DEL MAR, CA – As the distinctive opening bass line of “Under Pressure” rang out in the covered arena at the Del Mar Horse Park with the voiceover “Hi, I’m Legolas, let’s go!”, there was no doubt that Legolas 92 was back in top form as he and Steffen Peters posted the second-highest Grand Prix Freestyle score of their career at California Dreaming Productions’ Dressage Affaire CDI3*/Y/J/U-25, being held March 10-13.
The veteran U.S. Dressage Team pair’s winning score of 82.000% was also the best of any other American team contender in the current Olympic selection year, second only to their own career best score of 84.050% earned at the LA Winter Dressage CDI in Burbank in January.
“One of the judges spoke with me during the awards and said it was the best she’d ever seen Legolas look,” said Peters of Four Winds Farm’s Westfalen gelding (Laomedon x Fuerstin by Florestan II). “We had two clean, confident tests this weekend and I’m just thrilled with him. He feels great and hopefully we can keep him this relaxed for the rest of the season so he can continue to show at his best.” Finishing in second was Kimberly McGrath riding Arianthi Ferronato’s KWPN gelding Winslow (Obelisk x Marree x Houston) with 74.002%.
Now the veterans of multiple championships together, Peters knows that his partner can be on the sensitive side when it comes to freestyles so he set Legolas up to succeed in Del Mar with a recent addition to his equipment. “Today Legolas was wearing new padded ear covers, and I’m so glad the FEI approved the use of them this year,” Peters explained.
“The jumpers are allowed to wear them and I always felt that it was only fair to allow some ear protection and make it a bit more comfortable for our dressage horses in the freestyle, especially the noise-sensitive ones. It certainly seemed to make him more comfortable, especially in the indoor environment where the loud music really echoes around in a smaller space. He responded positively when we worked with it at home, so we decided to try it here at Del Mar and now it will be part of our plan for the future. So I sincerely thank the FEI for allowing this, not just from me but especially from Legolas.”
Peters noted that Legolas will now take a short break before participating in one final prep show at Del Mar in late April, then head to Europe in late May to begin preparations for the final Olympic Games selections.
In a repeat of Friday’s Prix St. Georges test, Peters once again impressed the large crowd that gathered with Four Winds Farm’s flashy chestnut Oldenburg Bailarino (Breitling W x Schila by De Niro), who made the more challenging Intermediaire I test look effortless and even improved his score from the previous day to dominate the class 75.737%, all despite this being the gelding’s international debut.
“It was really fun, especially since it was his first Intermediaire I test ever – we’ve practiced the movements at home but never put the whole test together. It was a very clean test, but he’s so laidback he did make me work for the extensions – it’s a good workout,” Peters laughed.
“He’s so beautiful in the bridle and a very supple horse. His temperament is outstanding especially for an eight-year-old, and he’s such a stunning horse to look at. I’m delighted that Akiko is letting me to ride him for a little while.”
Also demonstrating up-and-coming talent was second-place finisher Shayna Simon and her 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Harley Davidson (His Highness x Walt Lady by Walt Disney I). After earning their first international victory at the LA Winter Dressage CDI in January, this talented pair took home reserve honors today with a personal best CDI score at this level of 71.868%.
After sweeping the Under-25 division at the Mid-Winter Dressage CDI in Burbank last month, Anna Buffini and her KWPN gelding Wilton 11 (Jazz x Olympia-W by Contango) continue to be unbeatable at this level as they dominated the CDI Under-25 Intermediaire II class with 71.096%. Finishing in second with 62.675% was Cassidy Gallman with Grand Makana (Hanoverian gelding by Goodman).
In the CDI Young Rider Individual Test, Canada’s Ehren Volk and the Westfalen gelding Weltino’s Magic (Weltino x Diva by Diamond Boy, owned by Jen and Bruce Hlavacek) rebounded from yesterday’s second-place finish in the Team Test to turn the tables on their rivals and win with a big score of 72.544%. Lauren Asher and her Hanoverian gelding De Noir 3 (Hanoverian gelding De Niro x Maharani by Matcho AA) gave Volk a run for her money, but ultimately had to settle for second with 71.228%.
For the Junior division, Veronica West continued her winning ways in today’s Individual Test aboard her Hanoverian gelding Nobleman (Hatiello XX x Weira by Wenzel II) with a score of 66.491% to earn the victory over Christian Simonson and the Hanoverian gelding Herzkonig (His Highness x Fuchs by Weltmeyer) on 63.289%.
Complete results are available on the California Dreaming Productions website. Competition resumes Sunday.