Role of Steffen Peters & Legolas Grows Larger for USA in World Games

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Steffen Peters riding Legolas at San Juan Capistrano under the watchful eye of German rainer Johan Hinnemann. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters riding Legolas at San Juan Capistrano under the watchful eye of German trainer Johan Hinnemann. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, California, Mar. 24, 2014–The role of Steffen Peters and Legolas, successor to Ravel as the most successful horse in modern American dressage, has grown larger with the loss of Günter Seidel and Coral Reef Wylea as candidates for the World Equestrian Games in late summer.

Steffen and the 12-year-old Westfalen gelding posted a Grand Prix score of 76.540 per cent in Los Angeles a month ago that is close to the highest the pair has logged in two years on the international circuit.

At the Capistrano International Dressage World Cup event, Steffen worked the horse with coaching from Johan Hinnemann, the German trainer who is in high demand in Southern California.

Legolas looked fitter than ever in the fine tuning session preparing for the Festival of the Horse CDI3* to be held at San Juan Capistrano this week.

“The work with Jo been very productive,” Steffen told dressage-news. “But at the end of the day the scores need to tell the real truth.

“At Los Angeles, I thought, ‘if he stays like that for the rest of the season I would be super happy.’

“It was the first time we had done two tests in a row–the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special in LA–without mistakes, two tests that were clean.

“It will always be difficult with him. He’s simply a bit insecure about them. What I want to do is get him more confident and competent.”

A “realistic target” at Grand Prix is “close to 78,” he said.

“If 80 is in there we still need to see.”

Legolas with Steffen Peters working out at San Juan Capistrano. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Legolas with Steffen Peters working out at San Juan Capistrano. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Legolas, at the top of the United States WEG standing with an average Grand Prix score of 75.919 per cent, is at a level by himself in America with less than three months to go to the U.S. WEG selection trials in Gladstone, New Jersey.

The loss of Günter and Wylea at an average of 72.777 per cent for second place in the standings, has brought into sharper focus the U.S. rankings.

Third is the Olympic partnership of Jan Ebeling and Rafalca at 71.713 followed by the American individual Olympic pair of Adrienne Lyle and Wizard at 71.227, Olympic and WEG team members Tina Konyot and Calecto V at 70.384 and Shelly Francis and Doktor at 70.127. Several other combinations are nudging 70 per cent average.

The WEG Nations Cup, the event that counts most for Oympic committee funding and recognition, is at Grand Prix and requires scores from three of the maximum of four combinations on a team.

The battle for podium placings, at this stage, appears to be between the usual suspects in recent years.

The Netherlands is capable of two scores around 80 per cent–Edward Gal and Glock’s Undercover and Adelinde Cornellisen and Jerich Parzival. Add young superstar Danielle Heijkoop and Kingsley Siro scoring in the high 70s and the team is a top contender for gold.

Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill are in the 80 per cent club, the status of the Olympic partnership of Kristina Sprehe and Desperado is uncertain, but Isabell Werth as the ultimate championship rider, along with relative newcomers Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Unee BB and Fabienne Lütkemeier and D’Agostino as well as Anabel Balkenhol and Dablino.

Great Britain can count on Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, the highest scoring combination in the world in the last two years, Carl Hester and Dances with Wolves or whatever horse he decides to ride and a group of less experienced but improving pairs.

Denmark has a shot, led by Anna Kasprzak and Donnperignon with other prospects Andreas Helgstrand and Akeem Foldager, Nanna Skodberg Merrald and Millibar and the American-based Lars Petersen and Mariett while Sweden’s Tinne Vilhemsson-Silfvén and Don Auriello is in top form.

While Steffen admits “it doesn’t look very promising for a medal” at WEG, “what I can predict is that everybody who makes the team is going to train and ride as if we are going to win a gold medal.”

And Johan Hinnemann, the German coaching guru that Steffen, Kathleen Raine and Christine Traurig have enlisted to devote a large slice of his time to coaching on the West Coast, may end up spending even more time in California. At the age of 65, Johan wants to spend time with his son and grand daughter who live in Minnesota–a place Johan admits he doesn’t much like while calling California “paradise.”