Graves and Verdades Go Two for Two in CDI 5* Competition at AGDF 5

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February 14, 2016--The FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 5*, presented by Diamante Farms, concluded FEI CDI 5* competition today at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Laura Graves (USA) and Verdades added another win to their week, as the duo scored a 74.667% to best the class. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven (SWE) and Benetton Dream finished in second with a 72.412%, while Belinda Trussell (CAN) and Anton captured third place receiving a 71.431%. In the FEI Grand Prix Special 3*, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty, Steffen Peters (USA) and Rosamunde took home the victory. Competition for AGDF 5 concludes tomorrow with the FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle CDI 1*, presented by Kirk Arabians.

Laura Graves and Verdades | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

Laura Graves and Verdades | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

Graves and Verdades topped the FEI Grand Prix CDI 5*, presented by Diamante Farms, on Thursday and chose to compete in today's FEI Grand Prix Special class. While their test was not as exact or powerful as may be typically expected from the duo, it was an example of an established partnership that is continuing to grow with time. The judges recognized the maturity of their effort, awarding it a 74.667% for the win. Graves reflected on the experience of coming back to the ring after their last difficult competition.

"Today I really wanted to ride him down and let him have another good experience. Tonight I felt like it was far from being our highest score, the most precise, and certainly not our most powerful, but he was 100% himself tonight and that was a really good feeling," she explained. "What we did in the Grand Prix on Thursday really paid off and it's good to feel like I have him back knowing that I could have ridden better."

The pair seemed back to their usual selves during the Special, which Graves has noted is a strong test for Verdades. The pair, instead of focusing on accuracy and precision, decided to reach towards a more relaxed and harmonious test to continue boosting their confidence in the ring.

WATCH Laura Graves and Verdades win FEI CDI 5* GP Special here!

"This was a big confidence builder for me as a rider and a trainer, having (had a) first kind of low point since we've been successful. It's always hard and it makes you question things, like what do we do and how do we move on. But it's really true, if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger and you learn," she explained. "Now, I know this will happen again. It's not the first time, and it's not the last. This is life and this is the chance you take when you go into the arena with another living being. That's the sport."

Graves now plans to give Verdades some down time while she discusses his competition schedule with her team. He will enjoy a lighter work schedule for a few weeks, do some work in the fields, and continue his favorite part of their training regimen-a once a week bareback hack.

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Benetton Dream, ownd by Lövsta Stuteri, represented Sweden with excellent style, earning a 72.412% for a solid test that featured sweeping half-passes and a strong piaffe-passage tour. Vilhelmson-Silven noted that this is only the second time that the 12-year-old Hanoverian stallion has done the Special and was pleased with his performance.

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Benetton Dream | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Benetton Dream | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

"I've very, very pleased with my horse tonight. I've never had such a good feeling in the ring on him actually as we did today. He got really on when [the crowd] applauded Laura coming around the arena. He had much more power than [we] had before and it was a nice feeling. It was a nice feeling and he was going together with me in a nice way. Just a great feeling," she said. "It was the second time that we've done the Special and it was the highest score that we've gotten so I'm happy. He got a little bit difficult when we did the trot extensions, especially when he's that hot. He stumbled a bit because he went for too much, but other than that it was a good feeling."

She reflected on the time it has taken to establish a partnership with her stallion, that came from an active breeding career in Germany and maintains a full studbook at Lövsta Stuteri in Sweden. She explained, "I had him here two years ago. He came from Germany and was a breeding stallion so he may seem a little bit further behind in his training for his age. He's been breeding a lot in Sweden too, so he's had double work. This year we're going to decrease the breeding so that I can focus on showing him a little bit more."

"He has a great feeling, but he's a big horse and a stallion, so for sure he gets a little bit nervous and that can show in many ways, but that's why I was happy with today because he wanted to go on my aids," she commented. "We've been working with a lot of different things, but really most to get him stronger so that he can perform the movements but also getting him to want to work with me, not to have to put pressure on him to do it by himself. He's really getting together with me and that's the great feeling with him. That takes time and that's what it takes to build confidence and get to know them."

Belinda Trussell rode Anton, owned by Robyn Eames and Marc Trussell, to third place after an already successful campaign at AGDF so far this season. Trussell noted that Anton's natural capacity for piaffe makes the Grand Prix Special a great test for him.

Belinda Trussell and Anton | Photo by SusanJStickle.com.

Belinda Trussell and Anton | Photo by SusanJStickle.com.

"Anton, his gift is his piaffe and it's just a dream to ride it actually. I sit there and cluck and he piaffes. That's his highlight, and he's just so consistent. He loves to do it, so that is really nice and in the Special, going from walk to piaffe is not difficult for him. It's a nice feeling. I feel confident with this test and I like it because it is so forward moving. It's nice to ride."

She was pleased that Anton settled down a bit from his anxiety during the Grand Prix. Unlike Vilhelmsom-Silfven's mount Benetton Dream, who gains energy and enthusiasm from applause, Anton can become tense, which can negatively impact his performance.

"He was difficult this week and was pretty nervous from the Grand Prix. I really am happy that he went in there and was more relaxed tonight than he was earlier in the week," she continued.

