Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 26, 2018 – On a cool, windy evening in Wellington, the horses were feeling fired up under the lights at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival’s (AGDF) CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle. Using the energy to their advantage, Laura Graves and her 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Verdades, put on a spectacular performance to break the 80 percent barrier and earn the pair their highest score in Wellington to date.
Graves and Verdades rose to the top in the field of 15 horse-and-rider combinations, earning a score of 84.675 percent, their personal best and the highest score recorded at the AGDF. The duo danced to music from the movie “Rudy,” found by Terry Gallo. Their routine featured double pirouettes after an extended canter, two-tempi changes on a circle and straight into a diagonal of one-tempi changes.
Coming in second behind Graves with a score of 79.05 percent was Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén and Paridon Magi Vilhelmson-Silfvén and the Swedish Warmblood gelding performed to a Queen melody and showed impeccable timing with the music.
Shelly Francis and Patricia Stempel’s Danilo received the yellow ribbon with a 76.15 percent. Francis and the Hanoverian gelding rode to a medley of songs put together by Marlene Whitaker.
All three pairs wowed the judges with their incredible performances, leading judge at C, Janet Foy, to believe that all three would be strong contenders at the FEI World Cup Finals in Paris.
“I’ve also been judging in Europe,” Foy explained. “Tonight we saw three top, wonderful rides that would fit right in there. It would just be great to see all three of you ladies in Paris.”
From The Winner’s Circle
Laura Graves – CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle First place
On her ride:
“I was very pleased with him tonight. It’s always a relief to get the first freestyle out of the way to be honest. We’re trying to qualify for World Cup, so I’m really excited about the score. Both days actually — the grand prix and today were wonderful. This horse is so sharp. He knows today is freestyle day, so I actually rode him three times today. He was just super in the warm up, and seemed to be more settled in the arena tonight.”
On her freestyle choreography:
“I came up with this floor plan because I absolutely had to leading up to Normandy. The freestyle I had ridden at nationals wasn’t intended to qualify me for anything. So I studied top riders and their floor plans and looked for things that my horse could do that others couldn’t.” Actually we’re looking for a new floor plan for the upcoming 5*. My horse is quite clever, and with movements that used to be strong, he’s getting a little too quick to guess what’s happening. So that’s why we’re changing it up. I rode this floor plan tonight and he was quite good so I’m happy with that, but it’s time for us to move on.”
Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén – CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle Second place
On Her Ride:
“I was really pleased today. Magi felt very electric in there and gave me a great feeling. The weather tonight made it a little hard to ride. Not the rain, but the wind is difficult, so I had to really be on that. It felt very good though, so I’m pleased with that.”
On Her Freestyle Choreography:
“My freestyle was made for the European Championships last year, it’s a Queen Medley. I wanted to be smart enough to find a freestyle that fits him personality wise. I think he’s a very fun horse to ride a freestyle on because we can do many difficult things and earn a high degree of difficulty –– I was thinking of that when we created the test. It’s really fun riding the freestyle, and I think it’s supposed to be like you’re telling a story. You ride through it as a whole, telling a theater like story.”
Shelly Francis – CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle Third Place
On Her Ride:
“I’m just so happy with my horse because he’s really starting to be much more honest with me. He’s more honest in all of the work throughout the test. He’s a little bit hot, so he’s starting to let me ride him through that. We had a little mistake in the one tempis because he kind of looked at something, but he comes back to me. He’s just getting better and better and I know he’ll keep improving, so I’m really happy with him.”
On Her Freestyle Choreography:
“Marlene Whitaker helps me make all of my freestyles, and we worked on this together. At first, we kept it simple. I didn’t want to scare him right away, but now we’re adding in more difficult things as he gets sharper. We chose this music because he [Danilo] wasn’t a fan of too much thumping, and for some reason he likes this. It’s a little different from everyone else’s music, but I think it looks nice if the horse goes well to it.”
CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle Results
Place / Rider / Country / Horse / Total Score
1. Laura Graves / USA / Verdades / 84.675
2. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén / SWE / Paridon Magi / 79.050
3. Shelly Francis / USA / Danilo / 76.150
4. Brittany Fraser / CAN / All In / 75.650
5. Yvonne Losos De Muniz / DOM / Foco Loco W / 74.352
6. Ashley Holzer / USA / Havanna 145 / 74.025
7. Belinda Trussell / CAN / Tattoo 15 / 73.025
8. P.J. Rizvi / USA / Breaking Dawn / 72.475
9. Megan Lane / CAN / San D’or / 71.025
10. Jacqueline Brooks / CAN / D Niro / 69.675
11. Natalie Pai / USA / Unlimited / 68.025
12. Ellesse Tzinberg / PHI / Triviant 2 / 67.000
13. Nicole Harrington / USA / Wizard of Oz / 68.875
14. Anna Marek / USA / Dee Clair / 66.425
15. Jill Irving / CAN / Arthur / 64.475