A “Different” Verdades at Pan American Games After Vet Check Clears All But One Horse

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Laura Graves on a "different" Verdades schooling at the Pan American Games. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves on a “different” Verdades schooling at the Pan American Games. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

PALGRAVE, Ontario, July 9, 2015–A “different” Verdades showed up for the United States at the Pan American Games, at a higher level of performance that rider Laura Graves credited with newfound confidence developed during two months of training with Debbie McDonald in the mountains of Idaho’s Sun Valley.

A more powerful and expressive Verdades, hotter than just three months ago at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas, was on display Thursday when worked by Laura after the veterinary check of 44 dressage horses from 16 nations at the Caledon Pan Am equestrian center where the Nations Cup starts Saturday. One horse, the Mexican team mount Guapo, was held over for a second examination Friday.

The U.S. team of Steffen Peters on Legolas, Laura on Verdades–ranked No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, in the world–Kimberly Herslow on Rosmarin and Sabine Schut-Kery on Sanceo are strongly favored to win the Pan Ams that are held once every four years. The competition is a unique format of mixed Big and Small Tour in a two-phase Nations Cup in which not only medals are at stake but also the single ticket available through these Games for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.

To have a chance to win the Rio berth through the Pan Ams, a team must include at least one Grand Prix mount and the nations that meet the requirement are Argentina, Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The presence on the American team of the combinations ranked No. 7 and No. 8 in the world has drawn attention from other riders in the past two days.

By the time Laura of the Orlando area community of Plymouth, Florida and the 13-year-old KWPN gelding made it to the schooling arenas directed by Debbie McDonald, her personal coach, and official team coach Robert Dover, a duo dubbed by the American riders as “Debro,” most other horses and riders had left for the day.

Debbie McDonald and Robert over watching Laura Graves on Verdades. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Debbie McDonald and Robert over watching Laura Graves on Verdades. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“It’s confidence,” the 27-year-old Laura said when asked by dressage-news.com about the obvious changes in Verdades, or “Diddy” as she calls the horse she has had since he was a foal.

“Debbie has this ability to instill the confidence to make changes. He’s a very sensitive horse.”

The pair spent two months at River Grove Farm in Hailey, where Debbie was based for several years as the trainer and rider of Brentina owned by Parry and Peggy Thomas, known to the equestrian world as a benefactor of the University of Las Vegas at Nevada that put his name on the basketball arena which has hosted four dual World Cup Finals in dressage and jumping in the past decade.

During training Thursday, Verdades showed some spurts of being “hot,” that caused Laura to burst out laughing.

“He’s a different horse,” Debbie said, and laughed: “He was hot today. I hope it doesn’t backfire.”

Mexico's Bernadette Pujals, an Olympic and championship veteran on Heslegaards Rolex surrounded by Canadians Chris von Martels on Zilverstar and Brittany Fraser on All In in the schooling arena. © 2015 Kwen Braddick/dressage-news.com
Mexico’s Bernadette Pujals, an Olympic and championship veteran on Heslegaards Rolex surrounded by Canadians Chris von Martels on Zilverstar and Brittany Fraser on All In in the schooling arena. © 2015 Kwen Braddick/dressage-news.com
The talked about combination of Leandro Aparecido da Silva of Brazil on Di Caprio. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The talked about combination of Leandro Aparecido da Silva of Brazil on Di Caprio. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
An Australian at the Pan American Games veterinary check--Kelly Layne with her Von Primaire that's being competed by Irina Moleiro de Muro for Venezuela. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
An Australian at the Pan American Games veterinary check–Kelly Layne with her Von Primaire that’s being competed by Irina Moleiro de Muro for Venezuela. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com