A Chat with Steffen Peters


Read on for a Q&A with 5-time Olympian and 3-time USEF Equestrian of the Year, Steffen Peters.

Steffen Peters teaching a clinic at Equine Affaire in MA in November 2023
Steffen Peters teaching a clinic at Equine Affaire in Massachusetts in November 2023. Photo by Xenophon Photography

Sometimes life is pretty good.

Like working as a freelance writer and covering the four-day Equine Affaire in MA for Horse Illustrated.

And sometimes life is downright awesome.

Like getting the chance to sit down with Steffen Peters for a quick interview at Equine Affaire. Our chat revealed the depth of passion that Steffen brings to the world of competitive dressage, the obvious joy he has in working with his wife Shannon at SPeters Dressage, and the lifelong hobby that lets his spirits soar.

Julie Maddock: Of all the horses you’ve worked with, which one stands out as your favorite?
Steffen Peters: That’s a tough one… It might have to be Ravel because he accomplished so much. The World Cup win is still one of my favorite moments. But Mopsie is a very, very close second.

Yes, he is referring to that Mopsie (nickname of the famous “Rave Horse” Suppenkasper; the dynamic duo’s freestyle performance set to pulsating dance music went viral. Steffen and Mopsie were part of the silver medal-winning U.S. Dressage Team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and placed in the top 10 in the Grand Prix Freestyle to Music.

JM: The Grand Prix Freestyle in Tokyo—that was so special in that it introduced dressage to a whole other world of people. How did that affect you?
SP: The one word that comes to my mind is “pride.” I was so proud of Mopsie—that he was able to address so many people… 70 million Google searches. For well-known people like Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg to mention dressage was pretty amazing. At that time, I did receive a phone call from Kevin Hart’s producer and she said, “Can you bring Mopsie into the studio? We’d like to put Kevin on him.” I thought that would be great—Mopsie is 18.2 hands and that would be a wonderful picture with Kevin on him. And I said, “I would love to do that, but check with your insurance. See what they say.” And absolutely no—it was just too much of a liability.

JM: What advice would you give to adult amateurs new to dressage?
SP: Everything depends on the horse. Of course, the rider has a lot to do with it. But there are so many problem horses out there. And I find that people do sell their problems a lot. I want to be super protective of anybody who is just starting in this sport. If you look at a horse—the temperament, the gaits, the conformation—it is so obvious. But the rideability of the horse, you know, how the horse listens to the contact, the way he listens to the leg aid, the seat aid, the way the horse offers some movements with more elasticity… I find that so extremely important to look for because horses are either born with that rideability or they’re not. I’ve ridden stallions with perfect conformation because of breeding purposes, but that doesn’t mean they are very rideable. So I’d much rather have a horse like Ravel that didn’t have the perfect conformation, but he was still willing, so elastic, and so supple.

JM: What are you most proud of in the creation of SPeters Dressage and Arroyo Del Mar training facility?
SP: What I am most proud of is the vision that my wife Shannon had of turning this into a 5-star boarding and training facility. This was Shannon’s baby. And when I tell people that it was Shannon’s baby, she always comments that it was “Shannon’s quadruplets”—that’s how difficult everything was. But she managed the whole construction, remodeling, everything that needed to be done, and she did that while I was in Europe. I’m very, very proud that she accomplished this.

JM: What’s next on the horizon for SPeters Dressage?
SP: We start our Olympic trials. Final team selection for Paris will be in Europe, and it would be wonderful if Mopsie could make it again.

JM: What role does support of your family play in achieving your equestrian goals?
SP: There’s no way I would be where I am today without Shanni. At the shows, she’s there and she still gets a little bit teary-eyed when things go well.

JM: What is one thing you’ve learned this past year that has made you a better horseman?
SP: I think something I have been working on for a long time is just being more patient with myself. I’ve always been pretty patient with my horses. But with myself, if I felt like I didn’t ride good enough, it used to occupy me way too long. And this idea of letting go is finally happening. I became so much better at meditation… Letting go and establishing even more calmness inside.

JM: Any interesting hobbies that allow you to just chill?
SP: Mainly flying model airplanes and gliders. It’s a really fun group of guys that we do this with. We go up to Central California, we camp out there, and I cook for the guys. It’s just a really fun way to relax.

JM: And this hobby goes back to your childhood in Germany and your dad?
SP: Yes, when I was about seven years old. Dad and I started this a long time ago. The airplane that my Dad built at that time, I still have a replica of this particular plane in my shop. It’s pretty neat.

This Q&A with Steffen Peters is a web exclusive for Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!


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