Laura Graves has too many accomplishments to name, and, unless you live under a rock or were recently a contestant on ABC’s The Bachelor franchise (where participants are not allowed to watch television, read the news, or have any contact with the outside world), you probably know a thing or two about her success in the saddle.
But we’re not here to talk about her Olympic medals or current FEI ranking. If you’re anything like me, you might wonder how world-class competitors like Laura maintain their sanity and remain poised throughout a competition in which it seems like everything is on the line. “It’s horse sport, [so] you can only take it one day at a time,” Laura oh-so-wisely says about showing. And take it one day at a time she does, starting with sleep.
A Little Party Never Hurt Nobody, Unless it’s the Night Before the CDI5*
Though she acknowledges that some riders like to live it up the night before a high-stakes class, Laura doesn’t have FOMO when she turns down an invitation to go out. “I gain energy being by myself and kind of meditating in what I have going on in my head, and other people recharge by going out and being social,” she shares. “But everybody’s different. So what might make me really primed for competition is different than someone else.”
Up and at ‘em
Though it might be tempting to hit snooze once or twice – or thirteen times in my case – Laura is early to rise on competition days, even if she doesn’t show until the afternoon. “I’ll usually meet a bunch of my team members, coaches, or whoever, down at breakfast,” Laura says. From there, a plan for the day is established and Laura heads to the showgrounds.
Stay in the Zone
“[Staying focused] is important and you have to be a little selfish in knowing what’s good for you,” she says. That’s why you won’t see Laura walking around the show or watching much of the competition before her turn in the sandbox – aside from the rest of the United States Dressage Team, of course. “I’m either in the barn or I’m ringside for my teammates,” Laura says. “It’s just all about the horses, so whatever the horse needs in that moment, that’s the only thing we’re focused on.”
As a seasoned competitor, Laura has clearly found the special “sauce” necessary for her success in the show ring. Whether she’s piaffing around the Adequan Global Dressage Festival or trotting down the centerline at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon later this week, you can be sure Laura Graves ate a well-balanced breakfast.
Photos by Shannon Brinkman.