A decade after he first set foot in Wellington, Florida, Spain’s Pablo Gomez Molina claimed his first Grand Prix wins during Week 7 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Making them all the more special, he did so riding Ulises De Ymas, a gelding bred by his sponsors who he has brought along for the past eight years.
“He’s actually the first horse that I brought up to the international Grand Prix level,” said Gomez Molina, 28. “I trained him myself with the help of trainers coming in and out.”
“Uli” and Gomez Molina have been together since the now 13-year-old PRE gelding, (Seni Indio—Nirvana Ymas, Superior II) bred by Yeguada de Ymas, was 5. In their breakthrough week at AGDF, the team won their first two AGDF Grand Prix classes with a pair of personal best scores—topping Thursday’s Iron Spring Farm CDI3* FEI Grand Prix with 71.08% and Friday’s CDI3* freestyle—the second international Grand Prix freestyle win of their career—with a score of 77.86%.
The victories were a new high point in an ongoing journey that started like many other riders—by being introduced to horses at summer camp. “My parents were working, and so they put me in a summer camp in Valencia,” he recalled. “There were horses there, and I really liked it.”
With his parents’ support, Gomez Molina continued to ride through pony club and, at 19, landed a working student position with his sponsors Cristina Danguillecourt and Javier Bacariza, owners of Yeguada De Ymas, a dressage breeding operation with bases in Spain and Wellington. They brought him to Wellington, his winter home ever since.
How did your first Grand Prix win at AGDF feel?
In the Grand Prix there were 30 entries, which is a lot. I expected to do good but not to win!
We didn’t have any big weaknesses going to the show. I felt pretty confident, and I wanted to maintain my average—between 69 and 70 [percent]—but he got 71, my personal best, and we won! It felt really good. I was happy for me, but I was also happy for him.
When I started warming up for the freestyle I found him a little bit tense because it was the prize-giving for the Nations Cup, so there was a lot of noise, and when [people] stand up all the seats come up like “tack, tack, tack!” so he was like, “What is this?!” But once we got in, he was like “I got this.”
He has to use everything he has to compete with these guys. I was really happy for everyone to see what I see every day. He’s a really good horse, and he can do it. And he can be there competing with all of them.
Obviously it makes me happy for all the hours that we put in and for the sponsors—they bred the horse; they gave me the opportunity to bring him up, and they trust me. After all these years working, it’s not the end. For us it’s like the start here, but I was happy for all the team. It was nice for everyone.
You have been with Ulises since he was 5. What is special about this horse?
He’s actually the first horse that I brought up to the international Grand Prix level. I trained him myself with the help of trainers coming in and out. I did the 6-year-old, the 7-year-old class and everything up to Grand Prix. This is my third year in Grand Prix and second year doing CDIs.
He has heart. He loves to work. He is a really, really hard worker. He puts all he has into everything.
When you go in the ring you can have mistakes, like everyone does, but he’s going to try his best. He’s not going to try to sneak out of the work. The hardest thing for us to manage is that he tries so hard that sometimes he tries too much, and that creates a little bit of tension.
And we are getting better because he is getting stronger, since he always had the willingness to work. At the beginning he just didn’t have the strength to keep everything together.
Who have been your biggest influences and inspirations on your journey?
I always watched those big shows. I remember watching Fuego [XII, ridden by Spain’s Juan Manuel Muñoz Dia], the famous Spanish P.R.E. horse, coming fifth in the freestyle at the [2010 Alltech FEI] World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. There were so many people there! My parents don’t know about horses, and I showed my dad and told him I wanted to do that.
My sponsors are really nice to me. I’ve been working for them for almost 10 years. I really look up to Carl Hester—the way he rides, and the way he trains the horses and his mentality with the horses.
And I have also been training for over a year with Jose Daniel Martin Dockx, two-time [Spanish] Olympian. He helps me a lot. The daily thing I do myself, but he comes every month or so. He was here for this show, and he was very happy for me.
Do you prefer to ride P.R.E. horses?
I love to ride Spanish horses. But to compete at this level, it has to be a really good one. They need to give you everything. Mainly with Spanish horses, the collection is their strong thing. The piaffe and the pirouettes were super easy for Uli—all the collection. Now I’m focusing a lot on gymnastic things.
I also compete on Servus Ymas (San Amour I—Romana), who is a 10-year-old Hanoverian. We came second in our first national Grand Prix this weekend, getting 69%.
Then I have Baltasar de Ymas (Vitalis—Nativa De Ymas, Superior II). He was bred by my sponsors. His dad is a [Dutch] warmblood and his mum is a PRE. He just turned 9, and he can do a little bit of everything of the Grand Prix movements.
Where do you go from here? Do you have dreams you want to fill?
Our goal is to go to Europe from here. We need to do the Spanish championship if we want to be on a national team. My goal is to go with the horse in good shape.
We went last year, and we ended up 10th. But we are improving, and if we can keep these scores, we have a chance to be on the long list.
Obviously I would like to represent my country in the Olympic Games. But first of all I would like to be on the national team. The bigger dream is to represent my country at the European Championship, the World Equestrian Games and of course the Olympics. Everyone is working for the same goal, so it’s obviously difficult, but it’s something we have in mind.