Wellington, FL – February 7, 2020 – It was the second last to go who captured the imagination of judges and the crowd alike in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI-W, presented by Helgstrand Dressage. Steffen Peters (USA) and the 18.2hh Suppenkasper showed a jaw-dropping degree of difficulty in their winning test — including a canter pirouette into piaffe into walk —to claim the winner’s cooler with a new personal best of 83.495%. Their previous best was 80.99%, awarded in California in April 2019.
In cool conditions but under clear skies, 15 combinations battled it out in week five’s showcase class under lights at the 2020 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida. AGDF 2020 runs for 12 weeks, through March 29.
Olivia LaGoy-Weltz (USA) finished second on Lonoir (79.365%), with Denmark’s Agnete Kirk Thinggaard filling third with 77.635% on Blue Hors Zatchmo. Both the top two horses were bought through class sponsor Helgstrand Dressage, who has recently opened a new sales barn near the AGDF venue in Wellington.
Of his test on the 18.2hh son of Spielberg, Peters said: “It felt wonderful. I knew when the music started and he was still walking — usually we’re piaffing and passaging with one hind leg going to the moon — from then on I knew there was a very good chance that he would just stand still. From there he was right with the music the entire time.
“This is one of those freestyles that I’ve visualized for many days — many mornings, many nights, throughout dark times — and it worked out beautifully,” added the 55-year-old, whose result qualified him for the FEI World Cup™ Final in Las Vegas in April. “There were a few tears that I wiped away. I kept telling Mopsie, ‘It looks like we’re going to Vegas.’ I told him that a bunch of times, but I think I was a bit more excited about it than he was. The bottom line is that it’s a huge accomplishment and something we dreamed of every single day. It’s hard to describe what that feels like when you go through a difficult time and your horse is so therapeutic.”
Peters rode to a new soundtrack and floorplan, but the canter music is that same as he used for Ravel, on whom he won the FEI World Cup™ Final in 2009. He will remain in Wellington and contest the CDI5* in week seven (February 19-23) and the Nations Cup show in week 10 (10-15 March) before returning home to California.
He added: “There were difficult movements tonight, but the relaxation of this horse was tremendous. It is always an amazing pleasure to ride here. It was eight years ago today at the World Dressage Masters that I won in Wellington. I’ve never won the freestyle here and the experience was amazing. I was excited to go back on the long side [after the test] to shake a few hands, and that felt really good. There are only so many of us, but there were hundreds of spectators and they made it happen. We’re only a small part of it, and it felt good to give a little bit back to them.”
Second-placed Olivia LaGoy-Weltz was delighted to pull off another fault-free freestyle with her long-time partner Lonoir, a 16-year-old gelding by De Noir, after having topped the freestyle in week three with over 80%.
“I was super happy with him,” said the rider. “In the warm-up and in the ring he was super. For the horse’s size, there are a lot of things that come one right after the other in that [test], and he handled it super well.
“There’s always room for improvement, and we’ve got our eye on Vegas as well. This is only the second time we’ve shown [this freestyle] and the fourth, maybe fifth time we’ve ridden through it. We’ll keep making it better,” added LaGoy-Weltz, who is gunning for a place on the U.S. team for the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.
Third-placed Agnete Kirk Thinggaard was delighted with the 11-year-old Blue Hors Zatchmo’s performance, saying: “I knew I was going right after Steffen and the audience would probably do some clapping, and that’s okay, but he gets a bit tense, so I was aiming for a quiet, calm horse. He was really good and calm all the way through. I love this horse; he has so much quality and so much power, and he has so many gears left. We are just starting and this was our very first freestyle. I’ve only ridden through it once at home. I’m very proud of him.”
Judge at C, Canadian Lee Tubman, praised the standard of the class: “This evening you saw the top scores that you’re going to see in North America,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to judge it. There was a high degree of difficulty in so many of the freestyles and the choreography was quite complicated. The big payoff is when the execution comes off technically clean. That’s big points and that’s what we like to give people.”