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Peters gets sixth USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Championship

Legolas 92 earns title; Eberling and Romney's Rafalca finish in third

By JOANIE MORRIS - June 21st, 2012 - Show & Event News

Susan J. Stickle photo

Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 rise to the top of the USEF Selection Trial for the 2012 Olympic Games at the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions June XX-XX in Gladstone, N.J.

GLADSTONE, N.J. — Four years ago, Steffen Peters and Ravel, then an inexperienced 10-year-old, won the 2008 Grand Prix National Dressage Championship at the Festival of Champions in California. That performance earned the pair a trip to the Olympic Games where they were fourth. Four years, an FEI World Cup title, a CHIO Aachen victory and two Bronze medals at the FEI World Equestrian Games later – Ravel was granted permission by the USEF selectors to not attend the 2012 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions which was also serving as the USEF Selection Trial for the 2012 Olympic Games.

So Peters brought Four Winds Farm’s Legolas 92 to the USET Foundation Headquarters instead. The result was the same: The 10-year-old Westphalian gelding, who was imported in December, won his first National Championship. It is Peters’s sixth, tying the record previously set by Robert Dover.

Their score of 77.956% was enough to give them a four day average of 77.653% and left them less than one point clear of the runners-up, Tina Konyot and Calecto V. They had the ride of their lives in Friday’s FEI Grand Prix but settled up second Saturday and overall.

Peters knew what he had to do to take the National title, and he succeeded.

“I tried to look at the overall picture,” said the San Diego-based rider. “Coming into this, Legolas had a three-percent lead over Tina, and I knew if Tina had a 77 so a 74 today would have done it. I looked at the scoreboard during the extended walk — I was going straight at it and it was an 82, so I thought, ‘let’s just relax a little bit for the canter work.’

“Unfortunately,” he added, “the mistake in the two tempis — the horse at this stage you can see how green he is — it’s mentally confusing. Out of all four days, I think today he did the most exciting piaffe and passage and that’s an exciting feeling. He wants to do it, and I really can’t believe how generous this horse really is.”

Small mistakes in the one-tempi changes showed up in earlier tests at these championships, but Saturday those were clean on the centerline. Peters works patiently on the flying changes while the rest of the work continues to improve exponentially, especially the piaffe and passage.

“Its not a physical issue – its clearly a mental issue,” said Peters of the flying changes. “Each day you have one or two tries to get the one tempis done. If you try the third time and its not happening then he gets really nervous. At the moment, it’s just patience.”

While Legolas will be the back-up for Ravel for the Olympic Games, Peters knows that this horse’s best is yet to come.

“It would be a bit soon for the Olympic Games (for him),” said Peters. “He could do it – but I get good reports from (wife) Shannon on Ravel.”

Ravel had been in California training, but was scheduled to arrive in New Jersey on June 19 to continue his Olympic preparations.

Jan Ebeling of Moorpark and Rafalca continued to up their game — and delivered again. This time, a 74.889% earned third place with a total of 73.169% over the four classes.

Rafalca, who has drawn mainstream media attention lately due to her co-owner Ann Romney, the wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney who owns the 15-year-old Oldenburg mare in conjunction with Beth Myers and Amy Ebeling.

Steve Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, has made dressage the “Colbert Report Sport of the Summer”.

Ebeling didn’t let the additional attention affect his performance.

“This is a dream come true,” said Ebeling. “I looked at the score board one time (during my ride) and it looked good so I didn’t look again.”

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