The champion U.S. dressage rider believes his big, gentle, cookie-loving partner has the right stuff to be big in Japan
At age 54, other riders might be thinking about retirement, but not Steffen Peters. The high achieving U.S. dressage rider is as energized as ever, thanks to one of his newest partnerships, with Suppenkasper.
With four Olympic appearances to his name, Steffen has played an essential role in the U.S. Dressage Team’s success over the years. Still, he remains incredibly humble, always crediting his equestrian partners for his numerous victories.
His new partner, Suppenkasper, is low key as well. The KWPN gelding, affectionately known around the barn as “Mopsie,” was bred in the Netherlands and purchased in 2017 for Steffen as a team prospect for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. And Mopsie is no small ride. “He’s 18.2h,” says Steffen.
Steffen speaks highly of his four-hooved star-in-the-making. “He’s one of the kindest horses I’ve ever met and ever had the chance to ride,” Steffen says. “He’s such a gentle soul.”
When the two finish their daily morning ride, Steffen takes off Mopsie’s bridle and saddle. “Mopsie stands there completely on his own, waiting for his cookies. Sometimes he opens the lid of the bucket and has his treat,” says Steffen.
Steffen knows that building a deep personal connection between horse and athlete is crucial for High Performance success. Busy as he and his wife Shannon are running Arroyo Del Mar, a training and boarding facility in San Diego, Calif., Steffen is committed to allocating enough time for his trusty partner. “I always make sure I have plenty of time with Mopsie before I schedule a client,” says Steffen.
And over the last two years, the pair has created quite a bond. “He’s an amazing horse with so much energy, but on the flipside, he’s a little puppy dog. Or, rather, a large puppy dog,” laughs Steffen. “When I call his name, he comes running. He’s just one of those horses that appreciates interactions with humans so much.”
Despite Mopsie’s personable attitude, he and Steffen struggled at first to find a relaxed balance in the show ring. After a disappointing finish at the World Equestrian Games in 2018, Steffen and his team went back to the drawing board to figure out how to help Mopsie relax and perform at his best. “He’s such an energetic horse,” says Steffen. “So you have to be really careful in the warm-up that you don’t overdo it, because then he gets too excited.”
Within the last year, the duo has found its stride. In April, Steffen and Mopsie recorded a personal-best score to win the Del Mar National World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle. Steffen and the 11-year-old gelding surpassed their previous high score of 76.304% with an 80.990%, Steffen’s highest score in more than three years.
Mopsie, owned by Akiko Yamazaki’s Four Winds Farm was purchased with the goal of being Steffen’s competitive Olympic mount. And with the Olympics just a year away now, most of Steffen’s day is focused on developing a long-term strategy to get himself and Mopsie to Tokyo. “The Olympics are always on my mind,” says Steffen. “Let’s not forget that we only have three spots for Tokyo.”
This month, Steffen and Mopsie will fly to Europe and meet up with Debbie McDonald, Adrienne Lyle and Kasey Perry-Glass. “Our first show is going to be Luxembourg on July 4th,” Steffen says. Luckily, international travel doesn’t bother Mopsie. “He travels really well. He usually goes to sleep once he’s at 30,000 feet,” Steffen says.
As a supporter of the United States Equestrian Team Foundation, you’ll be beside Steffen and Mopsie as the pair compete for their shot at Tokyo. It takes a whole team of people to get top athletes — human and equine — where they need to be and in top competitive condition. And it’s all possible thanks to dedicated, generous supporters like you!
Everyone is excited for the Olympics, and every athlete is hoping for their shot. For Steffen, the dream of Tokyo in 2020 is especially meaningful.
“You have to do some serious soul searching about how many more Olympics and World Cups you want to do. And with Akiko, Mopsie’s owner, being from Japan, [the Tokyo Games] are going to be huge.”