Wellington, FL - 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."
Perry-Glass has amassed impressive scores in her first year at Large Tour with Goerklintgaards Dublet, but tonight, the pair hit a new stride, scoring a personal best of 81.325% to take second place behind teammates Graves and Verdades. It was an emotional night for Perry-Glass, as her effort and determination to reach the top levels of the sport have made her a breakout star on the AGDF circuit this season.
"First I want to thank all of the sponsors, Adequan®, Stillpoint Farm, Tim Dutta and The Dutta Corporation, my coach Debbie McDonald, my mom," Perry said, wiping tears from her eyes at the press conference. "I'm so blessed. I couldn't have asked for a better year."
Perry-Glass and "Dublet" have worked towards reaching a point where they both felt comfortable and confident in the ring as they experienced Grand Prix for the first time together. Exceeding all expectations, the pair has become a strong and consistent force in Large Tour competition.
"I think at the beginning of the season I went into the ring knowing that this was my first season at Grand Prix and I never went into my rides thinking I'm going to go for it," she explained. "When I would come out of the ring, Robert [Dover] would say to me that I needed to go there a bit more. It was a certain sense of progression through the season. Dublet and I really formed a relationship where we're having a conversation in the ring."
"He knows and trusts me enough to push him. He showed that tonight. I put my leg on a little bit and he said 'How high?'" expressed Perry-Glass. "I think things are only going to get better for us, and I believe in that. I think that we both are very patient and in it for the long haul. Keeping him happy and healthy is my goal right now."
Representing Canada, Trussell and Anton secured their first-ever individual medal in Nations' Cup competition, while they too reached a personal best score tonight. With several consistent performances in Large Tour this season at AGDF, Trussell was thrilled with their end to the circuit, as well as with their freestyle under the lights.
"I'm so excited to be on the podium. It has always been a goal for me to try to be an individual medalist and to do that I'm thrilled. This was my first time to be an individual medalist," noted Trussell.
"Anton was a little bit wound tonight and he gets a little bit tight, but also more expressive, so that's nice. He was really again with me. I'm always so blessed with this horse that whenever he gets like that, he still stays with me. It's thrilling to be here, and I'm proud to be representing Canada alongside these two great Americans. This is a super show, and I can't thank Tuny [Page], Stillpoint Farm, Adequan®, and all of the sponsors enough for making this what it is."
Judge Stephen Clarke of Great Britain believes that dressage in the North America, but especially in the United States, is on the upward swing, as he was incredibly moved by the performances of the top three competitors.
"During that class, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up. It was just fantastic," commented Clarke. "I think the level was amazing, and you guys just really went for it. We saw such harmony, risk-taking, and really a high degree of difficulty, with beautiful musical interpretation. It just was a super class. For me it was very fun to judge.
"That is what is so exciting for the sport because world wide, every country you go to, it's getting better and better. Here, I think the progress to have these really young riders suddenly coming with such beautiful riding and artistry, it's really a joy to watch. I think this country is very exciting at the moment," he continued.
Representing Stillpoint Farm and also finishing in fourth place in the individual portion of competition, Arlene "Tuny" Page commented on Stillpoint Farm's continued support of the FEI Nations' Cup competition at AGDF, and what it was like to ride for Team USA throughout the week.
"Stillpoint Farm is one of the many sponsors and many people who put not just their money and their expertise, but their time and effort, into this. It takes that kind of teamwork to make a venue like this work and bring the kind of atmosphere to this place. I'm very proud to be in that group. Many of them are here celebrating tonight and for us it's a great opportunity to be a part of it. I'm very grateful."
As for her ride aboard Woodstock in tonight's class, Page finished the evening with a 75.925%, adding another personal best score to tonight's historic competition at The Stadium at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).
"I'm thrilled with my horse tonight. He was very honest and very brave out there. I'm happy for our personal best, but most importantly, I have a happy, healthy horse who was very consistent throughout the week. That makes me feel very good moving forward towards Europe," expressed Page.
