Gladstone, NJ - Steffen Peters went six-for-six at the 2011 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions at the USET Foundation Headquarters. First, he swept the Intermediaire I on Weltino's Magic (earning a place on the team for the Pan American Games in the process) and then dominated the Grand Prix National Dressage Championship on Ravel - scoring 77.660% in the Grand Prix, 80.083% in the Grand Prix Special, and 81.100% in the Freestyle to average 79.247% to win by more than six percentage points. On a day when the nation remembered September 11, 2001, the national anthem played proudly in Gladstone, NJ.
Akiko Yamazaki and Four Winds Farm's 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding cruised to a title that they last won in 2008. Ravel was tired after putting in a tremendous effort in the Grand Prix Special on Friday but America's dressage superstar hung in there and, despite some mistakes, what he did well - he did very well.
"Interesting, obviously a little tough on the finish line," said Peters. "There was the one piaffe that didn't happen and that makes me not think about the other movements that were good... the changes and pirouettes were better than Aachen."
Ravel always tries, but Peters knew based on how well behaved his superstar was in the prize giving, that the horse is ready for a vacation. He has had a busy few years, competing and winning at the biggest shows across the globe.
"He gave everything he had in in the Grand Prix Special," said Peters. "This clearly shows us he needs a break which he will get next month."
Ravel's music is from the original score from "Avatar" but it is composed by the Slovakian orchestra specifically for him. Peters indicated that getting the music right was an arduous process but now the music and the choreography are set.
"I think we have the choreography down where everyone thinks it's difficult enough," said Peters.
This was Ravel's first trip to Gladstone to compete, and for Peters, coming to Gladstone is something that he never takes for granted.
"It's always special - this is where it all started," said Peters. "My first championship here was in 1992, I won first here in 1995, I have special memories here and it is always a step above other venues."
The 2010 Collecting Gaits Farm USEF/ National Dressage Champion had to settle for second in 2011, but Tina Konyot put in a convincing effort on her beloved 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood stallion Calecto V. Their freestyle, performed to K.T. Tunstall's "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree," is always a crowd favorite.
"My horse felt fabulous today," said Konyot. "I was very happy; it is a constant improvement... Overall I was very, very pleased with it... It's a fun freestyle."
She finished on a three-day percentage of 72.829% and her freestyle score of 77.600% was her third second-place score of the weekend.
She talked about the difficulty in some of the transitions: "It's not so easy for him in the extended canter to hit the piaffe to have a smooth piaffe, it's a combination of the collection that blends and molds into the piaffe."
Konyot celebrates her 50th birthday tomorrow.
Shawna Harding was third in the Grand Prix on Thursday, sixth in the Grand Prix Special with Come On III, but rebounded in the Freestyle to finish on a three-day percentage of 68.542%. She credits her trip to Europe last summer with helping improve Come On III at the highest level.
"I would like to really thank Carol Lavell and the Dressage Foundation for making the opportunity for me to go to Europe a possibility," said Harding. "I had a huge experience competing Come One and Rigo in Europe. "
At only 12, the Danish Warmblood gelding is maturing into a top horse for Harding. "He is really coming onto his game," she said. "The piaffe is getting really good. It was really good in the ring today. My big horse is scared to death and has a huge heart; I'm a proud of him."
For Video on Demand from throughout the competition please visit: http://usefnetwork.com/featured/2011FOC.