Olympic medalist Steffen Peters (USA) and Suppenkasper started the 2021 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) season the way they left it in 2020—winning.

On Thursday, Peters and the 2008 KWPN gelding took home the blue ribbon in the Grand Prix CDI4* for Special with a score of 76.761%. It’s their 16th consecutive FEI victory, after posting a perfect 15 for 15 record in 2020.

“We had a nice ride [in the] morning,” Peters said. “Usually I work him twice on competition days. He felt great so I did exactly 22 minutes of work at 9:00 am, and 25 minutes in the warm-up today before the test, because sometimes the longer I work him, the hotter he gets.

“Remembering last year when I went into this ring, he was a firecracker, and the first test we did wasn’t as good. I rode a little bit with that mindset today, and rode a little more conservatively, and he surprised me. I think I could’ve ridden him a little more, but it’s a good start with a clean test, and I’m very happy with him. Usually the wind and cold air bothers him too, so he’s growing up.”

Like all international riders, Peters and “Mopsie’s” 2020 season was cut short by the COVID-19 forced pause in international competition. He said the unscheduled break has worked to both their advantage.

“I think for both of us it was great to take a break,” he admitted. “I was pretty bummed that the World Cup didn’t happen last year, as that’s always such a highlight riding in front of an American crowd. [The 2020 World Cup was slated to take place in Las Vegas.] But then you accept it, and for both of us it was good to take it easy.”

Beyond the opportunity to rest, the pandemic has put competition into perspective.

“If you look at the world, there’s nothing good about COVID because we’ve lost so many people, and there is so much tragedy, but I think it really opened up my eyes,” continued the four-time Olympian.

“When I wake up in the morning and I can take a deep breath, I can appreciate those things. I wake up with more gratitude every single day, and I think that shows a little bit in the riding. If I have a ride that didn’t go that well, it’s not as significant now.”

With that grateful mindset, the 2016 team bronze medalist is looking to continue his win streak in Florida this winter, and ultimately to defend his medal in Tokyo.

“Knowing he was so good today,” concluded Peters, “we are just going to do the five-star at the end of February, and then the Nations’ Cup. I really trust our federation, and I know that they will make the right decision when it comes to going to Europe, and for hopefully competing in Tokyo. I go day by day, and at the moment it doesn’t make sense to go to Europe, for obvious reasons, and I would be perfectly happy if we do the quarantine in the United States as planned, and then fly from here to Tokyo. That would be a good plan.

“But first I have to make the team.”