We did it. We finally did it. For the first time in 23 years on American soil a U.S. has won the FEI Rolex World Cup. Steffen Peters aboard Ravel garnered the highest score of 84.95 to be named the Dressage Champion of the world ahead of German rider Isabell Werth riding Satchmo (84.5) and Anky Van Grunsven on IPS Painted Black (82.15). It was a magical almost surreal evening. When the final score went up and it was clear that Steffen secured the title the crowd gave Steffen a much deserved standing ovation.
For his victory Steffen won over $100,000, a Rolex watch and his name engraved on the coveted trophy. “This truly was magic soil in there,” said a smiling Steffen, “and to share that with the most amazing dressage fans in the world. It will take some time to sink in.”
Anyone who knows Steffen speaks highly of him. He is so considerate and always wants to thank others for having helped him achieve his dreams. This night was no different. While in the arena he pointed to the fans and thanked them. He pointed to his incredible gelding and thanked him. When he went into the press conference the first people he thanked were the show organizers and then he thanked Rolex for helping to make all this possible.
Appropriately, Steffen relayed a short anecdote noting that on Friday morning after he had won the first leg of the World Cup, “I was still dreaming a little bit about the success of the previous night and was a bit sleepy and wondered if it really was a dream. However, when I checked the time, there on my wrist was this beautiful Rolex watch. “
Steffen talked a bit about his incredible ride and said that overall the choreography was pretty much the same as it had been in Hong Kong for the Olympic Games but “I worked on the timing. I wanted to make sure that every footfall matched the music.”
Those of us watching can attest to the fact that Ravel’s timing was impeccable. Yet, what makes this feat even more amazing is that Steffen has only been riding Ravel for 14 months. If you think back to the World Equestrian Games in 2006 he was riding another talented horse called Floriano. He lost Floriano because the owners would only let him ride their horse if he rode him exclusively in FEI competitions. Steffen had other horses including Ravel and he couldn’t agree to that and so the owners took Floriano away.
Some of Ravel’s talent can be credited to his sire Contango, the premier stallion of Iron Spring Farm, who also had competed at the grand prix level. Ravel was foaled in Holland but starting in 1995 Contango stood in the U.S. at Iron Spring Farm until his death in 2007. Iron Spring Farm still has frozen semen and new Contango foals are being born every year in both Holland and the United States.
“Ravel has an amazing mind and in the Grand Prix and in the Freestyle tonight I honestly did not have to push him. He was so with me. He is extremely sensitive. He is just naturally a very solid horse and extremely confident,” commented Steffen.
Steffen’s confidence in Ravel started earlier in the week when he schooled the Dutch Warmblood gelding in the arena with a noisy crowd and yet “Ravel kept it together even with the noisy crowd. I am really one of those lucky guys in the world that gets to ride a horse with a mind like that.”
There was more to be learned from Steffen including information about the coat he has been wearing. “This coat has brought me a lot of luck. I was 18 years old when I showed the first time in it. It’s been patched up a bit but it is still the same coat. Someone offered to make me a new coat but I told them I couldn’t do that.”
And interestingly enough the timing is perfect for Steffen and Ravel. The previous winner from the U.S. of the World Cup was Debbie McDonald aboard Brentina in 2003. Now with Brentina retired Steffen and Ravel become the new ambassadors of the sport for the U.S.
Steffen was glad to now be put in that position. “If Ravel could step into Brentina’s footsteps that would be fantastic,” he remarked.
Since 1986 when the Dressage World Cup was first created, Steffen is only the second male to win this honor. In addition, three of the people he beat - Anky, Isabell and Monica Theodorescu - combined have won previous World Cups a total of 13 times.
This truly was a landmark for the United States and it was clear by the roaring applause from the crowd that they understood the significance of his win.
There is only one more day to go. Sunday features the Show Jumping Finals and for sure another exciting finale when the 2009 winner is named. In the meantime, feel free to email me with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.