Reprinted from the March/April 2022 issue of USDF Connection magazine
By Sue Weakley
Partnerships are what make dressage special. The kinship between horse and rider is often palpable, but some pairs transcend the special to become unmistakably magical.
That bond is apparent between Suppenkasper and his rider, five-time Olympian Steffen Peters. Together they helped Team USA win a dressage silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the country’s best finish since 1948.
“When I try to talk about the Games, it’s still hard to put everything into words,” Peters shares.
Anxious about the arduous journey from Florida to Germany to Dubai to Tokyo, he relaxed when the horses arrived in good shape. “We took it easy for four days, and then as soon as I started working, I felt ‘Mopsie’ had this amazing amount of energy, even in the heat. I had so much horse underneath me.”
Peters had a feeling that the Olympics were Mopsie’s time to shine, just as he had done in the selection trials in Florida. “And sure enough, the Grand Prix was good; and in the Grand Prix Special, I knew that [teammates] Sabine [Schut-Kery] and Adrienne [Lyle] and I had to go pretty much full blast without a mistake. And that’s exactly what happened.”
The GP Special alone was the team-medal decider. As Peters and Mopsie cantered down the center line, “honestly, at that time I didn’t hear anything; I didn’t feel anything,” Peters says. “I just get so much into my zone. I think it could have been 115 degrees, and I most likely wouldn’t have felt it for those seven or eight minutes in the show arena.”
For Peters, Mopsie’s extended gaits were the highlight of the test. “I don’t have to push him. I just have to carefully control that he doesn’t do too much, but I just let him be a horse and do what he does. The best part was the extended canter, where I gave him the rein, took my legs off, and I literally just relaxed the leg and he went. Then I closed my legs gently a little bit for the end of the diagonal and collected him a little bit. It was exciting that the judges rewarded him with nines for that. But I can’t take any credit for that, because that’s just his talent and his phenomenal canter and his amazing willingness to go.
“You know, I’ve never felt any horse like that; the energy is tremendous,” Peters continues. Mopsie “always wants to go any day when I get on him; even in the first few minutes of rising trot, I’ve got to bring him back and slow everything way down. I think we understand each other very well.”
Mopsie’s owner, Four Winds Farm LLC’s Akiko Yamazaki, was in Tokyo for the history-making performances. After cheering on her horse, she and Peters watched as his teammate Sabine Schut-Kery on Sanceo clinched the silver medal in her first Olympic appearance.
“Sabine’s ride was simply mesmerizing; I was completely absorbed,” Yamazaki says. “It was so beautiful.”
Peters expresses deep appreciation for his teammates as well as the support for Team Mopsie—some of whom, including his wife, Shannon Peters, were unable to travel to Tokyo because of COVID-19 restrictions. He tips his hat to then US national dressage technical advisor Debbie McDonald; Yamazaki and her husband, Jerry Yang; US Equestrian dressage team leader Hallye Griffin; team veterinarian Dr. Rodrigo Vazquez; and Mopsie’s groom, Eddie Garcia.
“It’s wonderful that Mopsie got Horse of the Year and I have a silver medal, but none of that could have happened without my amazing team,” Peters points out. “It’s nice when you compete as a team, but when you compete along with people that are so good-hearted and are on the exact same page every single day, that is a wonderful feeling. I’m a very fortunate individual with an amazing horse, and I can’t put in words how much gratitude I feel.”