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London Olympics just one of 2012 showring highlights

From Horsetrader staff reports - December 20th, 2012 - Show & Event News

Steffen Peters and Ravel carried the weight of a nation into dressage main arena for the Freestyle events at the London Olympic Games.

JANUARY: It didn’t take long into 2012 for Steffen Peters to make headlines. At the United States Equestrian Federation Pegasus Awards Jan. 14, the venerable dressage rider from San Diego became the first to receive the USEF Equestrian of the Year title three times. Momentum and anticipation of the Summer Olympic Games in London began to build, and Peters and Ravel a highly interesting proposition after finishing fourth in the individual competition at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

At the World Dressage Masters in West Palm Beach, Peters and the 14-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Akiko Yamazaki of Four Winds Farm displayed their prowess, nailing a dramatic freestyle that was rewarded by the judges with a score of 83.70 percent and by the crowd with a standing ovation.

“It was the ride of my lifetime,” Peters said afterward. “I’ve never done a better freestyle. He felt absolutely amazing -— if we can just keep this for the next seven months.”

Hap Hansen brought the crowd to its feet at HITS Thermal during Desert Circuit III show when he rode Linda Smith's Archie Bunker to victory.

FEBRUARY: Other aspiring Olympians from California were gearing up at the Galway Downs Winter Horse Trials in Temecula, where Jolie Wentworth showed that her veteran campaigner, Killian O’Connor, had returned to full form. The Martinez eventer won the open intermediate division at the and also claimed fifth place on GoodKnight in the highly competitive open intermediate division, outdueling Canadian Olympic veteran and Temecula resident Hawley Bennett-Awad on Five O’Clock Somewhere.

Hap Hansen brought the crowd to its feet at HITS Thermal during Desert Circuit III show when he rode Linda Smith’s Archie Bunker to victory in the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix. It was Hap’s 99th career grand prix triumph, and the energy was exceptional.

“It was pretty cool to have everybody standing on their feet cheering for me,” said Hansen.”“It’s such a good feeling to have your friends behind you.”

Another California star rider, Richard Spooner, made February headlines in Florida when he took the 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Cristallo, to the $100,000 CSI 3* Grand Prix at the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival.

A rising West Coast star in the dressage arena, Brandi Roenick, made a powerful impression at the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair CDI-W/Y/J in late February at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Young Rider Brandi and Nobel, a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, earned a score of 70.417 percent from judges Linda Zang (5* USA), Jean-Michele Roudier (5* FRA), and Eddy de Wolf (4* NED) for the champion’s sash over Jan Ebeling, who placed second with 68.333% on Rosenzauber 8. Roenick also completed a sweep of the CDI Young Rider division with her own longtime partner, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, Pretty Lady (Iglesias x Ivonne), winning the freestyle with a score of 71.500%.

MARCH: It didn’t take long for Hap Hansen’s quest for career win No. 100 to generate excitement at HITS Thermal. On March 4, Hap and nine other duos reached the jump-off in the $30,000 Grand Prix, and when Hap — going sixth — and Archie Bunker took the lead with a clear round in 42.98 seconds with just three rounds left, the boisterous crowd sensed history unfolding.

“People were telling me that you could hear the crowd cheer back at barns,” said Hansen. “It seemed like everyone at the show grounds came up to the ring to watch the jump-off. The show came to a halt.”

“I thought he had it,” said fellow Grand Prix rider Helen McNaught. “I really was crying when he went double clear.”

However, Josephina Nor Lantzman and Chello Z then went clear in 41.55 seconds to take the win; Hap finsihed second. The HITS Desert Circuit completed with Canadian Chris Pratt going two-for-two aboard Indigo Farms LLC’s Cruise, winning the last two grand prixes of the meet, including the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix in a head-to-head jump-off with fellow Canadian John Pearce.

APRIL: In eventing competition at Galway Downs that ended April 1, James Alliston was in complete command of the top spots. The Brit who resides in Castro Valley took first and second in the CIC3*, winning with his veteran, India McEvoy’s Jumbo’s Jake, and moving up to second with his less experienced Tivoli.

