Verdades “Very Brave” in First World Cup Craziness, Laura Graves As Star

5 years ago admin Comments Off on Verdades “Very Brave” in First World Cup Craziness, Laura Graves As Star
Laura Graves on Verdades leaving a familiarization in the Thomas & Mack Center's competition arena to the applause of the crowd a day before the World Cup Grand Prix. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves on Verdades leaving a familiarization training session in the Thomas & Mack Center’s competition arena to the applause of the crowd a day before the World Cup Grand Prix. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

LAS VEGAS, April 15, 2015–Verdades has been “very brave” amidst the World Cup “craziness” that rider Laura Graves described Wednesday as an “awesome” experience.

As probably the most scrutinized combination after defending championship partnership Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, Laura has taken in stride the brighter spotlight that comes with being in the world’s top 10 and beneficiary of major sponsorship deals.

“So far, the World Cup experience is awesome,” she told dressage-news.com.

“Vegas is surreal!”

Diddy, as she calls the 13-year-old KWPN gelding that her family bought as a yearling and she has trained and competed up to the top level of the Olympic discipline, “has been very brave even with the pre-jog craziness” despite tent stabling flapping in winds up to 50 miles an hour that whipped up a rare sand storm in this Mojave desert city.

“The wind has been tough and everything is dusty, but the horses are handling it well.”

Laura got a taste of celebrity status last August when she was on the American team at the World Equestrian Games in France but was cloistered to some extent even though the pair placed fifth overall, and the highest finishing U.S. pair. Her runnerup placing in the U.S. championships just five months after beginning their international Grand Prix career and good results in European shows ahead of WEG sparked interest from American-based media and a smattering in Europe and elsewhere.

This year, the 27-year-old from the Orlando community of Geneva, Florida has notched six straight victories in seven starts at Florida’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival this winter–the first outing for her and Verdades since the WEG last August and good enough to earn one of the two coveted places reserved for North America at the World Cup Final.

A smiling Laura Graves on Verdades receiving applause from the crowd of about 4,500 fans at a training session in the Thomas & Mack Center the day before the World Cup Grand Prix. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
A smiling Laura Graves on Verdades receiving applause from the crowd of about 4,500 fans at a training session in the Thomas & Mack Center the day before the World Cup Grand Prix. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

With their growing fame has come a major financial sponsorship arrangement with the global accounting behemoth, Deloitte, that will enable her to devote herself fulltime to training with Debbie McDonald at Hailey, Idaho ahead of the Pan American Games in Toronto in July and then the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next summer. So she looks spiffy in the part, the European equestrian fashionwear Kingsland Equestrian has added her to their lineup of sponsored riders that includes Great Britain’s double Olympic gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin, Danish rider Andreas Helgstrand and Spain’s glamorous young Morgan Barbançon Mestre as well as top show jumpers and eventers.

A top three finish in a field of dressage riders that includes past champions Edward Gal of the Netherlands, Isabell Werth of Germany and her American WEG team mate Steffen Peters is widely tipped in this city of glitz, glamor and gambling.

But she has Debbie McDonald as her coach by her side. Debbie has been there done that–the first American ever to win the World Cuo, on Brentina in 2003 with Olympic and World Games medal-winning performances before retiring the mare at this same venue in 2009.

Many are rooting for success by the self-described “young and blonde and slight” woman who is the epitome of “normal” by working fulltime as a student to learn the business then waiting tables at night to pay for lessons on Verdades.

Throughout her meteoric rise, she has remained “normal,” taking care of Verdades herself and traveling with the horse to reassure both of them the hooves are firmly on the ground.

Debbie McDonald gives Verdades reassuring pat as Laura Graves rides her horse into the tunnel to the World Cup competition arena. © 2015 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Debbie McDonald gives Verdades reassuring pat as Laura Graves rides her horse into the tunnel to the World Cup competition arena. © 2015 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com