It was pure excitement up until the very end. Would the American rider manage to beat the "Freestyle Queen" Anky van Grunsven in the Deutsche Bank Prize, Grand Prix Freestyle? Van Grunsven had set the score to beat at 84.50 percent with a highly technical choreography. And yet Steffen Peters still managed to go one better, claiming his third victory at the World Equestrian Festival, CHIO Aachen with a score of 85.60 percent. "It was almost like riding in front of a home crowd. The competition went even better than at the World Cup Finale in Las Vegas," commented the 44-year-old rider who emigrated to California as a 20-year-old after growing up in Rhineland.
"You only get a horse like Ravel once in a lifetime. He is very sensitive, is always on my side and ready to fight for me, but at the same time he is extremely relaxed and totally reliable, which means I can ride into the tests without being nervous," reported Peters.
Aachen seemed to bond the two, because Peters discovered Ravel during the FEI World Equestrian Games at the Soers in 2006. ""It seems to be a good omen, my sponsors bought him for me back then. We took our time with him, he was my secret weapon, and his first international tournament was the Olympic Games in Hong Kong in 2008," commented Steffen Peters.
The World Championships in Kentucky are the pair's next big goal. "We are going to take things easy now, perhaps we will compete at the World Dressage Masters in the autumn. Otherwise we are going to wrap Ravel up in cotton wool, to make sure that he remains fit. After winning the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Spéciale and the Grand Prix Freestyle, Ravel and Peters also secured the title of Dressage Champions Aachen 2009, which is patroned by the Liselott Schindling Foundation for the Promotion of Dressage. Second place went to IPS Salinero under Anky van Grunsven, ahead of Hans Peter Minderhoud with Exquis Nadine.
Steffen Peters' freestyle routine was packed with technically difficult exercises - it began with the canter tour with flying-changes on a curved line. Also remarkable, the direct combination of a pirouette, piaffe and the extended walk.
"I am very pleased that Salinero has performed better over the last two days. Unfortunately, we had a small disturbance in the extended trot," reported Anky van Grunsven, who finished second with 84.50 percent. "Of course I would have preferred to win. But it is very good and important that the sport remains exciting and that nobody knows beforehand who is going to win," added the mother of two. "Whereby I am very glad that Steffen is American, so he can't be a threat to us at the European Championships in Windsor," she joked.
The Dutch rider, Hans Peter Minderhoud, came third on the 14-year-old KWPN mare, Exquis Nadine with a score of 80 percent. "I am very happy with my performances in Aachen, I brought three horses with me and I rode seven times: Being placed under the top three every time, was a great result," said Minderhoud, whose partner Edward Gal is considered to be one of the favourites to win the European Championships with the Gribaldi son, Totilas.
Fourth place went to the British rider, Emma Hindle, who lives in Odenwald. Hindle rode her Olympic Games horse, Lancet, a 16-year-old Hanoverian by Wenzel. The best German result was fifth place by Heike Kemmer, who received 77.90 percent for her freestyle routine on Bonaparte. Sterntaler Unicef and Matthias Alexander Rath followed in seventh place behind the 19-year-old Balagur and Alexandra Korelova. "Balagur still immensely enjoys performing, I really enjoyed riding here. We have got our targets set on the European Championships, but we decide from show to show, how fit he is and whether he is still enjoying doing dressage," explained Alexandra Korelova, who scored 76.40. "Sterntaler was fresher today so it felt better again. Of course it's a shame that we couldn't repeat our recent performance level here. But Aachen is quite simply Aachen and the requirements are totally different," said Matthias Alexander Rath.