Friday, May. 24, 2024

Road To The Olympics: Laura Graves And Diddy Have Some Down Time

Laura Graves and Verdades have been enjoying some quiet time between the end of the 2016 Adequan Global Dressage Festival and catching a plane for the European tour. Before leaving Wellington, Fla., for their base in Orlando, Fla., Graves and “Diddy” got some quality training time in with their coach Debbie McDonald.

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Laura Graves and Verdades have been enjoying some quiet time between the end of the 2016 Adequan Global Dressage Festival and catching a plane for the European tour. Before leaving Wellington, Fla., for their base in Orlando, Fla., Graves and “Diddy” got some quality training time in with their coach Debbie McDonald.

It was really kind of a nice couple of weeks in Wellington. A lot of people had cleared out and gone back to their respective northern base. The whole town was just so nice, and the farm we’re staying at, Havensafe, where Betsy Juliano hosts us, is quiet and the horses were happy. I even caught Diddy one day out in his paddock, just laying completely flat out in the sun and totally relaxing which makes me so happy.

We had a great last couple of weeks there, and we packed up the circus, and now we’re back in Orlando. The horses have their own paddocks here so they can stay out as long as they want. I school in the arena four days a week and then we hack. There’s not a lot of commotion here, so the horses really get a nice relaxed feeling from that whether or not their workload has increased or decreased.

About Laura Graves And Verdades

Home Base: Orlando, Fla.

“Diddy’s” Stats: 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Florett AS—Liwilarda, Goya) bred by Herveld P. Crum, owned by Laura Graves.

Big Performances In 2015:
1st—Team, Pan American Games (Toronto)
2nd—Individual, Pan American Games (Toronto)
4th—Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final (Nev.)
1st—Dutta Corp./USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship (Fla.)

Usually Mondays and Tuesdays we’ll work them in the arena. If we have the opportunity depending on where we are location-wise, I like to have cavalettis on Mondays—let everybody stretch in the snaffle and pick up their legs over some rails. Tuesdays we work in the arena; Wednesdays we normally hack. Thursdays they’re off, and then we work arena Friday-Saturday and then they’re off on Sunday.

We have a VitaFloor, one of those vibrating plates; that’s part of our normal routine. And that company is also going to make that available for us in Europe, which is pretty generous. Then I put a lot of care and time in grooming them and making sure they feel good in all their muscles and that there’s no pain.

As long as he’s satisfied, [Diddy] can be outside. I like to ride in the morning, that way they can get their legs taken care of, and then they get to go outside, so they can roll in the dirt and hang out until they want to come in. 

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Focusing On The Little Things

Obviously this horse has been pretty successful, but we’re focusing on riding better transitions in everything we do. Maybe the movement itself won’t be different, but hopefully the preparation in and out is much better, so that we can gain half a point, and that’s really the polish that we’re looking to put on our training.

[We’ve been] really picky on ourselves, and me in the way that I ride and the way that I correct my horse, and making sure that he never feels that we’re being as picky as we really are, because he’s quite good and proficient at his job. So it’s important to keep that stress within myself knowing how badly I want things to improve and not letting him bear the brunt of that.

When I’m on my own and Debbie’s not in my ear and I’m riding—and it’s important for me to be on my own a little bit because there will be times when we’re in Europe where Debbie can’t be there—and I’m not 100 percent satisfied, I always think to myself, “What would Debbie do?” 

I may not be correct, but it slows me down enough to be logical in my thinking and in my training, and I hope that helps me make the right decision.

I just really want to gain some points and taking the time to train in between competitions—and having enough time in between is really important. I’d really like to improve my score a little bit.


Laura Graves’ biggest goal between now and her trip to Europe to show is to improve the littlest details. Photo by Kimberly Loushin

I think my average between the two tests [Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special] now is a 77 [percent], so I’d like to add a couple points to that and ultimately be really set to help my team earn a medal.

Personal Fitness

I wish I focused more on myself. We’ve been really lucky again, Betsy Juliano spearheaded this human physio program for all U.S. equestrian teams, so I take advantage of that opportunity. I worked with Andy Thomas from the United Kingdom, who has given me some really help exercises with resistance bands and a little bit of core stabilization with yoga balls and those kinds of things, but nothing with weights.

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I don’t do any cardio, but I also use the excuse that I’m very hands-on in the barn. I still clean my own stalls, and I tack up my own horses, and I walk them out to turn out, and I lug water buckets, so I attribute a lot of my fitness to regular barn work.

In this series, the Chronicle follows six riders as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. We’ll check in with them every few weeks as they pursue a team spot, seeing how they’re getting their horses ready and preparing mentally.

Read all of the Road To The Olympics with Laura Graves

We’re also following:

Show jumper Callan Solem

Eventer Phillip Dutton and his groom Emma Ford

Show jumper McLain Ward

Dressage rider Kasey Perry-Glass

Eventer Clark Montgomery

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