Being given the ride on a world-renowned dressage horse would be a dream come true for any horseperson. If that horse happened to have a list of accomplishments that included being America’s number one Grand Prix horse, winning numerous CDI Grand Prix victories, claiming three U.S. Equestrian Federation National Grand Prix Dressage Championships, and earning an Olympic Team Bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, any rider would likely be trembling with excitement. That dream recently became reality for Dawn White-O’Connor when Steffen Peters handed over the reins to his Olympic mount, Legolas 92.
Dawn White O’Connor (left), pictured with Steffen Peters and Legolas 92, wins the Custom Saddlery MVR Award at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. Photo courtesy of JRPR
But rather than trembling, White-O’Connor has handled the transition with poise, ambition, and a talent that earned her and Legolas the Custom Saddlery Most Valuable Rider (MVR) Award this past weekend at the 2017 Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. Custom Saddlery has sponsored Peters for over a decade, and has proudly watched Peters, Legolas, and the duo’s Custom Revolution saddle stand in the winner’s circle at top competitions around the world. The innovative saddle company was excited to honor White-O’Connor for stepping into the saddle to continue Legolas’ career.
Peters said that making the choice to pass the reins on to White-O’Connor, who has worked for Peters at his dressage facility Arroyo Del Mar in San Diego, California, for the past ten years, was a joint decision between he and Legolas’ owner, Akiko Yamazaki.
“We always felt like we wanted to bring the next generation up,” Peters explained. “I had incredible memories from Rio, where Legolas was absolutely outstanding. I thought that was a nice finish for me, and now it’s time for Dawn to take over.”
White-O’Connor and Legolas made their debut in the CDI ring in January in Las Vegas, Nevada. Peters was schooling his newer talent, Rosamunde 20, at the same time, so was unable to watch the pair compete. This past weekend’s CDI Grand Prix and Freestyle at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival was his first chance to watch his protégé aboard Legolas in the CDI ring. “It’s just like watching your child going into the ring for the first time,” Peters said.
White-O’Connor did not disappoint, placing third in both classes with a Grand Prix score of 70.560 percent and a Freestyle score of 72.850 percent, against competitive fields. After her rides, Custom Saddlery presented White-O’Connor with the Custom Saddlery MVR Award ribbon, golf towel, and embroidered saddle pad.
White-O’Connor describes the chance to take over the ride on Legolas, a 15-year-old bay Westfalian gelding, as not only an opportunity of a lifetime, but also a chance to continue to hone her dressage skills. While aware that she’s filling a big pair of shoes by stepping into Peters’ stirrups, she is ready for the task. “Every time we go out, people have an expectation of how he’s going to do, so I guess that’s a bit of a challenge – but it keeps my standards high,” she said
She calls Legolas “very sweet” and “fun to be around,” and continues to seek advice from Peters on how to get the most out of her new mount. “Steffen says just to always be patient with him, take my time, think through things, and don’t overreact,” she explained. “Legolas can get a little bit strong sometimes, but can be very sensitive, too. It’s a really good opportunity – I have learned a lot so far, I’m sure I will continue to learn many things from him.”
As the transition between riders has unfolded, Legolas’ saddle has stayed the same. Custom Saddlery is a premier manufacturer of world-class, customized dressage saddles. Not only does the company provide top-quality saddles and accessories, but also offers expert saddle fitting services around the world to provide a perfect fit for horses and riders. With more than 20 innovative saddle models and countless customizable options, Custom Saddlery is prepared to meet every horse and riders’ needs and preferences. Custom Saddlery is a top choice of dressage riders around the world, including Olympians, international Grand Prix riders, and adult amateurs. The company also sponsors major equestrian competitions, including the 12-week Adequan Global Dressage Festival.
For more information about Custom Saddlery, visit www.mysaddle.com or call 1-800-235-3865.