Laura Graves & Verdades Return to Confidence-Building Winning Ways to Take Wellington CDI5* Grand Prix
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 11, 2016–Laura Graves and Verdades returned to their winning ways with victory in the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI5* Grand Prix Thursday in a confidence-building program for the over-achieving Verdades.
Laura, the United States Grand Prix champion with the 14-year-old KWPN gelding, scored 76.440 per cent, their second highest CDI Grand Prix score since the pair emerged as one of the top combinations in the world less than two years ago.
Steffen Peters and Legolas, that had been flown from his San Diego, California base to Florida with Rosamunde, posted 74.100 per cent after a mistake in the one-tempi changes.
Denmark’s Mikala Gundersen and My Lady, based in Wellington and competing to help her country win a team start at the Olympics, placed third on 71.760 per cent in the Grand Prix in which 30 combinations from 10 nations started.
The 28-year-old Laura who lives outside Orlando about 2 1/2 hours from Wellington, said the performance by Verdades was “a big relief.”
After capturing the U.S. championship last December at these same Palm Beach International Equestrian Center show grounds, the pair returned to ride in two World Cup events to qualify for their second Final that will be staged in Gothenburg, Sweden in March.
Verdades was progressing so fast, she said, that he was pushed “probably faster than he was ready for.”
But those two World Cup events that were moved under cover because of torrential rain, nearby tornadoes and other new experiences that he lost relaxation in a tense environment that Laura said was “too much for him.”
The result of their last show in January were the lowest scores since the pair skyrocketed on to the world stage with a fifth place finish at the World Games Freestyle in 2014, fourth at last year’s World Cup Final and team gold and individual silver at the Pan American Games last summer that earned a start for the United States at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. championship capped 2015.
“He knows when I’m not pleased,” she said. “He’s very sensitive. When he makes mistakes he feels it.
“He’s an over-achiever. You never have to beg him for anything. He never says no.”
She said that his experiences in the past couple of years has meant that he gets excited when his boots are taken off or when he hears the audience, issues that did not previously mean much.
Working with Debbie McDonald, her trainer, in Wellington for the past week, Verdades was being ridden down, wanting him to feel he could stretch and be relaxed to make him feel confident again.
“We were just hoping to come in here for the 5* and feel comfortable again,” she said.
“Everything is still learning,” she said, “how I ride, how I train through this nervousness. It’s tough.”
When Laura took him back to the stable after the competition she fed him a dozen carrots.
She is undecided whether to go to the World Cup Final, but will talk with Debbie and U.S. coach Robert Dover to decide what to do.
Steffen was happy with Laura’s result as, he said, it impacted prospects for the Olympics.
“It’s exciting to have two horses that can do 76 per cent or higher,” he said. “We need one other so we can average 76 per cent then have a chance for a medal.”
Legolas, his World Games and Pan American mount was more supple with less tension, though the lost one-tempi change was expensive Thursday.