September 2016 - Rio Report: Dressage Earns Team Bronze
Written by CRM
Thursday, 01 September 2016 05:28
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Laura Graves & Verdades’ personal best secures a podium place.

The U.S. dressage team brought home a hotly contested bronze medal. Led by chef d’equipe Robert Dover, the team of Allison Brock and Rosevelt, Laura Graves and Verdades, Kasey Perry-Glass and Dublet, and Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 reached the podium on a final score of 76.667%. Germany won the team gold on 81.936%, while Great Britain claimed the team silver with a score of 78.595%.

The third day of dressage team competition featured the top six teams and eight individual combinations from the first two days’ Grand Prix at the Deodoro Olympic Equestrian Center. Each team’s top three scores from both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special were averaged together to determine the team medals.

U.S. dressage team celebrates bronze medal. Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst/FEI

It took a personal best score of 80.644% from anchor rider Graves (Geneva, FL) and her own Verdades, a 14-year-old KWPN gelding, to claim the team bronze medal as The Netherlands moved slightly ahead of the U.S. before her ride. The pair held fifth place individually going into the Grand Prix Special and their performance was truly spectacular. The duo scored mostly 8s or above throughout the test and earned six 9s for their left canter pirouette down centerline and for their flying changes in canter.

“We’ve captured the elusive 80% - it does exist!” said a thrilled Graves, who was one of only five riders to score above 80%. “I knew the test was going well, but you just always hope that your reflections match up with the judges. I had no idea going into the ring what I needed for a score and to see my teammates so happy and then to achieve my personal best score - and a score I’ve been reaching for - was just icing on our cake today.”

Peters (San Diego, CA), competing in his fourth Olympic Games, rode Legolas 92, a 14-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Four Winds Farm. The pair held sixth place individually going into the Grand Prix Special and produced a superb test with one mistake coming at the beginning of the test in the left trot half-pass. The duo quickly recovered to produce a score of 74.622%.

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro - Gold medalists. Photo: Richard Juilliart/FEI

Laura Graves USA riding Verdades. Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst/FEI

“I’m super happy with Legolas. We delivered for the team, that was my goal and that’s what we did,” said a delighted Peters. “We had a couple of little fumbles – he lost his balance in the left half-pass which is uncharacteristic of him and we had a little delayed reaction into the first piaffe, but then he did it beautifully.”

“The rest of the test was very clean,” he continued. “He did his changes very nicely, but I knew that after the half-pass ‘fumble’ that if we had one more mistake in the flying changes then we’d be below the required average score to stay ahead of The Netherlands. I knew going into the ring exactly what score I had to get and I’m super happy that it worked out - but it was close!”

Olympic first-timers Brock (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Rosevelt, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Claudine and Fritz Kundrun, were the trailblazers as the first U.S. pair to perform its test. The duo executed a solid and confident test, earning a score of 73.824% from the seven judges with many good highlights throughout, earning high marks for their first extended trot, flying changes and extended canter.

“I was really happy with him,” remarked Brock. “He was really good. He was better than in the Grand Prix and did a clean test. That’s what we needed to do to set the stage for my teammates and we did it, so I’m really happy with him. I laughed a little at the end of my test because I said thank you [to Rosevelt] for doing this for me because it got hot in the ring and I just had to give him a lot of credit. He tried really hard. Bless him.”

Second up for the U.S. was Perry-Glass (Orangevale, Calif.) and Diane Perry’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Dublet. The pair produced a fluid test in the Grand Prix Special with especially beautiful passage work. Unfortunately, they had a mistake from the passage into the extended trot, but quickly re-grouped and completed with a respectable 73.235% in their first Olympic Games.

“It wasn’t our best, but you know I have to give it to Dublet as he’s really trying to stay with me,” said Perry-Glass.

Reflecting on the bronze win, Peters said, “First of all, a big thank you to chef Robert Dover, who was also on the team in 2004 [the last time the U.S. Dressage Team won a Team Olympic medal]. Today we knew it had to be above 75 percent and all four riders and horses are capable of delivering 76-77 percent, so we knew we had a chance, but when it actually happened it was amazing! If you wanted to see a 52-year-old guy acting like a 10-year-old boy, you should’ve seen me in the stands when Laura was coming down centerline – I was crying my eyes out and it was just one of those absolutely amazing experiences. There’s a lot of people who are certainly a big part of this medal.”

A Near Miss in Individual Competition

Peters, Graves and Brock advanced to the individual competition, but finished just out of the medals. Laura and Verdades had the bronze in hand until the very last pair, Germany’s Isabell Werth and Weihegold Old, rode it out of their grasp. Graves was still very happy with her 85.196 score.

Not surprisingly, defending Olympic Champions Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain and her mount Valegro, a 14-year-old KWPN gelding, stole the show while earning a whopping 93.857% for their second Olympic individual gold. Germany’s Isabell Werth and the 11-year-old Oldenburg mare Weihegold Old, claimed the individual silver with a score of 89.071%, making Werth the most decorated Olympic equestrian of all time with a record 10 Olympic medals (six gold and four silver). Teammate Kristina Broring-Sprehe and the 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion Desperados FRH took the individual bronze medal with a score of 87.142%.

Dujardin and Valegro’s ride was an especially emotional moment for them and the audience. Stars of the sport since 2011, the rider said, “To think what he has achieved in the last four or five years, it seems almost impossible.” She admitted that retirement is “on the cards” for Valegro now. “We’ll discuss it when we get home, and he definitely won’t be doing another Olympic Games or a big championship. I owe it to him to finish at the top.”

As for her own plans, marriage is at last on the horizon. Her partner, Dean Wyatt Golding, proposed to her during the London 2012 Games “and I said yes” she explained today, “bless him, he’s been waiting a long time, we’ve been together nine years but it’s definitely going to happen now!” Somehow it seems very likely that a horse with three Olympic gold medals around his neck could be a prominent member of the wedding party.

Edited press release from USEF.