Judge at C, Lilo Fore (USA), recognized the exceptional quality and training represented by the athletes she saw this week, ranging in nationality and international competition experience.

"The horse quality we have nowadays is just amazing and it's exciting of course. But I think what I like very much in the whole week really, and especially with the top riders, is that everything is so much more harmonious. It's wonderful to see how the riders and horses work with each other. The suppleness is getting better and better," elaborated Fore. "I think the confidence of the horses and their riders is very obvious. You're going to see a mistake here and there, but none of those mistakes were from incorrect training or a lack of understanding of the basics because you can see all of the top riders we have here have amazingly good basics and solid training under their belts. It's very obvious and it shows itself in the test and in the confidence of the combinations. It's fun to watch."

Steffen Peters and Rosamunde Top FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty

Steffen Peters (USA) and Rosamunde continued their dominance in Large Tour competition at AGDF, earning top scores in the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty, to take the class with a 73.333%. Kasey Perry-Glass (USA) and Goerklintgaards Dublet earned another top finish, adding a second place collection for the week, while young talent Juan Matute, Jr. (ESP) and Quantico Ymas earned third place with a 69.059%.

Steffen Peters and Rosamunde | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

Steffen Peters and Rosamunde | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

Peters and Rosamunde have taken the dressage world by storm as he and the stunning 2007 Rhinelander mare, owned by Four Winds Farm, continue to make a strong statement with their efficiency in the ring.

"She's clearly improving and the one-tempis were already straighter. The weak parts were better today and we just had silly little things. She anticipated the two-tempis a bit and then at the end, the final halt, she stepped a little bit back. Silly little things, but expensive things," noted Peters. "The collected wasn't quite as relaxed, but things that were very difficult for her are better. Those are minor little things and are easier to polish."

Rosamunde has progressed quickly through the beginning of her young career and Peters plans to keep her feeling comfortable, but confident, through their training at home.

"The good thing with Rosie is that I don't have to push her. She wants to go. There are so many situations, especially in the first few extended trots, where I'm holding her back a little bit. At home, it is just very comfortable and not stressful so she just offers so much," he explained. "I don't think it's really about what you're doing in the show arena, it's more of what you're doing in the warm-up and how much work you have to do at home. That's the main thing. I always believe in keeping them mentally just as healthy as they are physically healthy."

WATCH Steffen Peters and Rosamunde's FEI CDI 3* GP Special ride here!

As the combination heads back to California to test the rest of the season before the pressure begins to rise with the qualifications and selections for the 2016 Olympic Games, Peters is confident that "Rosie" will continue to improve during the duration.

"Rosie needs to get stronger, and we have a nice fitness program laid out for her. We're skipping the next CDI in California, but we'll show her again in late March. It's always easy to think about improving, but it's also equally important to think about maintaining what we have. I believe in bubble-wrapping them when they're good."

Peters brought Legolas 92 and Rosamunde to PBIEC for the USEF Festival of Champions in December 2015 and for this week's competition. He explained why traveling to Wellington during the winter season is not just important for his horses, but for the sport.

"This is the place to be from January to March," he said. "Nowhere else in the world, even at the Grand Prix, do you have such a wonderful turn out. We had a great panel of judges for both the CDI 3* and CDI 5*. We have to support shows like this and on top of that, I've never seen anywhere in America a crowd like we had last night. When the audience is that generous, the riders need to play along and show up here."

Perry-Glass has shot through the national rankings at the Grand Prix level with Goerklintgaards Dublet over the course of the past month and the combination continues to show improvements in their tests together with each outing.

Kasey Perry-Glass and Goerklintgaards Dublet | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

Kasey Perry-Glass and Goerklintgaards Dublet | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

"He felt really good in the warm up, probably the best I've ever felt him. He was really focused and relaxed, but hot at the same time. When I went into the ring, I felt he got a little bit hotter. There were a few mistakes in the test, but that was probably the most focused and in front of my leg that I've ever felt him," commented Perry-Glass. "That was the positive thing for today. It's just a matter of pilot errors on my end. It's me getting used to him in the ring, and we're going to continue working on that."

With two horses competitive at the Grand Prix level, Perry-Glass has found herself learning more about her own riding and technique under the watchful eye of trainer Debbie McDonald. Gaining more experience in the international arena is a priority for Perry and "Dublet" who are still solidifying their partnership together at the Grand Prix.

"We are entered into the CDI-W at the end of the month and then possibly skip the Palm Beach Derby, but have put in our application for the CDIO Nations Cup and see where it goes from there," explained Perry of her future plans with "Dublet". "If Scarlett doesn't get into the top eight for the traveling tour to Europe, we're possible going to breed her because she's such a good mare. That's her plan and then we're shooting for that top eight with Dublet."

The young Juan Matute, Jr. found himself among some of the best in today's FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, but that did not deter him from riding a beautiful test aboard Quantico Ymas for third place.

