DEL MAR, CA – In the midst of a hard-fought Olympic Games qualifying season, Steffen Peters was looking for a confidence-building performance for his veteran partner Legolas 92, and he got exactly what the doctor ordered on the first day of California Dreaming Productions’ Dressage Affaire CDI3*/Y/J/U-25, being held March 10-13 at the Del Mar Horse Park. With a correct and expressive test, Peters and Four Winds Farm’s Westfalen gelding (Laomedon x Fuerstin by Florestan II) easily claimed the CDI Grand Prix sponsored by Professional’s Choice with a unanimous win under all five judges on 77.500%. Also breaking the 70% mark to finish in second was Guenter Seidel aboard James and Charlotte Mashburn’s KWPN gelding Zero Gravity (Royal Hit x Naica by Contango) with 70.880%.
After competing in the CDI5* in Florida in February, coming home to California was more than just a winning move for Peters – it was part of his overall strategy to best prepare his mount for this summer’s biggest test: the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “I think it’s simple: the arena in Florida is very electric, and he is a sensitive horse and he does need to get more comfortable with that, but I also know him well enough to realize that I can’t just compete in the tough arenas over and over and expect him to get better,” Peters explained. “It’s just not the way he works – he needs to have his confidence built up as well, so that was exactly my goal in bringing him to Del Mar this weekend.
“So it worked out perfectly: he was so good today, and I felt like we needed an environment where he would stay calm. As I’ve said before, it’s only when he’s relaxed that I can ask for more expression,” Peters continued. “It was a very clean test, and I think this was exactly what he needed for his confidence after coming home from Florida. Of course it can also be a loud and tricky arena here in Del Mar with a lot of activity and noise around it, but it’s an Olympic year and we need to prove our consistency especially in the freestyle. So it will be very good experience for him tomorrow night as well and I look forward to it.”
Peters also wowed the crowd and the judges in the CDI Prix St. Georges test presented by Shapley’s as he debuted another future star before he will eventually turn the reins over to owner Akiko Yamazaki. The eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding Bailarino (Breitling W x Schila by De Niro) may have been a bit hesitant when first entering the covered arena, but in Peters’ experienced hands the flashy chestnut quickly rose to the occasion to earn an impressive score of 74.842%. “I was extremely happy with him. He’s a very relaxed type of horse, and he does a few really phenomenal things including his walk and pirouettes. He had a little spook at first, but as soon as he came down centerline he was all business and you would never know it was his first time,” said Peters. CDP Live commentator Axel Steiner (FEI 5* [ret] USA) also liked what he saw. “This horse is the picture of lightness and is very promising, and I’m sure we’ll see much more of him in the future.” Also bringing out up-and-coming equine talent for their first international competition was Peters’ 2012 Olympic Games teammate Jan Ebeling with Ann Romney’s Hanoverian Bakari (Breitling W x Come Back by Cavan Blue Hors), finishing in second with 70.526%. “He did some national Prix St. Georges classes last year, but this was his first CDI,” said Ebeling of the 10-year-old gelding. “I was very happy with him, he was very ‘on’ and good today.”
In the CDI Young Riders Team Prix St. Georges Test, a solid performance earned Lauren Asher the hard-fought victory aboard her Hanoverian gelding De Noir 3 (Hanoverian gelding De Niro x Maharani by Matcho AA) with 70.737%. This elegant pair earned their first CDI victory together in January at the LA Winter Dressage CDI in Burbank, and now continue to find success in Del Mar by edging out Ehren Volk and the Westfalen gelding Weltino’s Magic (Weltino x Diva by Diamond Boy, owned by Jen and Bruce Hlavacek) with 69.447%.
Meanwhile, Veronica West and her own black Hanoverian gelding Nobleman (Hatiello XX x Weira by Wenzel II) were members of last year’s silver medal-winning team at the FEI North American Junior Dressage Championship and they once again look poised to contend for the Region 7 team as they earned the unanimous win in the Junior Team Test with an overall score of 68.257% over Christian Simonson aboard Herzkonig (Hanoverian gelding, His Highness x Fuchs by Weltmeyer) on 64.108%.
Complete results are available on the California Dreaming Productions website, http://www.californiadreamingproductions.com. Competition resumes Saturday.