After years in the limelight, Steffen Peters’ long-time partner is enjoying retirement. Here’s what Ravel’s up to these days, and why you should use your “inside voice” if you ever meet him.
If you’re a fan of dressage, chances are you’ve heard of Ravel. The most accomplished horse in the history of U.S. dressage, Ravel set multiple records throughout his legendary partnership with superstar Steffen Peters.
“A Match Made in Heaven”
The duo met in 2006 when Steffen Peters was on the lookout for a new dressage horse. After a few trial rides, Steffen knew that Ravel had untapped potential — and that he could turn the gelding into a star. With the help of owner Akiko Yamazaki, they took a chance on Ravel.
And… it was the perfect pairing. “Steffen and Ravel were a match made in heaven,” said Akiko. “When you saw them together, it was a true partnership, based on mutual respect.”
The dream of a 2008 Olympic debut began to take shape in Steffen’s mind — and indeed, it made sense. Ravel had taken home first place in every Grand Prix competition he entered in 2008. But that was just the beginning…
In 2009, Ravel and Steffen defeated the best horses and riders of Europe with a victory at the FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas. They also swept CHIO Aachen with wins in the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special, and Grand Prix Freestyle.
At the end of the 2009 dressage season, Ravel was named Horse of the Year by the U.S. Equestrian Federation (the first of three consecutive titles). In 2010, the duo earned individual bronze medals at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky.
Ravel and Steffen were more than just a successful pair — the two represented the future of American dressage on the international circuit. They were able to match (and beat!) the best European horses and riders who have long dominated the international dressage ring.
To put it simply, Ravel and Steffen proved that American duos could hold their own among the best in the world.
Some Well Earned Alone Time
Five years ago, Ravel was officially retired from international competition at a special ceremony at the Del Mar National Horse Show in California. Shortly after, the superstar was moved to Akiko’s farm in Woodside, California.
Now over 20 years old, Ravel spends his days as a schoolmaster for Akiko, and Steffen is lucky enough to be able to visit his old buddy frequently. “It’s amazing how good he looks,” Steffen says. “He looks seriously impressive. You could not tell that this horse is 20 years old.”
And although Ravel performed flawlessly in the limelight, he’s also a horse that craved his quiet time. “He would get very offended if other people kept him too busy or if the stall would be a little noisy,” says Steffen. “He would pin his ears back and make it very, very clear to them that he’s the king who needs his space and peaceful time.”
When fans of Ravel come to visit the superstar in person, Akiko makes sure that everyone keeps their voices down and stays respectful of the stallion. “I think horses like him come with a little bit of entitlement,” explains Steffen.
Inspiration for the Ages
Ravel, says Steffen, taught him as much, or more, about riding as any human teacher could.
“You get inspired from human beings but how cool is it that you can get even more inspired by an animal like a horse, like Ravel? That is incredible,” says Steffen.
The partnership between Steffen and Ravel was truly a force to be reckoned with — and after all these years, Steffen is quick to note Ravel’s influence on his career. “He was my first horse that got me to the number two ranking in the world and won the World Cup, won Aachen, and got two individual bronze medals at the World Games,” recalls Steffen.
“Anytime you achieve a major victory at a huge championship like that, you don’t forget that feeling. If you ask me how it felt when he won the World Cup Final in Vegas in front of 10,000 people, I still can’t put that into words.”