Since 2012, Legolas 92 and U.S. Team rider Steffen Peters traveled the world together and have a multitude of titles to their credit, including a Team Bronze Medal from last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But in January, Four Winds Farm’s Westfalen gelding (Laomedon x Fuerstin by Florestan II) entered a whole new chapter in his career as Peters handed over the reins to 27-year-old former working student Dawn White-O’Connor, and the promising pair wasted no time getting top results as they claimed both the CDI Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special titles at Cornerstone Event Management’s Dressage Affaire CDI3*/1*/Y/J/U25/AM, held March 24-26 in San Juan Capistrano, CA.
White-O’Connor’s weekend got off on the right foot as she piloted Legolas to a hard-fought win over a field of 12 competitors in Friday’s CDI Grand Prix with 73.780%. “I think it was the cleanest test with the best feeling I’ve had with him so far,” White-O’Connor noted. “There’s always plenty of room for improvement, but I was so happy.” The pair then returned to the main ring at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park with another solid performance in the Grand Prix Special, topping the leaderboard with 73.706% in their inaugural outing in this notoriously-challenging test. “The hardest part of doing the Special with him is having the changes start from the opposite lead, so having the off day in between to be able to school the two’s off the right and the one’s off the left really worked well with him,” she added.
White-O’Connor isn’t so naïve as to think that taking over the ride on an accomplished international Grand Prix mount like Legolas won’t come with a certain degree of expectation – she just doesn’t let the pressure affect her. “Of course there’s an expectation because of how the horse has scored in the past, but Steffen [Peters] and Akiko [Yamazaki] are so supportive and they don’t put any pressure on me, so that makes it a lot easier to have that encouragement,” she explained. “It’s always a challenge to get used to a new horse, but luckily Steffen knows him so well that his assistance is invaluable. Legolas is a sensitive horse, but since we’re still in the same program Steffen has always had with him, that consistency helps a lot too. So now we’ll go to Del Mar at the end of April and then we’ll see what happens from there.”
Despite the fact that White-O’Connor and Legolas have only been together a short time, their obvious chemistry also impressed the judges. “She rode that horse masterfully,” said judge Sarah Geikie (4* USA). “Her position and manner on the horse are impeccable, and you can see Steffen’s influence coming through. It looks like Legolas really likes her and they seem to have a great harmony together, and it was very exciting to see what a great partnership they’re forging with each other.”
Charlotte Jorst may have been the bridesmaid behind White-O’Connor in the Grand Prix and Special as she had to settle for second place with Kastel’s Nintendo (Dutch Warmblood stallion, Negro x Rodieni R by Monaco) in both tests with 71.600% and 73.392%, respectively. But in her favorite division, the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle, Jorst came out on top with her Danish gelding Kastel’s Akeem Foldager (Akinos x Lobelia Foldager by Loran) on the strength of a score of 74.750% for her “Time To Say Goodbye” freestyle which she utilized for last year’s World Cup Final performance in Gothenburg, Sweden with Nintendo, but in fact was originally choreographed for Akeem Foldager. “I’m so excited he finally got to win with it,” Jorst exclaimed. “He was on fire today! It was such a great ride and Akeem keeps on getting better and better. Instead of getting tense like he used to, he’s gaining so much confidence and really loving going in the ring. It makes it so much fun for both of us. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in such a short time.”
Complete results for the 2017 Dressage Affaire CDI and open show are available at www.horseshowoffice.com. For more information about Cornerstone Event Management and their lineup of 2017 dressage competitions, visit www.cornerstonedressage.com.