Steffen Peters Aims for 5th Straight USA Championship at Dutta Corp. Festival of Champions

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Steffen Peters and Legolas competing at the Pan American Games. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters and Legolas competing at the Pan American Games. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Sept. 4, 2015–Steffen Peters plans to compete Legolas and Rosamunde at the United States Festival of Champions seeking his fifth straight Grand Prix national title and seventh Big Tour crown in the past nine years.

Steffen, 51 years old two weeks from now who has retained riding skills learned growing up in Germany and sharpened while immersing himself in the Southern California lifestyle, will come into the Festival of Champions presented by The Dutta Corp. with Legolas ranked No. 1 in the U.S. standings and No. 9 in the world. Rosamunde is No. 3 in the American rankings and 29th in the world although the Rhinelander mare is just eight years old.

At No. 2 is Laura Graves and Verdades, team mates at the 2014 World Games and at the Pan American Games where this year the two riders helped the United States clinch a start in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next summer.

About a dozen other combinations will be invited to both the Grand Prix and Intermediate championships after qualifying that closes at the end of October. Qualifying CDIs are scheduled before then on both coasts of the United States and American combinations are still competing in Europe that can also count.

Steffen is scheduled to ride both Legolas and Rosamunde at the World Cup event in Thousand Oaks, California next week.

The Festival of Champions is scheduled for Dec. 9-13 for the first time at the Global Dressage Festival grounds in Wellington, Florida that have become one of the leading show centers of high performance  dressage competition in the world with seven CDIs over the first three months of the year.

Steffen Peters and Rosamunde competing in Europe this year. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters and Rosamunde competing in Europe this year. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

In addition to top combinations from California and elsewhere in the nation for the U.S. Grand Prix and Intermediate championships, the top end of the six divisions that make up the Festival of  Champions, most of Wellington’s large winter equestrian community will already be in Florida preparing for the Global circuit that begins the following month.

Steffen was U.S. champion for the past three years on Legolas, the Westfalen gelding now 13 years old that Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang bought as a successor to their Ravel that Steffen took to two Olympic Games. They also own Rosamunde.

He took the national title on Ravel, now in retirement, in 2008 and 2011. The rider was excused from the championships in 2009, the year he rode Ravel to the World Cup title in Las Vegas then three months later the only American combination ever to claim the CDIO title at Aachen, Germany, the world’s most prestigious dressage and jumping event.

As the undisputed No. 1 American partnership in 2010, the pair were allowed to skip the festival that was also the selection show for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. The duo won two individual bronze medals in Lexington.

Heavy rain did not stop Ravel ridden by Steffen Peters winning the 2011 U.S. Championsip. ©  Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Heavy rain did not stop Ravel ridden by Steffen Peters winning the 2011 U.S. Championsip. ©  Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

In 2006, Steffen won the Grand Prix title on Floriano, the Westfalen gelding that he rode to the highest score for the American team that won bronze at the world championships in Aachen. A year later, the pair took third place at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas.

In 2007, he rode Lombardi II, also owned by Akiko Yamazaki, to the U.S. Grand Prix championship.

The winning record by Steffen is unmatched since the festival was created in 1991 when the inaugural championship was won by Carol Lavell on Gifted. The pair led the United States team to the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Games and competed in the first World Games in Stockholm in 1990 and Den Haag in 1994.

The future of the format of the Festival of Champions at almost a quarter century in age is uncertain.

Greater emphasis on competitions in the European outdoor season; clashes of dates with Olympics and world and continental championships, growth of the festival program to six divisions from ponies to Grand Prix plus high costs has prompted scrutiny.

Ponies, Juniors, Young Riders and Under-25 divisions of the festival were held in Wayne, Illinois in late August in conjunction with the U.S. Young Horse Championships in a break from Grand Prix and Intermediate title competitions.

The Junior and Young Rider U.S. championships came just weeks after the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships in Kentucky. A factor was also supposedly to avoid riders from taking time out of school,  though most had to do so, anyway as the school year was already underway in most of the country. While many participants said they relished the championship atmosphere, the two championships were run in separate arenas with separate VIP areas on the same show grounds and with numerous schedule conflicts.

This report was prepared entirely by dressage-news.com and presented by Cunningham & Cunningham Livestock insurance.