Steffen Peters Returns to Riding After Pneumonia, Expects to be 100% to Compete Legolas in Verden in 2 Weeks

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Steffen Peters and Legolas competing in Europe. © 2014 Ken Braddick/
Steffen Peters and Legolas competing at Fritzens, Austria before coming down with pneumonia. © 2014 Ken Braddick/

July 23, 2014


Steffen Peters has returned to riding after a “horrible experience” with pneumonia that put him in the hospital instead of being on the United States Nations Cup team at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany.

But he expects to be 100 per cent back to normal to compete the American team horse Legolas in Germany two weeks before the World Equestrian Games.

Right now, he told Wednesday, “I’m at 90 per cent. It’s made a huge difference in the last few days of water and electrolytes. My lungs feel fine; that was the biggest concern, that I might lose a range of But it’s clearly 100 per cent OK. Knowing me, when I feel ready I’ll do some workouts and my strength will come back.

“I’m positive that when I’m in Verden I’ll be back to 100 per cent.”

Steffen said, “There wasn’t a single thought I was disappointed not to be showing at Aachen.

“I was excited about breathing normally. Life is relative. It was two weeks for a very good reality check that put things into perspective.”

The scary bout with pneumonia that was so severe as to develop into pleurisy came as he was traveling home to the U.S. dressage team base in Belgium with his American team mates from Fritzens, Austria, the first of two selection events for the WEG.

Laura Graves, Caroline Roffman and Adrienne Lyle took care of him on the way as he laid on benches. But he didn’t remember much by the time they got back to Belgium. He was taken to a doctor who diagnosed it as a virus, no antibiotics needed, just a seven-day deal.

It was not.

“They put me in the ICU (intensive care unit) at the hospital,” he recalled. “I couldn’t breathe any more. I woke up and there were four people around me who kept me breathing with oxygen.

“It was a horrible experience.

“It was a good thing the antibiotics they picked were exctly what my body responded to.”

On the Sunday night a week after Fritzens and a couple of days before the American squad left for Aachen and the second selection event, his fever was down and he talked with Robert Dover, the team chef d’equipe.

“I still had a hard time breathing,” he said, “but I felt good enough to go home. I felt so euphoric for 30 seconds that I felt better than I had. I told Robert, ‘I think I can show in Aachen.’ Robert said he wanted to talk to the doctor. ‘You can show in Aachen if you want to die,’ she said.

“‘You know,’ I replied, ‘I might skip Aachen this year.’

“I simply didn’t know I had pneumonia. I knew I had a fever.”

He had earler gone to Lingen, Germany to see Akiko Yamazaki, the owner of his Olympic and World Games mount, Ravel, as well as Legolas and the sensational seven-year-old Rosamunde.

“I made a  terrible mistake and rode a horse up there,” he said.

Rosamunde ridden by Steffen Peters performing passage in the honor round for the Schindlhof CDI4* Intermediate 1 in Fritzens, Austria. © 2014 Ken Braddick/
Rosamunde ridden by Steffen Peters performing passage in the honor round for the Schindlhof CDI4* Intermediate 1 in Fritzens, Austria. © 2014 Ken Braddick/

While he was in the hospital, Robert rode Rosie before he left for Aachen. Steffen’s wife, Shannon, flew from their home in San Diego, California to assume the riding.

“Shannon did a fabulous job,” he said, “It was really fun to watch.

“I also learned so much about pneumonia. I had no clue what it was. I was honestly surprised how slowly the recovery was. I thought it was like the ‘flu, that when it was over it was over

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back on a horse. I walked both a little bit on Tuesday and did some light work today.”

His recovery now, he said, “is all about attitude. I drive by the hospital every single day. I could say what a horrible experience it was, or thank God they found the right antibiotics. It’s all about the attitude.”

He had another blood test Wednesday that “clearly showed” the bacteria doesn’t exist any more. He’s drinking a lot of water with electrolytes to get his liver and kidney back into shape–“in a couple more days they will be regenerated as well.

He is scheduled to ride Legolas at Verden, which is hosting a CDI3* alongside the World Young Horse Championships. Other Americans to compete in the Big Tour are Caroline Roffman of Wellington, Florida on Her Highness O, Catherine Haddad-Staller of Stockton, New Jersey on Mane Stream Hotmail and Kathleen Raine of Murietta, California on Breanna.

Caroline achieved the American team qualifying scores at the U.S. championships in Gladstone, New Jersey, Fritzens and Aachen along with Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida on Calecto V to join Steffen and Laura Graves of Geneva, Florida who won selection based on placing first and second in Gladstone.

The team will be officially announced Aug. 14, after the horses have completed veterinary and other checks.

While he hopes to show Rosamunde in the small tour at Verden, Steffen described the mare’s performance in Fritzens, her first major international show as “absolutely wonderful.” He received positive comments from top professionals about the rides in the Prix St. Georges and the Intermediate 1 as well as showing off a little piaffe and passage in the honor round.