Lara Griffith in Florida Becomes Contender for British Championship Teams
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 23, 2015–Lara Griffith and Rubin Al Asad posted their first international victory in winning the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI3* Grand Prix Special after a top three finish in the Grand Prix to become an early contender for Great Britain’s European Championship team.
Competing outide her homeland for the first time as a senior rider, the 26-year-old assistant trainer to Olympic gold medalist Laura Tomlinson and the 13-year-old gelding scored 69.608 per cent for the win over Sharon McCusker of Ashby, Massachussetts on Wrigley on 69.098 per cent and Canadian Olympian Christilot Boylen on Drentano in third on 67.392 per cent.
Video of the ride can be seen here.
The victory came after the pair placed second in the Grand Prix with an award of 71.020 per cent two days earlier, the highest Grand Prix score ever for the 26-year-old rider who made her international Grand Prix debut on “Rufus,” as she calls the Hanoverian, in Wellington earlier in February.
A month before leaving the training center of the Bechtolsheimer family in Ampney St. Peter in Gloucestershire, Lara was named to Britain’s 2014-16 World Class Development Program that provides support for athletes and is credited with being a major factor in the medal success at the London Olympics in 2012.
Laura, a medal winner at the 2010 World Equestrian Games as well as the Olympics and European Championships, came to Florida with her polo-playing husband Mark and baby Annalisa whose birth last year led to a pause in Laura’s competition program.
Laura brought to Florida the 11-year-old Holsteiner mare Unique on whom she had small tour sucess and made their debut at Grand Prix during the CDI4*.
The ribbions, however, went to Lara, who was a junior and young rider for Great Britain.
Lara was first put on a horse when she was two years old and, in her words, has “never looked back since.”
Ponies and the Pony Club was fun and then at age 13 got her first horse that began her passion for dressage.
A year later she was working with Emile Faurie, the British trainer and championship team rider, and continued for the next seven years.
Four years ago with a college degree in equine science in hand, Lara planned a “gap” year and thought she knew she wanted to stay with horses had no idea how. She met the Bchtolsheimers who wanted to talk to her about a position and after an interview she signed on as assistant to Laura instead of taking that “gap” year off.
That’s when she also started riding Rubin Al Asad, taking the horse through the levels, one of about five horses a day she rides.
“He only had a single flying change when I first started riding him,” she said, “and I always think its amazing that now we can get 15 in a row.”
Then came the decision by the Bechtolsheimers to come to Florida for their first winter circuit of seven CDIs over 12 weeks, basing their horses at Stillpoint Farm less than a mile from the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center where the Global dressage shows are staged.
“That’s what’s great about these shows,” Lara said, “no travel, relaxed atmosphere.”
Although Lara is one of only a handful of British team hopefuls to begin showing, the results in Wellington place her among those considered contenders for the team to go the European Championships in Aachen, Germany in August.
Her goals with Rubin Al Asad that she believes has “more in the tank” are the Europeans and then the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016–admitting there are other prospects but “you’ve got to have a focus and aim high.”
“I owe Laura a lot,” she said. “She’s mentored me through this whole process. I have her to thank for a cool head in the heat of competition…
“Competing is what I love to do, I’d have to say it’s my main talent
Lara has to think when asked about interests outside horses, admitting that sleeping and eating are her second and third passions.
But she also enjoys going to at least another sport–her boyfriend is trying to get on the British kayaking team.
Correction: A photo incorrectly identified the horse and rider. The caption should have read: Lara Griffith on Rubin Al Asad.