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Pursuit of perfection

With Olympic Trials approaching, Peters and Legolas appear ready

Special to the Horsetrader - March 17th, 2016 - Feature Article, Show & Event News

DEL MAR — As the distinctive opening bass line of “Under Pressure” rang out in the covered arena at the Del Mar Horse Park with the voiceover “Hi, I’m Legolas, let’s go!”, there was no doubt that Legolas 92 was back in top form as he and Steffen Peters posted the second-highest Grand Prix Freestyle score of their career at California Dreaming Productions’ Dressage Affaire CDI3*/Y/J/U-25, being held March 10-13.

The veteran U.S. Dressage Team pair’s winning score of 82.000% was also the best of any other American team contender in the current Olympic selection year, second only to their own career best score of 84.050% earned at the LA Winter Dressage CDI in Burbank in January.

“One of the judges spoke with me during the awards and said it was the best she’d ever seen Legolas look,” said Peters of Four Winds Farm’s Westfalen gelding (Laomedon x Fuerstin by Florestan II). “We had two clean, confident tests this weekend and I’m just thrilled with him. He feels great and hopefully we can keep him this relaxed for the rest of the season so he can continue to show at his best.” Finishing in second was Kimberly McGrath riding Arianthi Ferronato’s KWPN gelding Winslow (Obelisk x Marree x Houston) with 74.002%.

Now the veterans of multiple championships together, Peters knows that his partner can be on the sensitive side when it comes to freestyles so he set Legolas up to succeed in Del Mar with a recent addition to his equipment. “Today Legolas was wearing new padded ear covers, and I’m so glad the FEI approved the use of them this year,” Peters explained. “The jumpers are allowed to wear them and I always felt that it was only fair to allow some ear protection and make it a bit more comfortable for our dressage horses in the freestyle, especially the noise-sensitive ones. It certainly seemed to make him more comfortable, especially in the indoor environment where the loud music really echoes around in a smaller space. He responded positively when we worked with it at home, so we decided to try it here at Del Mar and now it will be part of our plan for the future. So I sincerely thank the FEI for allowing this, not just from me but especially from Legolas.” Peters noted that Legolas will now take a short break before participating in one final prep show at Del Mar in late April, then head to Europe in late May to begin preparations for the final Olympic Games selections.

Fellow Olympian and Californian Guenter Seidel and Zero Gravity continued to shine with Grand Prix Special Victory at Dressage Affaire CDI3*.

“It’s all coming together now,” Seidel said after his winning Grand Prix Special ride March 13. Next-to-last to go in the class order, he and Zero Gravity cruised to the top of the leaderboard and earned the unanimous win under all five judges with a score of 73.471%. Finishing in second with 68.176% was Leona Pollack’s 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Zuperman (Sir Sinclair x Rosella by Inspekteur), whose CDI debut proved to be a successful one under the guidance of former FEI World Equestrian Games bronze medalist Kathleen Raine.

Seidel and Zero Gravity (KWPN gelding [Royal Hit x Naica by Contango] owned by James and Charlotte Mashburn) proved they are on a roll. Prior to Sunday’s Grand Prix Special win, they came off of a solid performance and second-place ribbon in Friday’s Grand Prix test. This was preceded by a big win in the Grand Prix Freestyle at the Mid-Winter Dressage CDI-W in Burbank two weeks earlier – a victory which also punched the pair’s ticket as one of only two North American representatives to the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final, coming up on March 23-27 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“I’m thrilled. He’s starting to mature now and everything’s starting to fall into place,” Seidel explained. “The Grand Prix was a good start on Friday, and then he came back today in the Special very relaxed and seemed to go through it with ease. I think we’re also figuring out how to work together even better at the shows. For example, he can be a hot horse and a little fresh the first day and then be better the second, so I made some adjustments at this show to take him out for a short morning work before the afternoon’s test, and it worked out well so we’ll continue with that strategy for the future.”

Now Seidel shifts his sights to making final preparations for the upcoming World Cup, for which he departs on Wednesday.

“My goal for this show in Del Mar was to use it as one more outing to further develop Zero Gravity’s confidence and consistency in the ring, and it worked out perfectly. I’m super happy because today’s ride was a great last test to have before we leave,” said Seidel. “Of course the World Cup will be a whole new ball game – there are very few venues where you can simulate that type of electric environment. But it will be a great experience for Zero Gravity to get under his belt for the future.”

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