Lars Petersen Riding for America Will Be Like Joining “Family”–Presented by Back On Track

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Lars Petersen on Quascai Nexen. one of a handful of horses being developed by the Olympic rider as prospects for future American teams. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, June 29, 2017–For Lars Petersen approved to ride for the United States will be like joining “family.”

Since first coming to America as a teenager 35 years ago, Lars has had a love affair with the country though enjoying success riding for his native Denmark. He became a U.S. citizen in February, 2016 but put off for a year applying to ride with the Stars and Stripes on his saddle pad while he was enjoying a renaissance in his international career.

Although his personal competition goals are now focused on the United States, he maintains close ties with Denmark–giving monthly clinics at the world famous Blue Hors stud that provided him with the horses that he partnered to become one of the world’s top riders.

He had been lured back to Denmark by Blue Hors after three years in the United States, first to ride Uffe Korshøjgaard at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as well as to two Danish championships and then Blue Hors Cavan at the 1998 World Games in Rome, the 1999 and 2001 European Championships.

At the 2002 World Cup Final, their second, the pair became reserve champion with fun, upbeat music that was to be their signature style.

Lars Petersen riding Blue Hors Cavan. © Dirk Caremans/hippofoto.be

Cavan, he said, was a highlight in his career.

“I’ve ridden lots of other horses, but Cavan… would I like to do it again, yes.

“If It doesn’t happen again, I can be happy with less.

“It depends what horse you sit on. As a horseman, it’s not necessarily the one that wins the gold medal it’s people who bring horses out, and another one, and another one.”

Lars moved back to the U.S. to settle in Florida 16 years ago. Dressage was well established but the major competitions in the United States had little resemblance to the premier shows in Europe.

For the next decade, he competed several horse at international levels all on the East Coast of the United States except for one brief foray to Europe in 2010.

Until 2012 when a Danish Warmblood mare named Mariett completed a year of rehabilitation from what veterinarians pronounced as a career-ending injury. Owner Marcia Pepper wanted Lars to compete Mariett, at a time that coincided with the creation of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival at show grounds specially built for dressage as part of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that hosted the Winter Equestrian Festival of jumpers and hunters.

“Mariett was very important,” he recalled in a recent conversation with dressage-news.com. “I had a couple of other horses after I left Blue Hors. They were too much work and not good enough. You can say Mariett maybe was not good enough to get a medal but she went to the world championships. I remember when I started showing here, someone said: ‘Why the hell are you showing that one?’

“I think I brought her up to do the best she could. For me it was important. It brought me back. It was fun. It was the same time as the Global circuit was starting.

“I think that gave me a kick in the butt… to say, ‘one more’.”

He rode Mariett for Denmark at the 2014 World Games in Normandy as well as qualifying for two World Cup Finals and becoming the top prize money winner at the rich Global winter circuit.

“I think she did really well.”

Lars Petersen and Melissa Taylor, long time personal and business partners, wed in 2013. Seen here in Colorado after the marriage.

Mariett is retired, but Lars has three horses developing to Grand Prix that he does not expect to be prospects for an American team in time for the World Games in Tryon in September, 2018 but the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are a goal.

Lars has been made to feel welcome in America.

“I think that’s why I almost feel more American in the riding world,” he said. “Whern I rode Mariett in Aachen (Germany) we were in the barn next to the Americans I knew them all, it was almost like family. It’s been amazing.”

Lars and Melissa Taylor, his wife and long time business partner, have 36 horses at their training center in Loxahatchee, a neighboring community to Wellington. He gives clinics throughout the eastern United States as well as at Blue Hors in Denmark.

Although he’s now able to ride as an American, he wants to keep going to Denmark to “help them and give them all the knowledge I have accumulated my whole life.”

“It’s fun,” he said. “I hate the flying but I love to go there. If I could say, ’Scottie, beam me over,’ that would be great.

”It makes me better. You have some of the best horses in the world and really good riders. You can’t just say something. My job is to help them make horses, it’s all about making horses. One needs to be ridden that way, and another one another way. So it’s fun.

“On the other hand, I am now an American citizen and I love this country. I’m married to an American, and in many ways I feel American. I just feel I have to do this.”

Lars Petersen on Mariett at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

In the 16 years since he moved to America full time, the change in dressage has been almost like night and day.

“Look at them in Rotterdam,” he said of the American team that won the Nations Cup this month, “how many good horses.

“I don’t want to offend the people who were here 16 years ago but America is really up there. If you talk to people in Europe it’s not like they think you ride over here and it’s easy, they don’t say that any more. That’s one aspect of it.”

He credits Mark Bellissimo for creating the Global circuit–“This is a place when I have friends come over from Europe, they say: ‘Wow! This is nice.’ Now I tell them, ‘this is nice but wait ’til you see Tryon.’ I think it’s incredible. You can’t even compare it to when I came here.”