Due South // Nancy Jaffer

It’s Farewell to Laura Graves’ Top Partner Verdades

The USA's top dressage horse, Verdades (aka Diddy), won't be making the trip to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with his rider, Laura Graves.

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By: Due South // Nancy Jaffer

Verdades, a pillar of the medal-winning U.S. dressage team through two world championships and the 2016 Olympics, is being retired at age 18 by rider Laura Graves, who owns him with her “soon-to-be husband,” Curt Maes.

In making the announcement yesterday, Laura said it became apparent that Diddy, who hadn’t shown since finishing second in the FEI World Cup Finals last year, was not going to be in top form this year. Because of his age and mileage, it long was a question whether he would still be competing when it came time for the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“I’ve always promised that I would do my best to listen and make the right choice for him when this time came,” she said of the horse that her mother, Freddie, bought off a video as a weanling. She struggled with the Dutchbred gelding by Florett As in the early years of their partnership, and tried to sell him, but could not find any takers. Diligence finally enabled her to find the key to his talent that eventually made them the world’s number one dressage combination in 2018.

“Laura and Diddy have had a fantastic career and traveled a huge journey together and been part of putting America back on the podium in dressage,” said Will Connell, the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s director of sport.

“This is the right decision for the horse and hats off to Laura for making a difficult decision. A huge thank you to them and everyone who has helped them.

“Now we’ve got to kick on to Tokyo without Diddy but what great memories of all the medals that he and Laura won,” Will continued.

“We have some really strong combinations that really had shown outstanding results before last year, but other combinations stepped up last year and if that progress keeps going, I think we’ll go to Tokyo with three, if not four, really strong combinations that can still put us in the medals.”

At the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games, Laura and Diddy served notice they were a pair to be respected when they were fifth in the freestyle, the best American individual finish there. They went on to take team gold and individual silver at the 2015 Pan American Games and team bronze at the 2016 Olympics. Laura and Diddy were double silver in 2018 at the FEI World Equestrian Games. The duo also has been second three times in the FEI World Cup Finals. Diddy won 41 of his 95 FEI starts.

U.S. coach Debbie McDonald, who has been Laura’s personal trainer for years, noted, “It’s a sad day for the U.S. to lose a horse like this, they had an amazing run and did so much for the sport. I look forward to seeing what she brings along for the future.”

She acknowledged it will be tough going to Tokyo without Laura and Diddy, saying, “We’ll do the best we can, that’s all we can do.”

Debbie said there was “nothing significant” that prompted Laura’s decision to retire Diddy. “She just felt it was the right thing to do and not take him all the way to Tokyo with the climate. (Tokyo is infernally hot and humid in the summer.) It wasn’t fair. She made the right choice for sure.”

Team prospects for the three-member Olympic squad include Laura’s 2018 WEG teammates, Adrienne Lyle with Salvino and a second mount, Harmony’s Duval; Kasey Perry-Glass (Dublet) and Steffen Peters (Suppenkasper). Among other prospects are Sabine Schut-Kery (Sanceo), Nick Wagman (Don John) and Olivia Lagoy Weltz (Lonoir.) As promising as they may be, none of those horses has a record that can come close to matching that of Verdades.

So this is a moment to pause and offer a tribute to a fabulous horse and his amazing career.

“While nothing makes me happier than watching him play in the field and take him for hacks, it is still a very new and very sad realization for me that this journey has reached its end,” observed Laura.

“This horse not only achieved every goal we ever set, but he fulfilled dreams that I never knew I had,” she stated.

“Not always the easiest, it was his generous heart and incredible sense of loyalty that made him one of a kind. Every time I sit in his saddle, I continue to feel honored and humble that he allowed me to be his person.”

~ Nancy Jaffer

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