RANCHO SANTA FE — While Helen Woodward Animal Center staffers might argue that each one of its animals are gold medal-worthy, the Center does have one true Olympic athlete in its midst. Dressage competitor, Ravel, competes in the London Olympics. The Dutch Warmblood gelding has been a regular client of veterinarian Rodrigo Vazquez of Equine Surgical Services, along with the staff of Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Equine Vet and Hospital technicians, since 2006.Ravel is no stranger to high stakes competition. The 15-year-old equine athlete, owned by Akiko Yamazaki, was united with his rider Steffen Peters in late 2006, when Yamazaki sent Peters on a search for his next Olympic mount. Imported from Edward Gal’s stable in Harskamp, the Netherlands to a luxurious double-sized stall in Rancho Santa Fe, their six-year relationship has literally made history.Peters, a four-time Olympian and a former World Cup champion on Ravel, scored 77.705, finishing in sixth individually.
“I think it’s my best Olympic Games ride,” Peters said. “I hope we can step it up in the Grand Prix Special, which is Ravel’s best test.”
Ravel and Peters were the highest placing American pair at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, coming in just out of the medals in fourth place; are the only U.S. pair to take the title Grand Prix Champion of Aachen, bestowed to the rider with the highest scores in all three Grand Prix tests; took two bronze medals at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games; and are the only American competitors to ever win the Rolex/FEI World Cup in dressage.
But before these victories, Ravel sustained what was then believed to be a possibly career-ending injury to one of his legs. In early 2008, Dr. Vazquez went from regular check-ups, dentistry and vaccinations for his client to an emergency treatment with a new technology based on stem-cell therapy. “Ravel is a high-impact athlete,” stated Vazquez. “He runs the same risks as any other athlete in a high performance sport and he gets hurt like any other athlete too. But he is also something special. He works hard and he’s focused and he thrives in his sport. He just didn’t want to quit.”
With the aid of Vazquez’s treatment, an eight-month break and the compassionate retraining of rider Peters, Ravel was soon back in top winning form, as proven by the impressive list of awards that followed. Now, Ravel and Peters are about to take on their most ambitious dressage ride to date – the 2012 London Olympics. Proudly watching from the stands will be his dedicated veterinarian Doctor Rodrigo Vazquez. Shortly before boarding the plane yesterday, I asked him whether he would be treating Ravel while he was there. “I hope not,” stated Vazquez. “Of course I’d be there if anything happened, but I’m going to London to watch him bring home the gold.”