Juan Matute, Jr. and Quantico Ymas | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

Juan Matute, Jr. and Quantico Ymas | Photo by SusanJStickle.com

"It's the details of the tests. I think we have all of the relaxation and the movements. I've been riding him now for three years. This was our first CDI Grand Prix so I was very happy with the results and really proud of our progress and our journey," he explained. "It's a horse that is very sensitive. He's from a jumping line by Fighting Fit so he's a horse that has really made me work everyday and analyze my basic concepts of riding. He has a lot of talent. He's ambitious in the ring, which helps, but today was very good."

Ever so early in his career, Matute has found success in the inner workings of the basic movements, which has helped to increase scores and create a more secure partnership with Quantico Ymas.

"We always begin working on the passage and piaffe when they're young, maybe five or six years old, to start developing that power from behind little by little. He's always been a talented passage horse because he likes to sit a lot. We've been working little by little on our way up to Grand Prix, but really only over the past year did we start to consider moving him up to the Under 25 division and then to the Grand Prix." 

Competition at AGDF will conclude tomorrow with the FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle CDI 1*, presented by Kirk Arabians, beginning at 11:20 a.m. To see a full list of results and a weekly schedule, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Final Results FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 5*, presented by Diamante Farms
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: 76.275%, 73.824%, 75.882%, 73.922%, 73.431%, 74.667%

2. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven (SWE), Benetton Dream, 2004 Hanoverian stallion by Brentano II x Rotkäppchen x Rotspon owned by Lövsta Stuteri: 72.647%, 71.373%, 73.333%, 74.118%, 70.588%, 72.412%

3. Belinda Trussell (CAN), Anton, 2002 Saschen Warmblood gelding by Anteaus x Shirley x Melit owned by Robyn Eames and Marc Trussell: 73.431%, 70.098%, 73.235%, 69.902%, 70.490%, 71.431%

4. Lara Griffith (GBR) Rubin al Asad, 2002 Hanoverian gelding by Rubin Royale x Wandergirl x Wanderbursch 2 owned by Dr. & Mrs. Bechtolsheimer: 71.569%, 71.667%, 68.333%, 68.922%, 68.431%, 69.784%

5. Allison Brock (USA), Rosevelt, 2002 Hanoverian stallion by Rotspon x Lore x Lauries Crusader xx owned by Fritz & Claudine Kundrun: 71.471%, 68.922%, 69.608%, 68.431%, 68.039%, 69.294%

6. Arlene Page (USA), Woodstock, 2003 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Havel x Mirania x Contango owned by Arlene Page: 68.725%, 68.725%, 70.686%, 70.098%, 68.039%, 69.255%

7. Katherine Haddad-Staller (USA), Mane Stream Hotmail, 2002 Oldenburg gelding by Michellino x Rederna x Havel owned by Rowan O'Riley: 64.608%, 67.941%, 67.549%, 67.157%, 67.451%, 66.941%

8. Christian Zimmerman (PLE), Cinco De Mayo, 1999 Holsteiner gelding by Coriander x Ipsa x Alcatraz owned by Christian Zimmerman: 68.627%, 66.176%, 65.980%, 67.451%, 66.176%, 66.882%

Final Results FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty
Place, Rider, Nationality, Horse, Horse Information: Judge E%, Judge H%, Judge C%, Judge M%, Judge B%, Total %

1. Steffen Peters (USA), Rosamunde, 2007 Rhinelander mare by Rock Forever x First Lady x Fidermark owned by Four Winds Farm: 74.608%, 72.941%, 72.647%, 71.569%, 74.902%, 73.333%

2. Kasey Perry-Glass (USA), Goerklintgaards Dublet, 2003 Danish Warmblood gelding by Diamond Hit x La Costa x Olympic Ferro owned by Diane Perry: 71.667%, 72.745%, 70.784%, 70.196%, 71.373%, 71.353%

3. Juan Matute, Jr. (ESP), Quantico Ymas, 2006 Hanoverian gelding by Fighting Fit x Hauptstutbuch owned by Juan Matute: 69.706%, 70.392%, 67.647%, 68.725%, 68.824%, 69.059%

4. Anna Marek (USA), Unico G, 2001 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Negro x Kleora x Animo owned by Anna Marek: 68.725%, 67.549%, 68.039%, 68.725%, 69.118%, 68.431%

5. Mikala Gundersen (DEN), HF Victor, 2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Gribaldi x Miana x Burggraaf owned by Virginia Alling: 67.255%, 68.627%, 66.176%, 66.765%, 70.000%, 67.765%

6. P.J. Rizvi (USA), Unlimited, 2001 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Jazz x Clairudith x Winckenburgh owned by Peacock Ridge LLC: 65.980%, 68.824%, 66.765%, 66.765%, 66.667%, 67.000%

7. Suzan Pape (GBR), Harmony's Fiorano, 2005 Hanoverian gelding by Rousseau x Rawina x Rotspon owned by Harmony Sporthorses: 68.039%, 66.078%, 66.667%, 64.510%, 66.667%, 66.392%

8. Chris Von Martels (CAN), Divertimento, 2002 Westphalian gelding by Di Versace x Fatima x Farragamo owned by Lövsta Stuteri: 68.235%, 64.804%, 65.000%, 65.784%, 66.176%, 66.000%