Gladstone, N.J. – After placing third in the Intermediate II 16–25 class on Thursday, 20-year-old Natalie Pai returned to the ring at the USET Foundation’s headquarters focused and determined to win. Riding Unlimited, a 16-year-old KWPN gelding she is leasing from P.J. Rizvi, Pai has continued to gain confidence in the Grand Prix work throughout the season and it paid off when they won Friday’s Grand Prix 16–25 class with a 66.605 percent.
“I really wanted to take more risks today and have a little bit more of a go button,” Pai said. “I usually ride a little conservatively, but today I just asked him to go a little more. I’ve been really struggling with my [flying] changes all season and this is the first time I’ve actually nailed both, for the first time, in the same test so I was really happy with him. He was fantastic.” Pai, a business management student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, has been riding the talented gelding for the past five months and is appreciative of the opportunity to compete at Gladstone with the top U25 riders in the country.
“I definitely had my doubts if I was going to be able to step it up and make it here,” Pai explained. “I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time so it’s incredible to be here. I couldn’t be happier. “It’s really awesome to be able to learn everything on such an experienced, talented horse,” she continued. “I’m very grateful and he is a phenomenal teacher.” Kaitlin Blythe, 25, placed second on the 18-year-old Hanoverian stallion Don Principe, with a score of 66 percent. The young professional has been working with Anne Gribbons to fine tune their training.
“I was really happy with him,” Blythe said. “He can get a little tired but he really surprised me today with how much energy he had. “This is my third time competing here [at Gladstone] and it’s just so fun to be in an environment that has so much history with USET and all of the great people before us who have competed for the team, and now we get to be here. It’s really special and I love it.”
Molly Paris, 20, rounded out the top three aboard her 15-year-old Danish Warmblood mare, Countess. The pair won Thursday’s Intermediate II 16–25, but was overtaken in this afternoon’s class. “Today, I was just planning to ride more boldly and take a little bit more risks,” Paris explained of her strategy. “My mare really stepped up to the plate. She put on the gas and went with it. It just didn’t play out quite like I wanted it to, but I really could not be any happier with her. She did everything I asked for. It is just another stepping stone and I’m really happy with it.”
The division wraps up on Sunday with the Grand Prix Freestyle 16–25 at 2 p.m.
Grand Prix 16–25 Results
1. Natalie Pai/Unlimited/66.605
2. Kaitlin Blythe/Don Principe/66.0
3. Molly Paris/Countess/64.698
4. Ariel Thomas/Heraldik Star/62.977
5. Mallory Chambers/Urithmic/62.0
6.Geena Sturzebecher Martin/Bon Chance/60.302
7. Jacquelyn McMaster/Rampart/57.163