US dressage rider Laura Graves is in line to win a team bronze medal at the Rio Olympics later today, but a few years ago she earnt her living with a pair of hairdressers’ scissors in her hand.
“I was a hairdresser for an embarrassingly short time — probably about a year and a half, maybe two years,” she says. “I was always riding, but it was a hobby. Verdades [her Rio mount] was very young at the time, so until I decided to become a working student with this horse I had to support him in some way and that was it.”
Laura’s skills have come in useful while she is out in Rio — she has done team trainer Robert Dover’s hair, as well as her team-mate Kasey Perry-Glass’s and Kasey’s sister’s.
“We’re over here for a very long time, so it’s come in handy for them I guess,” she says.
Laura had the best test of the US riders in the grand prix, scoring 78.071% for fifth individually. Her only serious mistake was missing the last flying change at the end of the canter zig-zag.
“Unfortunately we just weren’t able to ride clean today, but I’m super happy with the feeling and the way the training is reflecting in the test,” she says.
The US riders are staying near to the venue at Deodoro, rather than in the Athletes’ Village and Laura says there is great team spirit.
“I can’t say enough good things about our team — team has a lot of different meanings and for us as equestrians in particular I think the Olympics is very special,” she says. “We have our team of our horses and ourselves, then we have our trainers and our friends and family and I couldn’t ask to be here with a better group of people. And we also get to be Team USA, which is something really special and it’s definitely memorable.”
Laura was very keen to attend the opening ceremony after going to the one for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Caen, France.
“I wasn’t going to miss that, after my experience in France,” she says. “People tell you what an experience it is, but they also tell you that you will wait around for a long time and to be expecting that. But when you see your home nation flag there’s nothing more special, so I definitely wasn’t going to pass on it this year.
Laura rides again in the special at 3.38pm local time (7.38pm British time) and will hope to help confirm the team bronze for the US team. Follow all the action here.