Interview Laura Graves – the most surprising rider at the WEG dressage competition

23. Sep 14 | 5:54 | By | Category: INTERNATIONAL NEWS, interviews

23.9.2014

Did you ever hear of Laura Graves before the WEG? Most people will certainly answer „No“ because the 26 year old rider, who is based at her own farm in Florida, was a real nobody in Europe before she went to rise into the Top 10 and even becoming 5th in the freestyle in Caen. So it´s time to get to know Laura Graves better because even if she did not win a medal at Caen, she is certainly a young rider to watch for the future. With her horse – 12 year old KWPN Verdades – it seems she can really even reach a medal on a perfect day.

She told me all about her WEG, how she became a dressage rider, about Verdades likes and dislikes and how a normal day in her stables looks like…

You were one of the really surprising riders at the WEG this year. You just showed great results. And the 5th place in the final freestyle was incredible. Tell us a bit how you experienced all that?

Having the opportunity to represent the USA at the WEG was a very proud moment for me. To have such a great result gave me a confidence that we had been lacking. It was so exciting for us and just proves that good horses are worth the wait.

Your freestyle really perfectly fit to your horse Verdades. How did you create this freestyle. Did you have someone to let the music fit so well to your horse?

I worked with Marlene Whitaker of Custom Freestyle, Inc. She took a piece of music that I had and morphed it into something amazing! I worked with Robert Dover to create the choreography and it ended up coming together in a way that we had only dreamed!

Which was your favorite moment at the WEG?

My favorite moment at the WEG was opening ceremonies. Since I had arrived in Europe, everyone was asking me, “aren’t you excited?” And I really wasn’t…yet! During opening ceremonies, it all became very real. There were many Americans in the stands waving flags and cheering for us as we walked by. I was jumping up and down on the inside!

This was your first time riding at the WEG. You said even the qualification was some kind of a fairytale. Is this whole year just perfect for you?

The beginning of this year started out pretty rocky. We didn’t have a regular training program and we were experiencing some issues in the Grand Prix test. Even when the training finally came together with Debbie McDonald, we had one of the worst rides ever in competition! Being a dressage rider, we all know nothing is ever perfect! But we kept at it and our patience paid off. To want for anything more than we achieved in 2014 would be selfish and greedy.

Tell us a bit more about your wonderful horse Verdades. What is so special about him? What are his likes and dislikes? How´s he like at the stables?

“Diddy,” as we call him in the stable has a character that makes him very special. While he is very serious and focused under saddle, he is quite the opposite in the barn. He loves attention and long grooming sessions. He also loves mornings in his paddock and going for hacks. He will eat just about anything! His major dislikes include standing still and being ignored. He has a great sense of humor.

Are you really proud about how Verdades performed at the WEG? What was his best performance for you?

I am very proud of Diddy’s performance at the WEG. Each day, he became an little more relaxed and confident. My favorite ride was the GPS. He was still fresh but was really relaxed at the same time. He was just fun to ride. He never gave me a moment of feeling like I was out of control. Everything just flowed together.

Maybe you can tell us a bit more about yourself. We only know you are a young rookie in the US team who showed the best results of the whole team in Caen. But who is Laura Graves? When did you start riding? How did your career as professional rider start?

I have been riding since I was 8 or so but grew up with ponies in my back yard. They weren’t “riding” horses. I was in 4-H for many years and began focusing soley on dressage when I was 12. When I turned 21, I made the choice to declare with our national federation as a professional rather than an Adult Amateur. I started my own business in December of 2012.

I saw you have your own stables in Florida. How many horses do you have there? Are you just riding or also training? Has your family always been with horses?

Right now we just have 6 horses. We are in the middle of relocating which will allow me to double that number. I ride but I also teach and travel for clinics.

How does a normal day in your life look like?

Because of the small number of horses currently on the farm, I still take part in the daily barn chores. I still clean stalls and tack-up my own horses. I still feed the horses and bathe them after they are ridden. This will inevitably need to be reorganized when the number of horses increases, but I enjoy being a part of the horses day, aside from the training.

What do horses mean to you? What is making them so special?

Horses are part of my DNA. It is a part of me that I can’t change or ignore. I love that my horses are always happy to see me. They never judge you and even if you have a bad day, they forgive you. They love you just for showing up to say, “hello.” They are so honest in a way that no human can compare.

Why did you decide for dressage? Did you try the other horse sports as well?

When I was younger, I really wanted to be an eventer. I had a little Quarter Horse who jumped quite well and also ended up being very competitive in the dressage. As the cross country obstacles grew, it was clear that I just didn’t have the nerve for it.

Did you have the chance in Caen to see other riders of other disciplines?

Unfortunately not. I was only able to catch some reining on TV.

Do you have an idol in your sport?

I wouldn’t say that I have one idol. I like to watch and study any top rider and learn what I can from each of them.

What would you say ist he difference about dressage riding in Europe and in the US?

The biggest difference about riding in Europe for me is the seriousness with which the take the sport. Both riders and audiences are well educated and it is a real spectator sport in Europe. In the US, you can almost guess the final placings just by looking at the order-of-go. In Europe, it is a real competition for who will win.

Are you often commuting between Europe and the USA? Is that easy for you? It´s a long way…

It is a very long and very expensive trip between Europe and the USA. Because of that, it makes the most sense to stay in Europe for a couple months. This is a lot of time away from my business in the USA and can be stressful. I think it is necessary to compete in Europe and I hope that I can manage a way to return in the future.

When you are not riding what else do you like to do?

When I am not riding, I like to spend time with my family and boyfriend. I love to cook and relax!

Do you have a philosophy in life?

I love the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

Do you have a wish you want to absolutely become true in your life?

I just wish to live a happy life with the people and pets who I love!

 

Interview: Alexandra Koch


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