On the same weekend in San Juan Capistrano, West Coast dressage riders and horses enjoyed thrilling competition in a spectacular venue at the Festival of the Horse CDI 3*/Y/J at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. Steffen Peters and Four Winds Farm’s 10-year-old Westfalen gelding, Legolas 92, continued to win, sweeping Grand Prix and the Olympic Grand Prix Special Tests with impressive scores of 75.255% and 75.933%, respectively. Noted ground jury member Mary Seefried (5* AUS): “His horse’s attitude is wonderful, and we saw a lot of harmony today — now, we’re just waiting for him to put the pedal down.”

Jumper rider Michele Parker enjoyed quite a show at the Blenheim SPring Classic, winning the $10,000 1.35M Jumper Classic on Friday, then returning a day later to win the $40,000 Blenheim Spring Classic Grand Prix, presented by Summit General Insurance Agency on April 7 aboard her fearless 9-year-old grey mare, Xel Ha. Parker also took third on her second mount, Cross Creek Farm’s Socrates De Midos.

The win heard ’round the world in April came in the Netherlands, where Rich Fellers and Flexible scored an historic Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final victory April 22 to become the first American to take the title in 25 years.

“We were due,” Fellers said. “That’s a long time with all the red coats that come to this final!”

MAY: Fellers and Flexible arrived at Del Mar a week later, where they resumed their march toward Olympic competition with a pair of grand prix victories at the Del Mar National on successive nights May 4-5.

Fellow Olympic Steffen Peters and Legolas shined at the Del Mar National, too, recording their best scores yet as a tandem in winning both the Grand Prix and the GP Kur.

Susie Hutchison made headlines with her first grand prix win on her up-and-coming mare, SIG Excel, at the May 12 $20,000 Equine Insurance Grand Prix at the Horse & Hound Spring Show. SIG Excel, purchased from Alan Waldman by SIG International Hutchison last winter, is an 8-year old Dutch mare who under Hutchison was circuit Champion in the Level 6 division at the 2012 HITS Thermal Desert Circuit.

At the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Western Selection Trial held at the Dressage at Flintridge CDI*/Y/J on May 24-27, Brandi Roenick proved she is up for the challenge of a new mount by guiding Steffen Peters’s Pan American Gold Medal-winning partner, Weltino’s Magic, to a convincing sweep of the division.

The same weekend in Woodside, Frankie Thieriot and Julie Flettner each rode faultless show jumping rounds to win the two divisions of the $15,000 Woodside Preliminary Challenge at the Woodside Horse Trials. Riding Uphoria, owned by Tory Smith, Thieriot won the Horse Division, and riding her own Ping Pong, Flettner won the Rider Division.

In France, Annie Cook of Woodside helped lead the way for the four members of the 2012 Show
Jumping European Young Rider Tour who took second June 1 at the CSIOYJ Reims. The U.S. entered the two-round competition in an enviable position having drawn fifth of six teams to contest the 1.45m track. The team of Cook, Alise Oken, Chloe Reid and Lydia Ulrich capitalized on their strong draw to jump to take the reserve overall finish.

JUNE: Young riding talent made its mark at the Mission Viejo Riding Park June 6-10, as Blenheim EquiSports launched its three-week June Classic Series with a remarkable group of up-and-comers at the June Classic I. Going last in a 19-horse jump-off, 20-year-old Tina Di Landri outrode the international field aboard the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Avargo, by more than a second in a nail-biter to win the $30,000 Blenheim June Classic Grand Prix.

Brazilian rider Josephina Nor Lantzman and Chello Z were second, and the stage was set for a summer show season duel between the two fast-charging women. At the $30,000 Red, White and Blue Classic Grand Prix three weeks later, Nor-Lantzman and Chello Z had the upper hand.

In another mid-summer duel, Nick Haness and Gelato outdueled John French, breaking the veteran’s win streak June 28 aboard the famous Small Affaire in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on SHowpark’s grass field.

JULY: While Olympic equestrians were in pursuit of their golden moments in London at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, some West Coast riders returned from the 2012 Adequan/FEI North
American Junior & Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) with their own prestigious hardware.

Brandi Roenick received the Pursuit of Excellence Fiona Baan Memorial Trophy as dressage rider with the highest combined average in Team, Individual, and Freestyle dressage rides.

