Beyond a doubt, the superstar of this weekend’s Festival of the Horse CDI-W/Y/J in Burbank, CA, is Weltino’s Magic, a 9-year-old Westfalen gelding out of Diva, by Diamond Boy. With Steffen Peters in the driver’s seat, the horse earned a record-breaking 77.237% in the CDI Intermediaire I and a 79.417% in his first Freestyle event (even receiving an 83.500% from Linda Zang, the judge at M). Peters is clearly happy with the horse, who was started by his wife, Shannon Peters, but no one is more thrilled than owner Jen Hlavacek. It’s hard to miss Hlavacek and her husband, Bruce. Sporting bright red shirts emblazoned with the words “I Believe In Magic,” they can be seen on the sidelines, closely watching their horse’s every move. Texas native Hlavacek (pronounced la-VA-check) has always loved horses (“If you’re from Texas, you ride horses,” she says) but didn’t get serious about dressage until she moved to Boulder, CO, in 1990 to pursue her PhD in Sociology (her specialty is the Sociology of Global Religions). She found a barn and bought her first horse, a 15-year-old Arabian. “The board was a hundred dollars a month—I couldn’t figure out why everyone said that horses were so expensive,” she quips. She got serious about riding but was “definitely an amateur rider. I had fun with it—I loved the sport.” Back surgery 10 years ago put an end to riding, but Hlavacek decided that transitioning from rider to owner would keep her in the game.
Her search for an international-level horse brought her to Steffen and Shannon Peters in San Diego. “I did a lot of research,” says Hlavacek. She’d also watched Shannon compete and says she was “very impressed.” A 5-year-old had come into training with Shannon by the name of Weltino’s Magic, and Hlavacek ended up buying the horse. “He was 16.2 or 16.3 at the most,” she recalls. “Shannon started him out at First Level and took him all the way to Reserve Champions at the Young Dressage Horse Championships in Lexington, Kentucky, in 2008!”
Magic’s potential was undeniable, but he was also experiencing a serious growth spurt, shooting up to nearly 18 hands in a relatively short time. “None of us believes in rushing horses, so we decided to let him relax for a little while,” Hlavacek explains. Magic was moved to a farm in Temecula, CA, where he could simply graze and be a horse. Equine therapist Tom Meyers, whom Steffen Peters has credited with keeping Ravel in tip-top condition, worked on Magic’s back muscles. “Tom made a huge difference,” says Hlavacek.
When it was time to bring Magic back to work in San Diego, Shannon Peters decided to hand over the reins to her husband. “I have the utmost respect for Shannon,” says Hlavacek. “We’d all talked about the goals, and she felt it would be better if she turned Magic over to Steffen.”
In January 2010 Steffen debuted Magic at the Dressage Getaway in Thermal, CA, where they scored over 80% in the $500 Prix St. Georges, and Magic has been the horse to watch ever since. “They’re such a solid team, says Hlavacek. “Steffen expects perfection from every step, and yet he’s very kind and very patient. Magic is a very relaxed horse—he doesn’t get flustered. He loves horses and he’s very people-oriented.” He’s even captured the attention of elementary school children in Colorado, who are sending him fan mail. “The only problem,” notes Hlavacek, “is that he seduces people into giving him food!”
As an owner, Hlavacek considers Ravel’s owner, Akiko Yamazaki, a role model. “I love Akiko and Jerry [Yamazaki’s husband, Jerry Yang].” She’s content with seeing where the year takes Weltino’s Magic—whether that includes showing at the small tour at the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen, Germany, in July or concludes with the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October. “This will play out the way it will play out,” Hlavacek says with a smile.