Friday, May. 24, 2024

Road To The Olympics: Laura Graves Is Right Where She Wants To Be

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



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

Laura Graves made her first team performance at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France), where she was the highest placed U.S. rider. She and Verdades, or “Diddy”  finished fourth at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas and brought home team gold and individual silver from the Pan American Games (Toronto) in 2015.

Their return to the show ring in 2016 was a bit tumultuous. They finished second in their first World Cup qualifier of the year, but two weeks later things fell apart when Diddy put in a couple of uncharacteristic performances in the Van Kampen covered arena at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (Fla.). So Graves took a month away from the show ring to focus on training, and when they re-emerged for the CDI*****, they were back in top form, taking a clean sweep.

Their winning ways continued with a blue ribbon every time out, culminating in a win with the U.S. team in the CDIO to end the winter season. In mid-March Graves unveiled her new freestyle, which includes more technical moves, including two tours of the two-tempi changes on a circle into the one-tempis. With that freestyle, Graves turned in a historic performance on April 1, earning a 82.80 percent, her best score to date.

It was amazing [to finish the winter season with an 82.80 percent]. I was laughing with Kasey Perry-Glass thinking, “Why couldn’t I have just ridden this well at the beginning of the season?” It’s a curve, and I’ve had some big highs and some low lows this year as well. To finish it so strong feels good going into this spring knowing it was really well deserved.

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.)

I’m really excited after reviewing my test and seeing all the places I can still improve—really excited looking forward and to our season in Europe.

That was the second time [I’d performed the new freestyle]. It’s interesting because I had an idea [for my new freestyle]. I was working with Terry Gallo, who lives maybe 20 minutes down the street from me, and I had this idea, and she put it together.

I was at the Pan Am Games, and I didn’t love my finished idea. It was really, really good—she did a great job, but it just wasn’t special. So [my trainer Debbie McDonald] said, “Just let Terry do her thing,” so we put the ball in her court and sure enough she sat down with us during one of the competitions down here, and she played us a couple of tracks, and it blew our socks off.

For someone I really hadn’t known very long, and I don’t think had ever met my horse, she just really pulled an amazing feeling from this music. It was exactly what we were looking for.

Laura Graves and Verdades in one of their winning AGDF performances. Photo by Kimberly Loushin


We’re still in Wellington right now, and it looks like we’ll stay until the middle of this month. The competitions are over, so it gives us some time to train and get a couple of my young ones some lessons with my coach, and then we’ll head back [to home in Orlando]. He’s getting this entire week off, completely off.

It’ll be a balance. We have another six weeks before we go to Europe, so we’ll stay here and train lightly with Debbie, just touching on little things and definitely have a lighter schedule than we were in season, but I definitely want to utilize that time we have with her.

Then we’ll take him back to Orlando, where he gets lots of pasture time and lots of hacking days. We’ll pick up a little light training, because it’s important to keep him fit, especially with the transport [to Europe]. Transporting a fit horse is always much easier on the other side than transporting a horse that’s not so fit.

It’s important to balance the relaxation and also keeping the horses fresh. [Diddy] goes out a lot. I do believe the horses should be walking a ton, and they think it’s a good time. They get pretty brave pretty quickly, especially if they have buddies. So we go around here in Wellington. He likes to go down the streets, check out the other farms. We’re all so lucky here at Havensafe that there’s lots of on-site hacking through trees and that sort of thing. He does a ton of that.

Laura and “Diddy” relaxing.

I’m actually trying to figure out [when we’re going to Europe] now. It looks like sometime at the end of May. It’s always up in the air until they get a shipment of horses, and then they’ll give you a better date, so we’re just ready all the time.

We’ll see [what competitions we end up doing]. It’s been a long season so far, but we plan to do Rosenthal [Germany] and certainly Rotterdam, [the Netherlands], the Nations Cup there.




Follow us on


Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse