Gladstone, N.J.—May 18
The jump from the Young Rider division to the Grand Prix ring can be an intimidating one for a young dressage rider. But having an experienced partner can make all the difference, and because of that Molly Paris is thankful to have Countess by her side.
The 21-year-old rider earned several medals as a junior at the 2014 Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (Ky.) with her mount Diamant Sky, and she purchased Countess 2½ years ago to help her make it to the Grand Prix. The 15-year-old Danish Warmblood mare previously campaigned at Grand Prix with Canadian team rider Brittany Fraser.
“We’ve just been getting better and better,” said Paris, of Charlotte, N.C. “She takes my hand and goes, ‘Come on human! I’ve gotcha!’ She’s teaching me a lot. She’s the sweetest mare. I could not love her more; she’s amazing.”
As the last rider of the day at The Dutta Corp. U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions, Paris laid down a solid 67.07 percent to top the FEI Intermediaire II 16-25, to lead the USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship.
“My mare came out as good as she could,” Paris said. “There could still be some improvement. I’m super thrilled with my horse.”
Right behind her on a 66.68 percent is 25-year-old Kaitlin Blythe on Don Principe. Blythe went off course at the start of her test, resulting in a 2-point error.
“I’m really thrilled with my horse,” she said. “He tried really hard in the heat, and I’m very disappointed in myself for turning the wrong way. I was really happy with how hard my horse tried for me. He is such a wonderful horse.”
Blythe was a last-minute addition to the show schedule, as the 2-month probationary suspension on Don Principe due to a positive drug result was lifted hours before the closing of entries for the show on May 8. Blythe was found not at fault since the positive test was the result of feed supplement contamination.
“I am extremely grateful to be here, and so thankful for everything that goes behind the scenes to make all this happen,” she said. “It’s such a magical venue. It’s my third time competing here, and it just keeps getting better. I love being part of the U25. I think it’s a really, really great in between the Young Riders and open Grand Prix for people our age, and that’s such a treat to have to help us to the open ring.”
Rounding out the top three was 21-year-old Natalie Pai on a 66.44 percent. Pai is also riding an experienced Grand Prix horse. Unlimited, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood, was campaigned at the Grand Prix by amateur rider P.J. Rizvi.
“He was phenomenal,” she said. “He was a little tense today because of everything, but he was phenomenal. Unfortunately, I had a little bobble in the twos, but he was great. I was very happy with him.”
Pai is the only young rider also competing in the USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship, and she sits eighth after the Prix St. Georges with Fritz San Tino. (Catch up on all of the action from the Prix St. Georges and the Grand Prix )
See full results here.
To see all of the Chronicle’s coverage from the Festival of Champions, click here.