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Peters Takes World Cup, Briar Says Good-bye

Excitement was high tonight for the Musical Freestyle leg of the FEI World Cup Dressage competition. The World Cup title was on the line, and it was a close race between the 2007 winner Isabell Werth of Germany, last year’s winner and nine-time champion Anky van Grunsven of Netherlands, and Thursday’s winner Steffen Peters of the United States. As the scores rolled in it became clear that for the first time in 23 years, an American won the World Cup on American soil.

Rider after rider graced the ring with piaffe, passage, pirouettes and more, choreographed to a variety of classical, pop and rock music. At the end of the first half of the performances, Jeanette Haazen of Netherlands and Nartan were the leaders, having performed a beautiful test to music including Hernando’s Hideaway for a score of 75.6.

The competition began to really heat up after the break, when first Monica Theodorescu of Germany and Whisper took the lead with 76.85, then Hans Peter Minderhoud of Netherlands and Exquis Nadine with a score of 81.05. Minderhoud was immediately bumped from the lead position by Werth and Satchmo (third place on Thursday), who scored 84.5 for her beautifully choreographed and ridden freestyle—including an artistic score of 92.

When the moment came for Peters and Ravel to perform, the air in the arena was electric. From the moment they trotted into the arena, it was clear he was there to win. His extensions were beautiful, his half passes were elastic, and his piaffe and passage were strong, as well as throughout these movements, the horse truly danced to the music. The audience loved every second of his performance.

The crowd was on their feet at the final halt, rising again and again every time he passed as he walked around the ring, waiting for his scores. When at last they appeared, his overall score of 84.950 shot him to the top of the leader board and the audience once again to their feet. His artistic score of 93 showed that this was exactly how a musical freestyle should be ridden.

There was great tension in the room when van Grunsven rode in on IPS Painted Black. She is not nicknamed “The Queen of the Kur” for nothing, and it showed in that nearly every beat of the music was perfectly timed to the stallion’s footfalls. However, they made a mistake in the two-tempis and their overall level of difficulty and execution did not meet the standard that had been set by the two previous riders. Her score of 82.25 was only good enough for third place.

There was only one ride left to go, a tough spot to be in for Canadian Ashley Holzer with Pop Art. If there was anyone capable of following the three leaders with aplomb, it was this team. With a gorgeous and accurate piaffe-passage tour and piaffe pirouette that had the audience cheering, she finished the night with a very respectable 79.15 that was good enough for fifth place.

Peters and Ravel (Akiko Yamazaki, owner) won $104,600 for their performance, Werth and Satchmo (Madeleine Winter-Schulze and Birgitte Werth, owners) won $62,600, and van Grunsven and IPS Painted Black (J.M. van Uytert and K.M.J. Kelders, owners) won $38,600.

Peters’ accomplishment is particularly impressive given that he has only been riding Ravel for 14 months. “He has a great mind,” Peters said at a press conference after the award ceremony. “I’m one of the really lucky guys in the world who gets to ride a horse like that.”

Of the win, Peters said, “It’s just an incredible feeling.” Showing off his second Rolex watch of the week, he said, “This is incredible support from the sponsors, Rolex. We really appreciate it.”

Van Grunsven appeared genuinely happy for Peters and with her performance on IPS Painted Black. “I was really happy. It was his first big competition like this. He did well.”

When asked how the two women felt about an American stepping in where they have battled for years, van Grunsven answered, “I think it’s great for the sport. I’m going to go home and practice very hard.”

Werth’s response was, “Next time I’ll try to make it a bit harder for him.”

After the freestyle performances were over, Jan Brink and Bjorsells Briar were invited back into the arena to say their final good-bye to International competition, as Briar is retiring at the age of 18. And thus ended another year of fantastic FEI World Cup Dressage, with many fond memories for dressage fans to take home.

 

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