Lars Petersen in Danish Championships for 1st Time in Decade

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Lars Petersen and Mariett on their final centerline toward victory at the Wellington 5* Freestyle. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Lars Petersen and Mariett on their final centerline toward victory at the Wellington 5* Freestyle. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Lars Petersen will be competing in the Danish Championships for the first time in a decade at a time when he was among the top ranked riders in the world and before moving back to the United States to build a new life.

And he will ride Mariett in the championships and two weeks later on the Danish team at the Rotterdam Nations Cup, a mare now 15 years old that has made a miraculous recovery from an injury that was feared would prevent the horse from being ridden again, let alone compete internationally

“Mariett has settled in quite well,” Lars said of their temporary stabling at a private farm in Rodding, about three miles (5km) from his parent’s home, before heading to the championships. “It is a bit colder over here so she is a bit fresh but in a good way.”

Mariett seems happier than Lars with the cooler temperatures in Denmark
Mariett seems happier than Lars with the cooler temperatures in Denmark

Lars, now 48 years-old, has never competed Mariett, a Danish Warmblood mare (Come Back II x Sidney), outside the United States.

But their last performance was at the Wellington, Florida CDI5* where the pair beat the top ranked American combination of Steffen Peters and Legolas, in the Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 78.450 per cent, their biggest victory so far. Just two weeks later, Steffen and Legolas were at Horses & Dreams in Hagen, Germany for their first European competition where they finished second by a whisker to Andreas Helgstrand and Akeem Foldager.

Andreas and Akeem will be among the combinations at the Danish Championships and will face off against Steffen and Legolas in the Nations Cup in Aachen, Germany at the end of the month.

For Lars, the recovery of Mariett, owned by Marcia Pepper who had originally bought the horse from Lars as a mount for herself, is another chapter in a life with horses.

He was not long out of Young Riders when he first moved to the United States in the 1980s for a few years before returning to Denmark to become the trainer for Blue Hors and a succession of top horses–Utopia, Uffe Korshojgaard and Cavan that took him to the 1996 Olympics, the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Equestrian Games and the World Cup Finals in 2001 and 2002 and as high as No. 2 in the world rankings.

Interspersed with those were the 1995, 1999 and 2001 European Championships that are vital as the primary qualifying competitions for the world championships and Olympics.

Since returning to the U.S. 10 years ago, with Melissa Taylor he has built a life in Wellington, Florida that is the center of dressage and jumping in America in winter, and together they have built a business in neighboring Loxahatchee which at the peak of the season has more than 50 horses and riders in training.

Up to now, his most successful competition horse in the past decade was Success, a Danish Warmblood gray gelding out of Silvermoon, the same sire of Blue Hors Matine. Matine was the gray mare ridden by Andreas Helgstrand that was a star of the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany in 2006.

In less than three years, Lars and Success won 11 CDIs in the United States.

Lars Petersen and Success at the 2008 Dressage at Devon Saturday night spectacular, at the time the biggest dressage attraction in the USA. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Lars Petersen and Success at the 2008 Dressage at Devon Saturday night spectacular, at the time the biggest dressage attraction in the USA. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Mariett, though, has been the fairy tale.

Marcia Pepper rode the horse at small tour for a couple of years until early 2009.

Then, a morning stable check discovered that during the night the mare had torn off an entire hoof in what was apparently a freak accident.

For three years, the mare was nursed back to health, the hoof grew back and it seemed she could be ridden again. To prepare her for Marcia, Lars started riding Mariett.

Mariett performed so well at national Grand Prix that Marcia let Lars compete the horse at Grand Prix at their first CDI, in February, 2012.

Since then, they have competed up and down the East Coast of the U.S., but this year’s Florida winter circuit saw the horse blossom.

In less than three months Lars and Mariett competed at six shows on the Florida circuit–meaning the three showgrounds within about a 30-minute drive of each other that host CDIs–and posted seven victories in 12 starts, all but one score above 70 per cent, including the personal best of 78.450 per cent in the CDI5* Freestyle.

The focus now is on the Danish Championships this week and then the Nations Cup team at the Rotterdam CDIO5* two weeks later.

Danish team coach Rudolf Zeillinger named the Rotterdam squad as Lisbet Seierskilde and Jonstrupgaardens Raneur; Lars and Mariett; Maria Anita Andersen and Blue Hors Loxana and Mikala Munter Gundersen, another rider based in Florida, on My Lady.

A second team of 2012 Olympic combinations Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein on Digby and Anna Kasprzak on Donnperignon along with the new combination of Andreas Helgstrand on Akeem Foldager and Lone Bang Larsen on Fitou L. They will compete a week after Rotterdam at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany.

Rudolf and the Danish selectors will then choose the team for the Europeans, a highlight event for Denmark in that the championships will be held at Herning in their homeland.

“Coming back to Denmark feels like coming home so it is a nice feeling,” Lars said. “And my old friends here have me busy teaching and looking for sales horses so it has been fun so far.”

He plans to apply for American citizenship when he is eligible at the end of this year.

Denmark is changing its law to allow dual citizenship. If he opts to ride for the United States that would make qualifying for world titles easier. He would not have to go to Denmark to qualify, so this could be his last Danish championship.

Meantime, the focus is on Denmark.

Mariett, Lars notes, is not really a 15-year-old competition mount. She performs like a much younger horse because she had so much time off recuperating from her injury.

“I think she can be one of the better horses we’ve had,” he told dressage-news.com. “As she did not compete for two years I hope we get those two years on the back end.”