Laura Graves & Verdades Focused on Improving Scores with Pan American Games Goal for 2015

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Laura Graves and Verdades at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves and Verdades at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 14, 2015–Laura Graves is working with her Verdades to improve on the scores that made the pair the star American partnership at the world championships last year, skipping pursuit of a start in the World Cup Final in Las Vegas to focus on the critially important Pan American Games this summer.

Laura, who trains with Debbie McDonald in Wellington, is undecided yet which shows she will compete in at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival that will be the first competition since the World Equestrian Games in Normandy last August when the pair placed fifth in the Grand Prix Freestyle.

“I want to focus on our training so when I do show I can hopefuly post a higher score than the 74-plus per cent we have been stuck on,” Laura told dressage-news.com.

By “stuck on” Laura means the 74.871 per cent she and the KWPN gelding now 13 years old were awarded in the Grand Prix at the World Games and in only the seventh Grand Prix since starting their international Grand Prix career in February last year. The 27-year-old rider whose mother acquired the horse as a yearling from a Dutch sales video skyrocketed to prominence last summer and ended the year ranked 20th on the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) world standings.

The U.S. team of Laura on Verdades, Steffen Peters of San Diego, California on Legolas, Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, Idaho on Wizard and Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida on Calecto V placed fourth at the World Games behind Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands.

Although the World Cup Final in Las Vegas in mid-April has generated high interest in North America, the most critical event is the Pan Am Games in Toronto in July as only one nation will qualify a team through the continental championships for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Teams can be a unique format of mixed Big Tour and Small tour combinations, but only teams with at least one Grand Prix combination can qualify for next year’s Olympics.

The American qualification provides for results from CDIs from Jan. 1 through April 25 then two competitions in Europe between May 1 and June 10. Six CDIs remain on Florida’s GDF circuit through the end of March.

“No World Cup for us,” Laura said, “as fun as Vegas would be.

“I just think it would be too much travel. With plans to go to Europe at the end of April and then back to the U.S. by June so we are ready for the Pan Ams in July… training for improved scores and peaking for the Pan Ams is the goal.”

Laura, who was based in Geneva just outside Orlando in Florida said that her “business has been great” since success at the World Games. And she was a guest trainer at the Robert Dover HorseMastership Week for youth riders earlier this month.

“So thankful for all the doors this success has opened for me!” she said, “and the chance to give back to the youth programs and individuals the way people helped me.”