Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 11, 2019 – Laura Graves is flying high this week after winning not only US Equestrian’s ‘Equestrian of the Year’ and the first CDI-W Grand Prix of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival Thursday, but also riding away with the blue in Friday night’s Freestyle. Riding her long-time mount and FEI World Ranking #2 partner, Verdades, Graves was excited to debut the new music that she had planned on competing at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ last September before the Freestyle was canceled due to Hurricane Florence.
The 17-year-old KWPN gelding scored 80.065 percent in the Grand Prix and improved to a score of 83.22 percent, despite costly mistakes in the piaffe-fan and the last pirouette. Graves attributed the mistakes as rider-errors but was overall pleased with how the timing of the new musical arrangement, which ended with ‘Coming to America’ by Neil Diamond, fit her difficult choreography.
Fellow American Shelly Francis rode her FEI World Cup™ Paris mount, Danilo, to a score of 79.28 percent with her quirky acapella freestyle. Her partnership with Danilo began when he was 8-years-old but she feels the now 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding is finally coming into his own with maturity and confidence in the show ring under the lights. Following representing the U.S. in Paris, Francis had a stand out season in Europe, claiming double wins at the CDI3* in Aachen, Germany, in May and then another win in the CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle again in Aachen later in the summer.
Maintaining her third place podium finish from the Grand Prix was Swedish Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello with a 77.71 percent. She competed the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ and most recently the pair earned scores up to 82.72 percent in the CDI5* in Stockholm, Sweden in December.
New to the Adequan Global Dressage Festival this season is the Black Horse One scoring software which is more technologically advanced and gives riders and spectators the opportunity to see each judges’ mark at immediately at the end of the test. For example, Graves’ earned her highest marks of 9.5 from a variety of judges for her music, choreography and right trot half-pass and her lowest mark of 4.0 by one judge in her left canter pirouette.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Laura Graves – CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle winner
On her ride:
“I wasn’t sure what music I was going to do tonight. In the end, I’m very glad I chose to do my new music, I don’t know what else I would be saving it for! I’m glad the timing worked out. I hadn’t ridden to it yet, the timing was supposed to be about the same as my last one so I just kind of crossed my fingers and hoped that it worked out and it did.”
On her errors:
“I had a couple big mistakes tonight, and I just need to settle down a bit. My horse is ready to go but I came at him a little strong today, unfortunately. We had a big mistake in my final pirouette — he lost his rhythm. I came at him a bit strong in the spur and in piaffe fan that we haven’t touched since Aachen. I was a bit greedy in the warm-up and he let me know that he knows his job and I need to settle. We’ve done this enough that I don’t need to ride him like that. He gives such a good feeling when he goes well that any bump he gives me is shocking. Sometimes the people are harder to fix.”
On her freestyle:
“It’s the same choreography, I just wanted to change the music. I was really looking forward to showing this in Tryon with everyone coming here to our country. I grew up on Neil Diamond, the Eagles, Van Morrison, and classic rock, so I thought it would be fun. I always shy away from lyrics in my music, but I know the crowd loves things that they recognize. I thought it would be a fun addition. I think we’ll keep it. Whether or not we qualify for Sweden I don’t know what I’ll take there, but it’s a fun thing to ride here I think.”
Shelly Francis – CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle second place
On her ride:
“I made little changes in the music but I left the choreography the same. It’s really fun to ride it. He gets excited so you don’t have to push too much. I enjoy doing the freestyles a lot and show off my horse. A couple of years past he would get nervous, but now he just puts a little more energy into it. He’s really maturing now.”
“I started training him when he was eight and a half and now at 15, he just seems to be the horse at twelve that you may have started when he was six. It’s taken him some time, and I don’t rush them. He’s really understanding the job now and putting out a little more. Sometimes in the Grand Prix I’m a little afraid to ask for more and just keep him steady, but I think I can ask for more now. I need to get braver, but he’s getting much more honest and consistent.”
On her freestyle:
“Originally when I started using it, it was a couple years ago and we kept it really soft and easy because he is very sound sensitive. I didn’t want to make him too nervous, but now we’ve added in little pieces and it’s still acapella. A little of the William Tell Overture and Journey. Sometimes I sit back and think, ‘wow, that’s a lot of stuff’ but it really works and he just skips along to it. It’s definitely different. I’ve had people come up to me in Europe and say, ‘your music is just terrible,’ but most people really like it.”
On her future plans:
“I’m going to try for the World Cup, and if I get to go then I’ll go. Also, I would just like to get to go to Europe and show. I like Aachen, so I want to go back. It just keeps me learning, I can’t stop now. I’m not done yet. I have another couple of horses to bring along. I’m thinking about Tokyo, why not?”
Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven – CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle third place
On her ride:
“I had a really good feeling tonight. He just loves this atmosphere. He needs that. He’s used to competitions now and he really loves when it gets a little more atmospheric in the evening. I had a great feeling. Yesterday I wanted too much so I asked too much. We had a lot of mistakes, so I’m happy that we were back on track today. It was fun to ride and I love to be in there the whole time.”
Results: CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle
Place / Rider / Country / Horse / Score
1. Laura Graves / USA / Verdades / 83.22
2. Shelly Francis / USA / Danilo / 79.28
3. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven / SWE / Don Auriello / 77.71
4. Brittany Fraser / CAN / All In / 75.37
5. Heather Boo / USA / Divertimento / 64.65