Hon­or­ing the Ca­reer of Le­go­las 92

Fans bid farewell to St­ef­fen Peters’ Rio star

Dressage Today - - Content - Story and pho­tos by Kim F. Miller

St­ef­fen Peters had an un­usu­ally busy night Satur­day, April 28, dur­ing the Del Mar Na­tional Horse Show in Cal­i­for­nia. He and his rel­a­tively new mount, Sup­penkasper, laid down a 77.800 per­cent score to win the $5,000 G-2 Soft­ware FEI CDI-W* Grand Prix Freestyle. Af­ter fin­ish­ing the vic­tory lap on a clear new star in his San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia, sta­ble, the four-time Olympian re­turned to the Del Mar Arena on his cel­e­brated part­ner, Le­go­las 92.

Six years af­ter mak­ing his in­ter­na­tional de­but at the same venue with wins in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle, the 16-year-old West­phalian geld­ing said good­bye to fans. But he still started his farewell with the “Hi, I’m Le­go­las!” in­tro to their fa­mil­iar and fun mu­si­cal med­ley of David Bowie, The Who and U2. And he was goofy to the last with a few an­tics be­tween en­ter­ing the arena and rid­ing through A.

Owner Akiko Ya­mazaki ex­plained that while she and Peters were search­ing for his next Team USA part­ner, they mapped out each of the then-9-year-old’s Grand Prix move­ments to see if a 75 score looked pos­si­ble. The an­swer was “yes” and he sur­passed that score many, many times in the course of a ca­reer that in­cluded nearly 50 CDI Grand Prix vic­to­ries, team and in­di­vid­ual gold at the 2015 Pan Amer­i­can Games and team bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Three USEF Na­tional Grand Prix ti­tles are part of that re­sume, too, along with strong show­ings at the Aachen CDI5* and the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dres­sage Fi­nal.

It was their last out­ing to­gether, at the 2016 Olympics, that Peters de­scribed as the high­light of their com­pet­i­tive time to­gether. He re­called do­ing a Freestyle at Del Mar in the be­gin­ning of 2016 that was “an ab­so­lute dis­as­ter” and won­der­ing whether Rio would even be an op­tion, and if they got there, how would they do. Chef d’équipe Robert Dover pro­vided un­ceas­ing en­cour­age­ment as they con­tin­ued on the road to Rio through the sum­mer’s Euro­pean por­tion of the se­lec­tion and prepa­ra­tion process.

“This lit­tle boy shined at the right mo­ment,” Peters said. Earn­ing 79.393 in the Freestyle, 77.614 in the Grand Prix and 74.622 in the Spe­cial were huge con­tri­bu­tions to the U.S. Team bronze and a fit­ting way to fin­ish their part­ner­ship. Af­ter Rio, there was not much left to ac­com­plish, yet Le­go­las was healthy, fit and sound. Ya­mazaki and Peters talked about what should come next and de­ter­mined that he would be a per­fect part­ner to take St­ef­fen and Shan­non Peters’ long-time as­sis­tant Dawn White-O’Con­nor into the next level of her ca­reer. So last year at Del Mar, it was White-O’Con­nor and Le­go­las tak­ing sev­eral top rib­bons. In their sec­ond-to-last show to­gether, the new pair won the Grand Prix and Freestyle at the West Coast Dres­sage Fes­ti­val at the CDI-W in Te­mec­ula in Jan­uary.

“I was lucky to be a part of his ca­reer af­ter the Olympics. This is bit­ter­sweet, but he has earned his re­tire­ment,” WhiteO’Con­nor said. “I think he’s been in an air­plane more in six years than most peo­ple ever will be and he never missed a com­pe­ti­tion that he was en­tered in.”

An­nouncer Michael Mon­crieff noted that re­tire­ment cer­e­monies should be joy-

ful, not sad, and the Le­go­las team was very much on board with that. With her hus­band Jerry Yang and two daugh­ters stand­ing with Le­go­las’ posse, Four Winds Farm owner Ya­mazaki asked the crowd’s in­dul­gence in read­ing a poem for her horse.

Lines in­clud­ing “Le­go­las, you took our breath away with your pi­affe and pas­sage and we held our breath for your changes,” and “You have the mag­nif­i­cent body of an ox and the heart of a delicate bird,” charmed the crowd. She con­cluded, “For the coun­try you brought two medals—one team gold, one team bronze—and for your­self and St­ef­fen, one in­di­vid­ual gold. For us, you brought seven years of travel around the world and price­less mem­o­ries. Thank you, Le­go­las!”

Le­go­las seemed to revel in the spot­light, paw­ing the air with his leg and alertly scan­ning the fans as his many ac­com­plish­ments were de­tailed, Peters beam­ing all the while. Le­go­las’ big­gest thrill, how­ever, was the sight of Shan­non driv­ing into the arena with his “per­sonal four-wheel ve­hi­cle,” a golf cart bear­ing a bucket of his fa­vorite treats. On cue, he led Peters to the cart, lifted up the bucket’s lid with his nose and nipped into it.

Im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony, Peters led Le­go­las through the fair­ground’s fes­tive pub­lic con­course to an el­e­gantly draped and flower-adorned por­ta­ble stall. A long line of ad­mir­ers queued as an au­to­graph ta­ble was set up be­side the stall, where Le­go­las and FEI Groom of the Year Ed­die Gar­cia su­per­vised Peters sign­ing au­to­graphs and spend­ing spe­cial mo­ments with fans.

A high­light among those arose when Hai­ley Sul­li­van, a fan and em­ployee of nearby Mary’s Tack & Feed, pre­sented Ya­mazaki and Peters with a beau­ti­ful draw­ing of Le­go­las, a sur­prise for both. It did not seem that Sul­li­van had plans for the 10 prints she made of the black and

white draw­ing, but a spon­ta­neous of­fer to buy them from Ya­mazaki was ac­cepted, and they were then given to Le­go­las’ team mem­bers.

The au­to­graph-sign­ing was lengthy, fun and emo­tional for many, as be­fits the equine celebrity.

A New Chap­ter

Le­go­las’ re­tire­ment marked a new chap­ter in the pow­er­house part­ner­ship of Peters and Ya­mazaki, whose Four Winds Farm has backed Peters’ ca­reer, the U.S. Dres­sage Team and the sport as a whole in a huge way.

Le­go­las burst onto the scene in 2012, one year be­fore Peters’ twotime Olympic part­ner and 2009 World Cup Fi­nal cham­pion Ravel took his own re­tire­ment bows in 2013, also at the Del Mar Na­tional. Le­go­las passes the ba­ton to two ca­pa­ble can­di­dates. Peters’ Freestyle star ear­lier that evening, Sup­penkasper, is pac­ing Rosamunde, the win­ner of last year’s Del Mar Freestyle and this year’s Grand Prix. Peters was short­listed with both horses for the World Eques­trian Games.

Sup­penkasper is a 9-year-old Dutch Warm­blood brought along by Ger­many’s He­len Lange­ha­nen­berg. Rosamunde is an 11-year-old Rhein­lan­der. All are owned by Four Winds Farm.

Le­go­las 92 rev­eled in the spo­light dur­ing his re­tire­ment cer­e­mony in April.

#fteR the ceR­e­MONy, 5tef­feN 2eteRS SigNed au­tO­gRaPhS aNd SPeNt SPe­cial MO­MeNtS with faNS.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.