Wellington, FL - 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.
The young Juan Matute, Jr. performed a brilliant and nearly mistake-free test about Don Diego Ymas, a 2003 Hanoverian gelding owned by Matute’s father, Juan Matute. In their best freestyle test to date this season, Matute was very pleased with their ride and felt the progress they have made this season has been defining in their career together.
“Little by little we’ve been building the confidence in the Grand Prix together and this is our second season at this level. It was a very exciting start to the season, but I think tonight is really the highlight so far,” commented Matute. “I’m very happy, and I’m very excited.”
“I enjoyed the test a lot. It was pretty much mistake-free, which is a big deal for us right now in our second year at Grand Prix,” continued Matute. “Being dynamic and being able to adapt to every situation is very important. What can I say, I’m sitting here next to these two beautiful riders, and it was just a great night.”
Betsy Juliano of Havensafe Farm, title sponsor for AGDF 10, is a successful businesswoman and horse enthusiast and has played an integral role in the growth of AGDF though the years. Drawing a strong parallel between the expansion of AGDF and the affirmation of a successful business, Juliano spoke to the successes the competition has seen this season and the promising future for the sport.
“I think that growing a business is really about evolution and that is what I see here at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival, but also very importantly with all three riders here. I’ve had the privilege of watching them evolve and get better each year,” said Juliano. “That, to me, is my favorite part of being here in the winters, and I think that what Mark Bellissimo and his team have done to provide this opportunity for the riders and people like me to participate has been fantastic, and we appreciate it.”
Judge at C, Hans-Christian Matthiesen (DEN), was impressed with the top three rides and spoke candidly about the importance of AGDF to the global scale of dressage and its success in reaching young riders around the world.
“What we see tonight sitting at the press conference with these three very good young riders, this is what it is all about. This is dressage when it is at its best, in a super atmosphere that you’ve managed to create here at the Global show grounds. It’s so important to the sport,” he explained. “We can’t have enough of that. I’m so proud of you (three riders). You all did so well and have super nice horses. It’s good for the future of the sport when you have young ones coming up and just great combinations. It’s great fun and just a privilege to be here and judge.”
Adequan®, title sponsor of the entire circuit at AGDF, has maintained its position as a crucial partner and supporter of the venue since its inception. Allyn Mann of Adequan® senses a remarkable change in the sport and hopes new owners and riders will be motivated by the incredible performances seen so far this season at AGDF.
Keeping with tradition this season, Adequan® sponsored several owner awards during the evening, recognizing and appreciating the individuals who continue to help grow the sport through their support. Makenzie Rath, owner of Sholitaire ridden by Melissa Fladland, was presented with the AGDF 8 National Show High Score Award, for Sholitaire and Fladland’s score of 79.773%. Kylee Laurie was awarded with the AGDF 9 National High Score Award, for the performance of Harmony’s Duvall and Adrienne Lyle, who scored a 82.500%. Michael Collins, owner of Don Tignanello, ridden by Leida Collins-Strijk, was presented with the Prix St. Georges Owner Award for Collins-Strijk’s score of 72.289%. Laura Graves earned the Owner Award for the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle, recognizing her performance aboard Verdades. Graves, who also serves as her own groom, was presented with the Groom’s Initiative Award on behalf of Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC.
“The owners are the foundation of the sport, and we honor them for everything that they do. The investments they make, the patience and love they have, so that three beautiful riders and horses like the ones we have here tonight can show up and do some amazing things,” said Mann. “We’re so blessed to be a part of this whole environment and to see how this how festival has evolved.
“On a night like tonight where Laura, Kasey, and Juan get to be on the podium, this is the future. But without the owners, none of this can happen. Let us not forget that they are the backbone of everything that happens here and when I think of our business, they’re the ones that keep us funded so that we can do what we do. Again, thank you to Betsy, and all of the owners, for everything you do,” he continued.
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. For more information on AGDF, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Final Scores: FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 4*, presented by Havensafe Farm
Place, Rider, Nationality, Horse, Horse Information: Judge E%, Judge H%, Judge C%, Judge M%, Judge B%, Total %
1. Laura Graves (USA), Verdades, 2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Florett AS x Liwilarda x Goya owned by Laura Graves: 79.375%, 76.625%, 81.125%, 82.125%, 78.125%, 79.475%
2. Kasey Perry-Glass (USA), Goerklintgaards Dublet, 2003 Danish Warmblood gelding by Diamond Hit x La Costa x Olympic Ferro owned by Diane Perry: 74.750%, 73.625%, 78.000%, 77.750%, 74.625%, 75.750%
3. Juan Matute, Jr. (ESP), Don Diego Ymas, 2003 Hanoverian gelding by Don Frederico x Wie Platine x Wolkenstein II owned by Juan Matute: 72.875%, 71.750%, 74.750%, 73.250%, 73.500%, 73.225%
4. Shelly Francis (USA), Danilo, 2004 Hanoverian gelding by De Niro x Annabella x Andiamo owned by Patricia Stempel: 73.125%, 71.250%, 72.875%, 71.500%, 73.000%, 72.350%
5. Brittany Fraser (CAN), All In, 2005 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Tango x Leotine x Damiro owned by Brittany Fraser: 72.625%, 70.125%, 71.875%, 70.625%, 71.875%, 71.425%
6. Karen Pavicic (CAN), Don Daiquiri, 2002 Oldenburg gelding by Don Cardinale x Nedstatte III x Rubinstein I owned by Jayne Essig: 71.750%, 70.125%, 71.875%, 69.250%, 72.500%, 71.100%,
7. Ricardo Wallenstein (POR), Bem Me Quer, 2006 Luistano stallion by Malmequer x N-Rola x Urco owned by Lusitano Academy: 67.250%, 69.000%, 67.125%, 66.875%, 67.625%, 67.575%
8. Evi Strasser (CAN), Renaissance Tyme, 2003 Oldenburg gelding by Royal Diamant x Valencia x Dream of Heidelberg owned by Evi Strasser: 67.500%, 68.375%, 67.625%, 65.875%, 67.750%, 67.425%