Laura Graves (USA) and Verdades made history tonight at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF), as the pair earned an 82.800% from the judging panel for the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO 3* presented by Stillpoint Farm, the highest score ever earned at the facility in international competition. Graves and Verdades were followed by their Nations’ Cup teammates Kasey Perry-Glass (USA) and Goerklintgaards Dublet, who also scored above 80%, with an 81.325%. Belinda Trussell (CAN) and Anton finished in third place with a 76.350%.
Competition at AGDF concludes tomorrow with the FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle CDI 1*, presented by YellowBird Farm, the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 3*, presented by Harmony Sporthorses, and the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, presented by Harmony Sporthorses.
Graves and Verdades sent the crowd into a roaring cheer after they halted for their final salute, performing a fluid, harmonious, and accurate test. Graves and Verdades have been one of the United States’ strongest combinations for nearly two years and tonight, the pair not only added a facility record to their accolades this season, but also reached a new personal best in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.
“It’s amazing. It’s obviously a goal we have every time we go into the arena, and it was an incredible atmosphere here tonight,” said Graves. “I could not ask for a better high to end our season with, team gold, individual gold, and a several personal bests. It’s very exciting, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of this year with the amazing Team USA we’re creating.”
Graves rode to her new freestyle with Verdades for only the second time so far this season, earning a massive 82.800%, while Graves noted there are still places of improvement in the test. When asked what the most challenging or technical part of her test would be, Graves commented that she tailors the difficulty of the choreography to the strengths and weakness of “Diddy”.
“Your first year at Grand Prix you’re learning what your strengths are and what your horse’s strengths are. The more times you do that, the more you learn, the faster you learn, and the better you can make decisions,” she explained. “This new freestyle is very similar choreography to our last, but we did put in the risk where we felt comfortable, with where this horse could succeed.”
“You want to add difficulty in a way that you’re not going to over-face your horse or actually make your choreography look difficult,” she continued. “The biggest risk for us is taking the two-tempis on the circle and then going into the one-tempis. We do it twice. It’s a lot of counting, but he’s pretty honest. You have to play on your horse’s strengths and make them feel confident where they’re weak.”
Graves’ music change was inspired by her love for the movie “Rudy,” which provides the musical soundtrack for her freestyle. The message derived from the famous movie is something that Graves personally connects with. She explained, “My final centerline, which is my favorite part of the entire freestyle, is to the music they play when they finally put Rudy in the game and let him play.”