The United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation is pleased to announce that Steffen Peters, 44, of San Diego, California, is the recipient of the Whitney Stone Cup. Peters was presented with the award at the USET Foundation Cocktail Reception on January 30 at The Players Club in Wellington, Florida.
Peters is the 29th rider to receive the Whitney Stone Cup. Expressing his reaction when he learned he'd been selected for the prestigious award, Peters said, "This was certainly a big honor, especially when I read later on what defines this honor. That was very special, considering all the people that have won this award before me. To be among that group feels very, very special. It certainly means a lot to receive this award."
The Whitney Stone Cup is awarded annually to an active competitor who displays consistent excellence in international competition and high standards of sportsmanlike conduct while serving as an ambassador for the United States and equestrian sport.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Hong Kong, China, Peters riding Ravel, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Akiko Yamazaki, was the highest-placed American dressage rider, earning fourth place individually, and was narrowly edged out of the Individual Bronze.
Peters has represented the United States admirably for 12 years, since making his international debut as a United States Equestrian Team member in 1996.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games in Georgia, Peters aboard Udon helped the U.S. win the Team Bronze Medal. At the 2002 World Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden, Peters aboard Grandeur earned eighth place. At the 2003 CDIO Aachen, Germany, Peters and Grandeur helped the U.S. clinch Team Silver. For the 2004 Athens Olympics, Peters and Floriano served as the Team Alternate. At the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, Peters riding Floriano was instrumental in the U.S. winning the Team Bronze. At the 2007 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Las Vegas, Nevada, Peters and Floriano placed second in the Grand Prix and third in the Freestyle. Also in 2007, Peters and Lombardi 11 represented the U.S. at the CDIO*** in Aachen, Germany.
Part of the criterion for winning the Whitney Stone Cup states that the rider shows high standards of sportsmanlike conduct and serves as an ambassador for the U.S. Peters commented about what it means to him to show sportsmanship and be an ambassador as an international competitor, singling out the 2008 Olympics where he missed the Individual Bronze by just 0.3 percentage points. "At the Olympics in Hong Kong, we were all hoping for that Bronze Medal, and then it didn't happen," Peters recounted. "Coming out of the ring, one has to show a very good positive attitude. It doesn't do any good to be negative at that time. Overall, having good team spirit, working with everyone together, can make the difference in being a good sportsman and ambassador for your country."
The Whitney Stone Award criterion also specifies the rider must show consistent excellence in international competition, and Peters has certainly achieved outstanding results internationally since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He described what it takes for a rider to consistently be a world-class competitor, crediting his horses and sponsors.
"When we look at a rider, as we all know, a rider is only as good as the horses," Peters averred. "I honestly need to give the credit to my horses. Also, beginning with Udon, I was first of all blessed with wonderful sponsors who provided me with international horses. After Udon, there was Grandeur, then Floriano and at the same time Lombardi, and now there's Ravel. It is essential that we give all the credit to the horses and also to the support group that I have behind me - and all the people who actually give me the best chance to perform well. Akiko Yamazaki, Ravel's owner, has been incredibly supportive since the day I found this horse in Holland. Certainly my wife Shannon as a coach deserves a lot of credit, and Tom Meyers, who has been our equine therapist for many years, and my good friend 'Rafa' - Rafael Hernandez, my groom. So when we talk about international standards, you never win by yourself. It always takes a team effort and I've been blessed with an amazing support group."
The year 2008 was a great year in Peters' career. He was undefeated with Ravel at every competition leading up to the Olympics and won the National Grand Prix Dressage Championship at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions in California. Peters was also awarded the USEF Equestrian of the Year Award for his achievements in 2008. At the Olympics in Hong Kong, Peters and Ravel finished third in the Grand Prix Freestyle with an outstanding score of 76.50%. The year 2008 was especially impressive in that Ravel was making his debut as a Grand Prix horse. Peters described how the successful year unfolded, noting that it was his dream to take Ravel to the Olympics since he first found him in 2006 as a potential partner.
"I would say I didn't expect this success. I was certainly dreaming about it," Peters related. "I knew what Ravel was capable of doing and I knew this right off, the first few weeks when I tried him in Holland. But we all know it's sometimes a different story to put this in the show arena, especially for a horse that hasn't seen much of the world. Again, it would have been wonderful to clinch that Bronze Medal, but then it's always important to look back and remember where we came from. The Equestrian of the Year Award was amazing icing on the cake for the whole year. What Ravel did for us in Hong Kong was just absolutely amazing. As I've said many times, it's hard to put in words, for him to be third in the freestyle and 0.3% away from the Bronze Medal was absolutely fantastic."
Peters was born September 18, 1964, in Wesel, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. He began riding at age seven. As a teen training at Jo Hinnemann's barn in Voerde, Peters met American trainer Laurie Falvo and in 1984 he came to the U.S. to work a short stint at her barn in San Diego. Peters returned to the U.S. permanently in 1985 and became a U.S. citizen in 1992. Peters and his wife Shannon, also an accomplished dressage rider, operate a training barn in San Diego.
Whitney Stone Cup Winners
The Whitney Stone Cup is awarded in honor of the late Whitney Stone, who served as President and Chairman of the Board of the United States Equestrian Team from 1953 to 1973. Mr. Stone was instrumental in the creation of a civilian equestrian team when the Army retired from competitive horse sports after 1948. Previous Whitney Stone Cup winners are:
1980 - Michael Matz
1981 - James C. Wofford
1982 - Norman Dello Joio
1983 - Melanie Smith
1984 - Carole Grant
1985 - Joe Fargis
1986 - Conrad Homfeld
1987 - Katie Monahan Prudent
1988 - Bruce O. Davidson
1989 - Gregory A. Best
1990 - William Long
1991 - Hap Hansen
1992 - Lana DuPont Wright
1993 - Carol Lavell
1994 - J. Michael Plumb
1995 - Robert Dover
1996 - Anne Kursinski
1997 - Leslie Burr Howard
1998 - David O'Connor
1999 - Valerie Kanavy
2000 - Karen O'Connor
2001 - Tucker Johnson
2002 - Gunter Seidel
2003 - Peter Wylde
2004 - Debbie McDonald
2005 - Chris Kappler
2006 - Elizabeth (Beezie) Madden
2007 - Elizabeth (Beezie) Madden
2008 - Miranda (Randy) Caldwell
Photo: Steffen Peters receives the Whitney Stone Cup from Brownlee O. Currey, Jr., Senior Vice President of the USET Foundation. PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer Wood/PMG