On Weltino’s Magic, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Jen Hlavacek, Roenick took her fifth gold medalat the NAJYRC — she had won the team gold medal for the past three years for Region 5 and the individual gold in the junior division in 2008. In the Young Rider Individual Jumping Championship, 18-year-old Kilian McGrath of Westlake Village and Salerno took the gold medal. Zone 10 finished as the bronze medalists with a total score of 35 faults.

AUGUST: When the equestrian competition in London at the 2012 Olympic Games ended Aug. 9, the U.S. medal drought had continued. Steffen Peters and Ravel carried the weight of a nation into dressage main arena for the Freestyle, which would determine the Individual medals, and the most consistently clutch combination in U.S. Dressage history didn’t have the day they were hoping for. Great Britain did.

“He has given us so much — just not quite today,” Peters said after the competition. “He was just distracted in there.” The disappointment was made greater by the fact that he and Ravel’s owners, Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, had decided to retire their wonderful horse.

“He owes us nothing,” Peters added. “We owe him everything.”

Rich Fellers and Flexible put in a valiant effort in the Individual Show Jumping Final at the Olympic Games and came up with a top 10 finish on just five faults, but neither Fellers nor his American show jumping teammates reached the medal stand in London. The reigning Rolex/FEI World Cup champions came into the Olympic Games highly regarded for an Individual medal, but a rail and a time fault in Round A of the Individual Final kept that reality just out of reach. They returned for Round B, which was bigger and wider, and turned in an immaculate clear — one of only four. Harry and Mollie Chapman’s diminutive 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion seemed to relish in the challenge of the second round.

“It seemed really easy for him,” said Fellers, who expected the little horse to feel the effects of so much jumping. “He didn’t feel tired at all in there. I expected him to feel a little fatigued but he did that pretty easily. He did that as easily as he’s jumped any massive Grand Prix.”

Fellers, who finshed in eighth place with five total faults, says his next major goal is to defend with Flexible their FEI World Cup title in 2013.

SEPTEMBER: Rusty Stewart and Bristol won the first World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix of the 2012-13 California season — the $50,000 Showpark World Cup Grand Prix in Del Mar.

For Susie Artes, her victory Sept. 22 in the $50,000 L.A. International Grand Prix was both a personal and professional triumph. Riding Alix Fargo’s Zamiro, Artes outdueled Misti Cassar on Poeme D”Armour and Ashlee Bond on both Wistful and RMW Quenot in a memorable jump-off. It was not only a breakthrough win for Susie at this top level, but it was made more special becasue if came on her late mother’s birthday.

“She passed away 26 years ago, and all week long I was hoping I would win,” Artes said. “I can’t believe it happened.”

OCTOBER: The 45th annual California Dressage Society Championship Show was the largest ever, filling the L.A. Equestrian Center Oct. 4-7 along with the CDS Young Horse Futuruity (including the Cal-Bred Futurity), the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 7 Dressage Championships, and the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Breeders Championships West Coast Series Final. D’Re Stergios of Petaluma claimed the CDS Horse of the Year title and the Rubinstein Memorial Trophy with her Oldenburg gelding. Johnny.

Lane Clarke captured the $55,000 Villas at Rancho Valencia World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix, presented by the California Horsetrader, to highlight the Del Mar Fall Festival. It marked the third time this year for Clarke to win a big grand prix, and it put him solidly in the top 10 ranking of the North American West Coast World Cup League.

NOVEMBER: James Alliston should now be called “Mr. Galway Downs.” At the CCI3* Galway Downs International Three-Day Event Nov. 1-4, the Castro Valley eventer placed in the top three at for the third year — third place in 2010, first and seventh places in 2011, and first, second and sixth in 2012. He rode Tivoli to victory (53.4), rode Jumbo’s Jake, his winning mount in 2011, to second, and he took Parker to sixth place. In these last three years, the 27-year-old Alliston has emerged from being a hopeful international rider to a bonafide international star. Still, he said that he didn’t feel more pressure because he won last year’s Galway Downs International Three-Day Event.

“I guess I didn’t really think about being the defending champion before the event,” said Alliston, who still represents his native England. “So, I didn’t really think there was much chance of him winning again, to tell you the truth.”

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