It has been a year of massive growth for the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival, as entry numbers reached record highs, and the quality of horse and rider combinations shows more promise with each year. Allyn Mann, representative for Adequan®, noted that historic milestones, as seen tonight at AGDF, are not possible without an array of people who help to bring the show together.
"It really comes down to being part of a much bigger picture for us. Laura, Kasey, Belinda, these are the true stars and their horses are just amazing animals," stated Mann. "For Tuny, to be up here as a fourth place finisher and personal bests for all four of our riders sitting here, how cool is that, to end a show the way that we did with tonight? We're just a piece of the puzzle. We're very honored to be a part of this. I love this community and all of these owners, riders, and their horses. I feel so blessed to be here."
Adequan® has sponsored a number of special awards this season recognizing the owners, riders, and grooms who are truly the backbone of the sport. Tonight, Adequan® recognized Elizabeth Juliano of Havensafe Farm, owner of Horizon, ridden by Adrienne Lyle, who earned the AGDF 10 National Show High Score award for their 77.059%. Jane Wareham was awarded with the FEI Prix St. Georges Owner Award for Svalegards De Luxe and rider Lars Petersen's win in the FEI Prix St. Georges CDI 1* presented by YellowBird Farm. Laura Graves, owner and groom for Verdades, accepted the Grand Prix Freestyle Owner Award presented by Adequan®, as well as the Groom's Initiative Award presented by Michael Stone, President of Equestrian Sport Production on behalf of Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners.
Thomas Baur, Director of Sport at AGDF, has been an essential component of AGDF and its success over the past few seasons. Baur announced that Graves and Perry-Glass now hold record scores for the facility and in the history of the competition.
"That was really an amazing last night. Thank you for this season," said Baur.
Competition at AGDF concludes for the season tomorrow, Saturday, April 2, showcasing the FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle CDI 1*, presented YellowBird Farm, and both the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3* and FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 3*, presented by Harmony Sporthorses. For more information about AGDF, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Final Results FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO 3*, presented by Stillpoint 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: 76.750%, 85.625%, 86.000%, 81.250%, 84.375%, 82.800%
2. Kasey Perry-Glass (USA), Goerklintgaards Dublet, 2003 Danish Warmblood gelding by Diamond Hit x La Costa x Olympic Ferro owned by Diane Perry: 81.750%, 80.500%, 81.750%, 83.000%, 79.625%, 81.325%
3. Belinda Trussell (CAN), Anton, 2000 Sachsen Warmblood gelding by Anteaus x Shirley x Melit owned by Robyn Eames and Marc Trussell: 75.375%, 76.375%, 78.625%, 78.500%, 72.875%, 76.350%
4. Arlene Page (USA), Woodstock, 2003 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Havel x Mirania x Contango owned by Arlene Page: 75.125%, 75.375%, 76.750%, 76.250%, 76.125%, 75.925%
5. Mikala Gundersen (DEN), My Lady, 2000 Danish Warmblood mare by Michellino x Marion x Ritterstern owned by Janne Rumbough: 71.500%, 77.125%, 77.500%, 77.375%, 76.125%, 75.925%
6. Jaqueline Brooks (CAN), D Niro, 1999 Swedish Warmblood gelding by D-Day x Alitalia x Napoliean 625 owned by Brookhaven Dressage Inc: 69.250%, 71.250%, 73.375%, 74.500%, 70.875%, 71.850%
7. Megan Lane (CAN), Caravella, 2001 Dutch Warmblood mare by Contango x P.Riviera x Riverman owned by Megan Lane: 65.875%, 70.375%, 70.750%, 70.750%, 69.125%, 69.375%
8. Maria Florencia Manfredi (ARG), Bandurria Kacero, 2005 Silla Argentino gelding by Wonder Boy x Bandurria Farola x Unknown owned by Sztyrle Enrique: 67.750%, 68.875%, 68.250%, 68.625%, 72.125%, 69.125%