Wellington, Fla.—April 6
There’s just something extra special about a night class, and tonight’s was no different. The promise of a star-studded line-up of eight riders in the $84,000 Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI***** Grand Prix freestyle brought out loads of spectators keen to soak up the atmosphere—and eager for a showdown between top riders.
And they got one because, in the end, the only thing standing between first and second was less than half a percentage point. Lars Petersen and Mariett, representing Denmark, earned the top spot on 78.45 percent, but Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 were not far behind with a 78.10 percent.
“I was very happy with that mare tonight,” said Petersen of the 15-year-old Danish Warmblood (Come Back II—Zendi, Sidney) he owns with Marcia Pepper. “Winning a competition like this means a lot.”
While both riders put in worthy tests, the difficulty of Petersen’s freestyle choreography boosted him to the top.
“I think this is the first time I got my changes,” he said. “It’s very difficult; you go from twos and then to ones and then back to twos, and I think that worked pretty good tonight. The overall rideability of the mare is getting better and better, and I’m very happy with that.”
Legolas 92 displayed some tension immediately upon entering the ring, which was the part Peters said he was most worried about after winning yesterday’s Grand Prix. After the halt, Legolas tried to canter off, and it took Peters a few seconds to settle him.
“The ride tonight was the most supple freestyle and the most relaxed freestyle, after the first 10 seconds,” said Peters, of San Diego, Calif. “The first halt wasn’t so good. He got a little crooked, and I knew if I would correct him that he might start piaffing or something else, but certainly he would not be standing still. But the connection has never been better in the freestyle, and that really tells me everything about it.”
Petersen’s score came up before Peters went in the ring, but the latter didn’t let it affect his ride.
“When you hear someone else’s score, it’s tempting to get a bit more intense and start riding the scoreboard, and I’ve made that mistake before,” said Peters. “But I wanted to really stick to my routine, and it’s good for the sport. It shouldn’t always be the same horse winning. I’m very happy for Lars.”
"I'm happy for Lars, too!" Petersen joked.
The class was held at the Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Though the crowd sometimes got a little overzealous with their enthusiasm—clapping and cheering during the rides after particularly impressive movements—most horses handled it well.
“It’s a great atmosphere; it’s really, really nice,” said Petersen, who's based in Loxahatchee, Fla. “Mariett’s so good. I don’t think it matters to her if people are clapping. They clapped in my tempis, and she didn’t care at all. She didn’t care about the rain yesterday. She’s just good.”
“The atmosphere is spectacular here,” added Tina Konyot, who finished third with Calecto V. “It’s something we all hoped for and wished for—to have a show facility here that’s like an international venue. It’s such a positive, wonderful feeling.”
Heather Blitz and Paragon finished fourth, but the start of Paragon’s freestyle was delayed when his music started in the incorrect place. Blitz trotted back and forth between C and A several times, communicating with Nicho Meredith at control and judge Stephen Clarke. After two false starts, Blitz finally got to begin her test.
Show results available online.