Laura Graves and horse Versades, “ Diddy “ for short, move one chapter closer to their fairytale ending after an extraordinary performance in the Grand Prix Round.
The former hairstylist makes a big statement during her Olympic debut by demonstrating a remarkable level of communication with Diddy in their graceful performance. Graves and Diddy execute each movement with balance, subtleness and harmony, earning the No.5 spot on the individual leaderboard.
Graves served as Team USA’s anchor, proving that they truly do save the best for last. The Olympic rookie earned a Grand Prix score of 78.071%, passing teammate and four-time Olympic veteran, Steffen Peters.
If you told the former hairstylist she would be a top performer in the Olympic Grand Prix ten years ago, she would laugh. In fact, at that point, Graves no longer considered a future in equestrian. She had just graduated from Cosmetology school and her dream of becoming a part of Team USA’s dressage team didn’t seem attainable with Diddy.
Diddy was impossible from the start. The horse’s irascibility made him difficult to train, let alone ride and after four years Graves decided that his habits would never change. She attempted to sell the horse in 2006, but his unruliness made him hard to sell. Diddy had a potential buyer, but he was unable to even mount the horse, so the deal fell through.
There was something so irresistible about Diddy that by 2008 Graves decided to give the horse a second chance and peruse her original dream.
Graves was determined to earn a spot as a rider on the USA dressage team. After sending out copious emails, videos, and resumes of riding histories, she landed a job as a working student. Graves moved to Florida and never looked back. She worked in exchange for lessons, training with U.S. dressage Olympian Debbie McDonald.
The former hairdresser broke out into the dressage scene in 2014 when she and Diddy placed fifth at the World Games in France and earned Silver at the Grand Prix National Championship. The horse went from not being ranked anywhere to being ranked one of the top ten horses in just less than a year.
The duo’s impressive Grand Prix performance in Rio allows them to not only advance to Friday’s Grand Prix Special as part of Team USA, but also positions them for a real chance to bring home a title in their first Olympic appearance. Team USA enters Friday's Grand Prix Special in Bronze position and if they exhibit similar perfromances form the Grand Prix round, chances of them bringing home a title are high.
Graves has the determination it takes to bring home a title, but she must continue to display a clear line of communication with Diddy in the next two rounds if she wants a chance of defeating the reigning gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin and all three German legacies.
The Grand Prix Special will begin Friday, Aug. 12 at 9:00 am EST.