Laura Graves (USA) and Verdades performed one of their best FEI Grand Prix Freestyle tests so far this season at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF), earning a 79.475% to take a commanding win in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 4*, presented by Havensafe Farm. Competition at AGDF continues tomorrow with the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, presented by The Dutta Corporation, and the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 4*, presented by Havensafe Farm.
Kasey Perry-Glass (USA) and Goerklintgaards Dublet followed Graves to the winner’s circle, finishing in second place in their first FEI Grand Prix Freestyle test together with a score of 75.750%. Juan Matute, Jr. (ESP) and Don Diego Ymas captured a well-deserved third place finish, receiving a 73.225%.
Graves and Verdades entered the Global International Arena at The Stadium with new freestyle choreography and music, but the same consistency and fluidity for which they’re now known. Graves has worked hard to find the right gear for “Diddy” this season, and it seems the pair is right on the mark moving into an important part of this year’s season.
“You know, with as much experience as this horse has now globally, he’s recently become very sensitive to the atmosphere. We do for him what we can in relaxation, but like I was saying after the Grand Prix on Wednesday, his confidence has to come from me,” explained Graves. “I have to give him the cues, and he needs to be certain of what I’m asking him. For tonight, I thought it was a big accomplishment personally, riding through that tension and having him step up to the plate.”
The pair now has a mutual understanding of what the expectations are in the ring, and their partnership has continued to flourish. Graves and her own 2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Florett AS x Liwilarda) have become one of the most consistent Grand Prix pairs for Team USA over the past two years since their debut at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Caen, France, in 2014.
Both Graves and Perry-Glass have been in consistent training with U.S. dressage legend Debbie McDonald, with both riders referencing their strong relationship with her as a major factor in their performances so far this season.
“Debbie’s gift is that as a trainer, she can feel what you’re feeling as a rider. It takes a weight off of you that you don’t realize exists. She just gives you that feeling that you’re never alone and what you’re feeling is normal. You’re going to train through it and you’re going to, like she said to me tonight, come out on the other side. She just gives you this confidence to ride well,” explained Graves, regarding her time with McDonald.
Perry-Glass exited the ring in tears after completing her first FEI Grand Prix Freestyle aboard Goerklintgaards Dublet, a 2003 Danish Warmblood gelding (Diamond Hit x La Costa), that she has campaigned to the top of the Large Tour leaderboards all season long.
“I came out crying,” she acknowledged. “He’s just so awesome, and I’m so lucky to have him. We’re growing up together and respecting each other more and more. We’re learning from each other, and I couldn’t ask for any more.”
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect with him. Last year in the Intermediaire I Freestyle, he would get really hot and I pretty much had no control. I knew that once the music started, that was the horse I was going to have,” she said. “The consistent training with Debbie [McDonald] and the support from her has really helped his confidence and my confidence. He stayed with me the whole time and there are small places that we can clean up, but this is our first time out there and I’m so proud of him.”
As for their first freestyle beneath the lights, Perry-Glass felt their ride went just as planned and she’s motivated to continue their progress.
“Adrienne Lyle did the choreography. She’s been such a great friend and a great supporter of us. I worked with Tom Hunt, who does Charlotte Dujardin’s music. I’ve been working with him for a while, and we have a good relationship. I wasn’t sure what type of music I wanted for Dublet and I was like ‘Yes, this works!’ There are obviously some things that we will have to tweak and enhance, but I’ll start with a 75%,” she laughed.