Laura Graves “Right On The Heels” of Steffen Peters Placing 2nd in Grand Prix Special
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
GLADSTONE, New Jersey, June 14, 2014–Laura Graves’ ride on Verdades to finish right behind Steffen Peters “feels like winning” the United States Championships Grand Prix Special Saturday and virtually assured the pair their first trip to Europe and performing on the world’s biggest horse sport stages.
An unknown in high performance dressage until this week, the 26-year-old from the tiny community of Geneva on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida, Laura followed up her surprising fourth place in the Grand Prix to being runnerup in the Special with a score of 74.549 per cent, 1.098 per cent behind the defending champion pair. The result broke the logjam with Adrienne Lyle and Wizard and Caroline Roffman and Her Highness O, the two other under-30 riders who had been tied in fourth place after the Grand Prix.
The two scores rank the pair third on the overall championships standings with only the Freestyle and its 15 per cent counting to the total. That pretty much means Laura will be packing her bags again and leaving her boy friend, Curt, to help take care of home and horses to pursue her passion which means competing for the United States. The immediate schedule is Fritzens, Austria CDI4* on the Fourth of July weekend and the World Equestrian Festival Nations Cup and CDI4* at Aachen, Germany.
Those two events will determine whether she will be selected for the American team of four horses and riders and a reserve combination for the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France at the end of August.
The day that is the biggest so far for Laura and her 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Florett AS x Goya) chosen by her mother from a video of weanlings began in the stables with Verdades.
“I kept to myself and stayed in my stall,” said Laura who was stabled on the ground floor of the two-level stables that were built more than 100 years ago by the legendary “Diamond” Jim Brady,” a financier looking to house his horses an hour from New York City.
“I’m extremely competitive,” she said, preparing as thoroughly as possible by reading the test twice and then a third time as she had ridden it only two times before and wanted to be sure that “if things go wrong I can stay on course.”
Studying in her stable the same as she does on quiet nights at home, “stalking people on the Internet” like Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro and Steffen and Ravel and more recently Legolas “studying, studying” everything they do, learning how they do what they do.
She warmed up really quietly, not watching any of the other 12 rides rides before her because she did not want to get distracted by the numbers, as she put it, not wanting to add pressure to her.
“I do get nervous,” she said, “It comes in waves. I try to swallow them down.
“From the time I get on I really don’t have nerves once I’m riding.
“This horse loves to show and has been a gift helping me with my nerves.
“When I’m finished riding and leave the arena my heart beats faster waiting for the results.
“I’m much more comfortable in these tests and that’s why the score is such a surprise because it doesnt seem like so much work.”
Laura competed Verdaded through the national levels and international small tour. The pair did a national Grand Prix late last year then came out at international Grand Prix at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington last winter, logging four second place finishes that were overshadowed by bigger names.
After a performance that showed off Verdadeds in a way that is likely to meet the approval of Europeans, Laura said he “just gets better and better.”
“To see a score pop like this is unreal. I was not prepared for this.
“This is real life. I feel I have to pinch myself.
“Somehow placing second to Steffen feels like winning. I never thought this could happen.
“To be right on his heels is unreal. It’s so exciting to feel success like this. I know I’m very young. But I’ve worked really hard to get where I am.
“To sit next to Steffen at the news conference… I’m starstruck.
“I know its good having a clean test and I know how much better he can do things.”