Graves Posts Historic High Score in 5* Grand Prix at 2017 CDI Wellington
Laura Graves and Verdades climbed to the top of the leaderboard in the 5* Grand Prix, presented by Diamante Farms, during the fifth week of competition at the Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL. Eighteen combinations contested the most important Grand Prix class of the Florida season and America's best of the best - three of the Olympic team riders - came head to head for the first time since Rio.
It was a battle of the bulge for the Americans in Wellington on Thursday afternoon 9 February 2017 as Laura Graves, Steffen Peters and Kasey Perry-Glass faced each other in this match for power. After producing a personal best score of 80.08% on the board, there was no doubt about that Laura Graves is untouchable in her country.
Graves and her 15-year old Dutch warmblood Verdades (by Florett As x Goya) had an outstanding ride which the panel of judges - consisting of Matthiesen, Rockwell, Fransen-Iacobaeus, Clarke and Whitham - benevolently rewarded with a historic high score for U.S. Dressage. Graves rode a very strong trot tour with big extensions and sweeping half passes that had huge crossing of the legs. The passage was elastic and off the ground, but the piaffe remains to be mediocre and far from the classical ideal. The rhythm is certainly there, but the horse leans on his bum and does not really sit. However due to the well sustained rhythm the judges are kind hearted to that flaw. Overall the canter work Verdades produced is world class, although the quality of the collected canter was not at its highest level today. The horse was not super collected throughout and Verdades breathed heavily in the test, giving a laboured impression. Still, there was absolutely beauty to be seen: the tempi changes were brilliant, the left pirouette fantastic and the zig zag ground covering. Graves finished the ride with an energetic and rhythmical final centerline. At all times the contact was light and soft but the horse could still be a fraction more up in the bridle.
“This is pretty monumental for us,” said Graves. “We’ve been working at 80% in every test for a while now, probably since our first year at Grand Prix. Knowing what was possible with this horse and to be rewarded today while still feeling like I may have some improvements left, it’s encouraging to have the judging panel be generous and my horse be so generous, and for us to have such a great show to come out and compete at.”
The score was Graves’ first one above 80% in a CDI 5* Grand Prix, putting her alongside U.S. Olympic team mate Steffen Peters as a member of the “80% Club,” which counts only 14 riders in the world.
Steffen Peters and Akiko Yamazaki's 10-year old Rhinelander mare Rosamunde (by Rock Forever x Fidermark) followed in second place in the distance with 73.820%. The mare did not stand still in the halt at entry, not in the one for the rein back. The half passes were ground covering though and the passage had very good bounce. In piaffe Rosamunde gets very tight at the base and while she has good lift in the legs, the balance still needs to improve. The second piaffe was far better as the mare stayed more up in the bridle and with the nose out, giving her more opportunity to develop a better self carriage in the piaffe. The extended walk had good overtrack, but in the collected she became very uneven going short-long in front. The canter work showed great promise but it missed some fine-tuning: Rosamunde swung in the hindquarters in the two's. The canter extension was huge, but the flying change at the end of the diagonal was short. The zig zag was sweeping, but the penultimate change short. In the one tempi's she swayed again and the changes to the left were short. The pirouettes were very small but unfortunately the mare briefly lost her balance in the left one. In the passage on the final centerline it showed that Rosamunde's left hind leg swings out from under her body even though the rhythm and energy was good in that last movement.
“I had a very electric horse under me today, so the first halt was certainly a reflection of that,” said Peters. “Overall I have to say that there were lots of things that felt absolutely wonderful. Sometimes she can be a bit unsteady in the bridle, and she was just perfect in the connection today. It’s taking time with ‘Rosie’. She is ten and is still a firecracker; nothing different than with Legolas when he was ten. Horses at that age, they need to have the spark to be brilliant later. She is super honest and is a bit of an overachiever. It’s now about the exposure for her.”
Third place was awarded to Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven (SWE) and Paridon Magi, a 2003 Swedish Warmblood gelding (by Don Primero x Napoleon) owned by Lövsta Stuteri, with a score of 73.700%. The dark bay gelding has worked his way up in the ranks of Tinne's stable from being assistant trainer Caroline Darcourt's mount to becoming Tinne's second choice behind Don Auriello and ahead of Benetton Dream. The refined looking gelding scores high marks with his top canter. In trot he lacked some elasticity and bending in the right half pass, but the passage is very expressive, regular and lightfooted. The piaffes are quite small and need more jump off the ground. In the collected walk the horse became lateral. In canter, the zig zag was very balanced, the one tempi's incredibly uphill but in the two's they needed to be straighter. The extended canter was super uphill and the pirouette left was the best one of the two. Overall Paridon Magi could keep his mouth a bit more closed in the half halts.
Tinne Vilhelmson commented on her ride, “I was very happy with Magi today. He ran a little out of gas. Maybe I warmed him up a little too long, but overall he’s so ambitious and tries to do his best every time.“I must also say, when Laura got her 80%, I got goose bumps,” Silfven added. “It’s a cool thing to have. I was really happy [for her]. It was my best memory from today.”
Lisa Wilcox and Jaqueline Shear's Belgian warmblood gelding Galant (by Escuro) finished in fourth place with 72.640%. The tall chestnut gelding is a beautiful horse to look at, but a definite working point is to get the horse more up in the bridle. In today's test he was often behind the vertical with the poll dropped and his mouth too open. Still Wilcox showed some great work on him: the half passes were lovely, the piaffe was superb with excellent bounce and rhythm. The highlight of the ride were certainly the immaculate transitions from passage into piaffe. The collected walk was slightly short. In the two tempi changes the horse needs to be straighter and in the zig zag Galant had the hindquarters too much to the right. The right pirouette was the best one of the two.
Kasey Perry-Glass and her 14-year old Danish warmblood Gorklintgaards Dublet (by Diamond Hit) landed fifth place with 72.440%. The 5* Grand Prix was Perry's first competition since the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio last August and the pair showed good form in Wellington. The begin with a strong halt and good half passes, but the trot extensions were the problem point of the test. On the first diagonal he broke into canter and in the third trot extension he broke into canter twice. The first piaffe-passage was very nice though with the passage being absolutely outstanding. The extended walk had two hooves overstep, but could be more relaxed, in the collected walk he paced. Dublet is known to be sensitive in the mouth and can flash his tongue. Today he had the mouth more closed and only once in a while you saw him fidgeting with his tongue on the left side. The tempi changes were brilliant, the zig zag very good, although there could have been more collection. The right pirouette was the best one. The final centerline was outstanding.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - No reproduction allowed