Verdades & Laura Graves as Travel Mates

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Verdades and Laura Graves watching out for each other on arrival by air at Las Vegas for their first World Cup Final. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Verdades and Laura Graves watching out for each other on arrival by air at Las Vegas for their first World Cup Final. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

LAS VEGAS, April 13, 2015–Laura Graves is one of just a handful of riders who travel everywhere with their horses, especially during flights because she does not want her Verdades to stress.

The 13-year-old KWPN gelding, Laura admits, has “so many odd personality quirks” that only she can know about as she has brought Verdades up from a yearling to be her partner in climbing to No. 10 in the world rankings.

“I’ve always done everything with this horse for a long time,” the 27-year-old rider who lives in Geneva, Florida told dressage-news.com.

“At first it was because if anyone else handled him it could be a safety concern because he has so many odd personality quirks.

“Now I travel with him because I couldn’t imagine being away from him that long when he’s under so much stress.

“I like to keep my eyes on him all the time, whether he’s on the plane or not on the plane.”

Her parents bought Verdades, or “Diddy,” as he’s called from a Dutch sale video when he was a yearling. Laura trained and competed the horse through the national levels until he was ready for international performances. She moved from her home in Vermont to work with Anne Gribbons, the U.S. coach at the time, then began training with Debbie McDonald early last year. Her relationship with Verdades in producing world class performances is commented on by fellow international riders and trainers as well as the pair’s legions of fans.

Laura Graves leading Verdades off the aircraft that carried them from Palm Beach, Florida to Las Vegas for the World Cup Final. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves leading Verdades off the aircraft that carried them from Palm Beach, Florida to Las Vegas for the World Cup Final. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Laura has the highest respect–“they’re experienced and very capable”–for the ground crews and flight grooms provided by The Dutta Corp. that was the shipper of horses from Europe and the United States for the dual World Cup Finals of dressage and jumping.

Verdades has no problem with the exit ramp from the aircraft. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Verdades has no problem with the exit ramp from the aircraft. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Though she knows “it’s hard to be taken seriously when you’re young and blonde and slight like I am. I don’t want to get a reputation for being difficult but I want to do it because he is my horse.”

Verdades looking to Laura Graves for reassurance with Cathy Martin of The Dutta Corp. making sure the horse is safe on the truck to carry them to the Thomas & Mack Center where the World Cup will be staged. © 2015 Ken Braddiock/dressage-news.com
Verdades looking to Laura Graves for reassurance with Cathy Martin of The Dutta Corp. making sure the horse is safe on the truck to carry them to the Thomas & Mack Center where the World Cup will be staged. © 2015 Ken Braddiock/dressage-news.com

Laura had never flown with a horse before last year’s flight to Europe for a series of competitions that culminated at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France where she finished fifth in the Grand Prix Freestyle, the highest placed American.

As only two grooms could be with the horses in the cargo compartment on a plane that also carried passengers, she asked her good friend Adrienne Lyle who was accompanying Wizard and had more experience having competed at the 2012 Olympics in London and made other European trips to keep a close on Verdades.

On the way back from Europe, Laura and Verdades flew with Florida-based Danish team rider Mikala Gundersen and 10 other horses on a cargo only aircraft.

“He was nervous,” she said, “and became attached to his container stallmate. He eats and drinks like nobody’s business.”

Laura with a reassuring hand on Verdades as both keep a wary eye on what's happening nearby. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura with a reassuring hand on Verdades as both keep a wary eye on what’s happening nearby. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Verdades getting a sweet treat from Laura. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Verdades getting a sweet treat from Laura. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Flying from Florida to Las Vegas “was great,” but one of Verdadeds’s worries is like many other horses in that “he doesn’t like to be left behind. When the horses in front go, he wants to be with them.”

Does she think Verdades cares whether Laura is with him?

“I don’t know that he knows that it could be any different. I know his stress level increaes when I’m not there. So I know for a fact that strangers increase his stress level. He doesnt like strangers period.”

Verdades and Laura Graves happy to arrive at the stables that will be the horse's home for the next week at the Thomas & Mack Center for the World Cp Final. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Verdades and Laura Graves happy to arrive at the stables that will be the horse’s home for the next week at the Thomas & Mack Center for the World Cp Final. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Laura’s request to be excused from the European competition schedule for prospective combinations for the U.S. team for the Pan American Games in Toronto in July means that Verdades likely won’t have to fly again until the squad heads north if the duo are selected.

She will be based with Debbie at River Grove Farm in Hailey, Idaho until then, thanks to funding from the international accounting firm of Deloitte that has given Laura the freedom to train full-time through to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 2016.