June 22, 2008 -- Overnight leader Steffen Peters returned to the Oaks Blenheim ring with Ravel in the USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Championship and the USEF Selection Trial for Dressage, and made it quite clear that he was not going to relinquish his lead.
Owned by Aikiko Yamazaki, Ravel, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding took some of the much more experienced horses to task and never looked in danger of making a mistake. The elegant combination looked relaxed throughout the test with excellent changes and powerful extensions. They finished with a score of 75.240%
"He's so ready to work and giving 100% all the time," said Peters. "After the last piaffe on the center line I got a little choked up. I don't even think that this is quite where he maxed out. He is the kindest horse, it's unbelievable."
Peters was also fifth riding Yamazaki's other horse, 17-year-old Lombardi 11. Lombardi put in an unscripted move in one of the piaffes, demonstrating how good he was feeling.
"Lombardi is simply a goofball," said Peters, who lives in San Diego, CA. "He loves to go out there and do something funny, I don't think it is resistance. He's a very playful horse. When he's in that mood that's just the way he is, I accept that. They aren't machines and they are allowed to be horses. Once in awhile those things happen."
Hailey, ID rider Debbie McDonald recovered from a disappointing test on her first horse Felix, to put in a fantastic second place effort on the legendary 17-year-old Hanoverian mare, Brentina. Owned by Peggy Thomas, Brentina, who returned to major competition earlier this year after a hiatus in 2007, continued to show her class and experience. The pair was second after the first day and improved her score in the Grand Prix Special finishing on 74.12%.
"I did a little bit this morning with her to gauge her energy level," said McDonald. "But she had a lot of energy this morning. I was very happy. I felt like I was a little less conservative. She just felt really right on my aids and energetic. For what I want from her right now I couldn't ask for more. I'm extremely happy."
Brentina's test was highlighted by excellent piaffe, passage and beautiful changes. Without any mistakes, McDonald was obviously thrilled with the mare's performance. The pair was part of the last U.S. Olympic Team which won a bronze medal in Athens in 2004.
"My rides with Brentina at this point are really quite emotional as she will retire next year so I can pretty much count the rides I have left on her," said McDonald. "It is really quite emotional for me."
Courtney King-Dye of New Milford, CT rode a convincing test on her rising star Harmony's Mythilus. Fourth after the first day of competition, King-Dye and Mythilus had a beautiful test but went off course in one of the final movement to finish third on a score of 73.16%.
"It's so similar to the Grand Prix test, which is the test we usually ride," said King-Dye, explaining her mistake. "I've only ridden two Specials on Myth. And I just went for the extension in the wrong the direction."
The quality of Mythilus' test was improved from the first day and King-Dye felt that she had more to work with.
"Yesterday the judges said I needed to let his neck out more and I hear that a lot with this horse," said King-Dye. "I just hadn't gotten back to that point with him. Today he was already a little better and I could let his neck out more, he stayed on my seat and I could take more risk. Like I said coming in, I feel like Myth is on an upward turn. I've been thrilled with him."
King-Dye and her beloved veteran Idocus started off the afternoon activities with a much improved effort from Saturday's test which left them in fifth place overnight. Idocus, an 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion owned by Christine McCarthy, was first in the ring and put in a stellar performance which set the standard for many improved performances in the Grand Prix Special Test. With a score of 70.20% they lie fifth halfway through the USEF Selection Trials and the National Grand Prix Championship.
"I felt better about the way that I handled it," said King-Dye about Idocus' improvement. "He did his job in the show ring. For me it is a big victory for me to be able to put the pressure on him. But he took it and he delivered."
The USEF National Grand Prix Championship and USEF selection Trial for Dressage continues next Saturday at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.