By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, Jan. 10, 2019–Laura Graves, who led the United States team to World Equestrian Games team silver and claimed individual silver and with her Verdades the first American to become No. 1 dressage combination in the world, on Thursday night was named U.S. Equestrian of the Year for 2018.
The 31-year-old Laura was declared winner of the William C. Steinkraus Trophy at an awards banquet and based on a nationwide ballot of U.S. Equestrian Federation members.
McLain Ward, double Olympic gold medalist and on the U.S. jumping team that won WEG gold at Tryon who had also been nominated for the honor, had urged members to vote for the dressage rider.
The Horse of the Year for which Verdades, a 17-year-old KWPN gelding that has been Laura’s equestrian partner for almost his entire life, will be named Saturday night.
Debbie McDonald, recently appointed as U.S. chef d’equipe and technical advisor and Laura’s personal coach for more than five years, was received a Pegasus Medal of Honor.
Janine Malone, a long-time equestrian official and involved in both the U.S. Equestrian and Dressage Federations as well as a CDI show organizer, also received a Pegasus Medal.
Anne Gribbons, Swedish-born but who became an American and was former U.S. team coach, FEI 5* judge and Grand Prix competitor and trainer, received the Walter B. Deveraux Sportsmanship Award for commitment and dedication to horse sport.
The award to Laura came the same day she competed Verdades for the first time since last September’s World Games.
The pair won the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Grand Prix at the start of their campaign to go to the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April where they hope to capture the annual championship title. The pair were runner-up to Germany’s Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD in 2017 and 2018
Laura and Verdades won team gold and individual silver at the 2015 Pan American Games, team bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the two silvers at the 2018 WEG that led to the pair becoming the first American to top the world rankings.
Source: Dressage News