United States.
What he sees in both talent and drive in the increasingly popular Under-25 division that has been nurtured in the U.S. by the “Brentina Cup,” gives him encouragement for the future.
“We have some very good talented people coming up,” he said. “We have to cultivate the good talent, those who are very driven and provide them with realistic goals. I see and talk to so many kids who have a dream.
“The bottom line is that for kids between 16 and 19 years old we have to point them in the right direction and then back it up.”
Caroline Roffman, the International Equestrian Federation’s “Rising Star” for 2010 is among those Steffen is “excited” to see compete as she has built a record of championship victories on several horses, including the 2010 U.S. Intermediaire title.
Now, she has taken over the ride on Sagacious (Welt Hit II x Judith x Cocktail), the 13-year-old KWPN gelding that at the small tour Pan American Games in 2007 won team gold and individual silver.
Caroline, coached by Florida-based Danish Olympian Lars Petersen, is scoring well into the 70 per cent range at national Young Rider Grand Prix with Sagacious and one of her goals is to compete in the Under-25 competition at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, the pinnacle of the sport. If she makes it, Steffen will be there with Legolas as the finale of a European swing to measure the level of that partnership succeeding Ravel.
Endel Ots, who partners with Caroline in their Wellington, Florida, training and sales business is another young prospect for the future in Steffen’s eyes.
Although the German-born Steffen is decidedly American and has embraced the California lifestyle he is popular and respected on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Through a series of high profile clinics, he has become a star in Australia and even in the U.S. he gets to hear more Australian accents than most folks who don’t live Down Under.
From the first time he was in Australia, for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, he fell in love with the people–“very laid back and a great sense of humor.”
Since then, his barn has become something of a home away from home for many Australians.
Emma Weinert has been at Steffen’s barn for a couple of years and others who have taken up temporary residence have included Mary Hanna (she bought her 2012 Olympic mount Sancette from him), Nicole McGoffin and Heath Ryan before the 2009 World Cup in Las Vegas.
When he heads to the U.S. East Coast, Ilse Schwarz, who has lived in Wellington since marrying an American 12 years ago, has trained with him for more than seven years and has organized his Wellington clinics for the past four years.
The headline clinics and symposiums in Australia have included most recently the innovative joint session with Australian performance psychologist Jonah Oliver and before that sold out appearances at Equitana and other events.
But the primary focus for the next six months is to test Legolas against the best in the world.
In January, he and Legolas will fly to Florida for the World Dressage Masters–the first CDI5* for the partnership. In the past year, the pair have started in eight CDI classes for eight victories, all in California, plus claiming the U.S. Grand Prix Championship in their first appearance but before a judge’s panels overwhelmingly of Americans.
The CDI results have placed Legolas in the latest International Equestrian Federation’s individual world ranking Top 20 for the first time.
However, Florida may be different than California..
Among the competitors will be Sweden’s six-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén, who will be spending her third straight winter in Wellington.
She and her London Games mount Don Auriello have developed into one of the world’s top combinations, scoring 84.700 per cent in the Freestyle at Stockholm earlier this month to win the fourth of eight legs of the intensely competitive Western European Leage World Cup qualifying series that moved the pair into 10th in the world rankings. Tinne and the 10-year-old gelding will be looking to display their prowess after the previous two Florida CDI5* events in which they were bested by Steffen and Ravel.
And American team mate Heather Blitz on her Paragon will likely be challenging for podium position to show off how the American-bred Danish Warmblood gelding that is a year younger than Legolas has developed since last competing in a CDI in March, 2012. The pair were the reserve for the U.S. Olympic squad.
What Steffen learns from that first CDI5* will be tested in earnest two months later when the pair return to Wellington for a second CDI5* that will kick off a swing that takes them to Germany–Hagen in April, Wiesbaden in May and in June to the pinnacle of the sport, the World Equestrian Festival at Aachen.
For Steffen, the European tour is vital preparation for the next major championship, the World Equestrian Games in Normany in 2014.
The plan is for he and Legolas to be on a United States team able to contend for a place on the medals podium for the first time in an Olympic or world championship since the WEG in 2006.