Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 10, 2019 – Olympian Laura Graves opened the first week of the 2019 Adequan Global Dressage Festival in style on Thursday afternoon, dominating the CDI-W Grand Prix in Wellington. With the goal of traveling to Gothenburg, Sweden, in the spring to compete in this year’s FEI World Cup Finals™, Graves was thrilled to start out the season with a win and score of 80.065 percent in the Grand Prix.
After having their sole focus of 2018 be their journey to the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, Graves and her 17-year-old KWPN gelding took the time during the rest of the year to recuperate and set new goals for the upcoming season. As the requirement for the FEI World Cup™ qualification is now three shows instead of last year’s two, Graves explained how important it is to her to keep Verdades in top shape by spacing out the competitions as much as possible and attending the show the first week of the festival.
Graves and Verdades put together a new freestyle routine in anticipation of the World Equestrian Games last September, but were unable to debut it when the freestyle competition was canceled due to the hurricane. The pair will finally have the chance to debut their new choreography and music in Friday’s night’s Grand Prix Freestyle under the lights.
Finishing second in the small class was Shelly Francis and Danilo, Patricia Stempel’s 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding, with a score of 72.478 percent. Francis and Danilo competed in the 2018 FEI World Cup Finals™ in Paris, France, and went on to win the CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle in Aachen, Germany, in July with a score of 79.305 percent.
Rounding out the top three was Swedish Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello, one of her long-time mounts, a 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding, with a score of 71.587 percent.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Laura Graves – CDI-W Grand Prix winner
“I’m relieved. That’s always a good way to put the first show into perspective. We haven’t been out since the WEG was called off before the freestyle, so it’s been a bit since we’ve been in the arena. He still has a ton of gas in the tank. Everyone questions his age and things like this, but he proves he’s in no form to be laid up in the barn yet. I’m really excited with how today went, obviously the score is something we can tidy up with repetition.
On her ride:
“He saved me today in the zig-zag. It was me, I poked him on five and he said ‘Mom you have to wait for six.’ I was really lucky there. It’s nice to know you can count on a horse like that. In general, we want to improve his walk. We lose some points there when he has such a good walk in the schooling.
“I thought his tempi changes were really good. I thought he rode the piaffe/passage really well technically, but my favorite part was when I miscounted and he kept me on track. That’s something you can’t ask from a horse you don’t know. He just gave it to me for free today because he’s so generous.”
On their fitness schedule:
“If you guys saw him without a saddle on by the extra hundred pounds he’s carrying right now you would know he’s been taking it easy since WEG. In all fairness, it’s really hard to keep a horse like this super fit. You school him for twenty minutes and he’s so flawless and fabulous that then we keep him on the lunge line to keep him fit. Just some low-intensity cardio for him because he is seventeen this year. It’s important for me to try to save his legs but still keep him fit. The horse gets no grain so I don’t know what else to do except increase his fitness with the work a little bit without it being too strenuous. Being really conscious of the schedule for World Cup this year, it’s a big load on a horse who’s seventeen with the three show requirement now to qualify. We used to have to do two. Making sure we hit this first show, otherwise we would have to go back to back, is important. That’s been our plan.”
On their freestyle:
“I was debating because the music we did for Tryon was very much for Tryon, so I was debating not using it. It’s still very sad to look back on that never having been able to show, so I was debating doing it at global for the first time or using my traditional music. Everyone said, ‘You made it, you didn’t get to ride it, so ride it!’ When I checked in at the show office I did turn in my new music, so that’s what we’ll be seeing tomorrow night.”
On competing in the Grand Prix Freestyle:
“Friday is a whole different ball game, especially for this horse. This atmosphere is so intense. He gets more electric here than he has been at any other huge venue he’s been to around the world, even at World Cup. Friday night under the lights is the max for us. That’s really nothing you can prepare for.”
Results: CDI-W Grand Prix for Freestyle
Place / Rider / Horse / Total Score
1. Laura Graves / Verdades / 80.065
2. Shelly Francis / Danilo / 72.478
3. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven / Don Auriello / 71.587
4. Brittany Fraser / All In / 70.739
5. Heather Boo / Divertimento / 62.717