Tag Archives: Natalie Pai

Dressage Star Natalie Pai Follows in the Footsteps of Trainer Kevin Kohmann

Natalie Pai and Unlimited at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions (Photo courtesy of Susan J Stickle)

Natalie Pai, age 20, and her dressage trainer Kevin Kohmann, a trainer at Diamante Farms in Wellington, Florida, have a lot in common. They have both broken the industry norm to achieve impressive accomplishments in the sport they love at a young age.

Last month, Pai won the Reserve Championship in the Brentina Cup at the 2017 Dutta Corp. U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions in Gladstone, New Jersey aboard Unlimited, a 16-year-old KWPN gelding (Jazz x Clairudith, Winckenburgh) that she is leasing from P. J. Rizvi and Peacock Ridge, LLC. She also competed on Fritz San Tino, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by her mother Melanie Pai.

Natalie Pai is the youngest competitor in history to bring two horses to compete at the Festival of Champions, and the youngest to qualify for and compete a horse in the Intermediate I division of the Festival of Champions. Like his protégé, trainer Kevin Kohmann started racking up successes at a young age. He is the youngest in history to pass the Bereiter in Germany at the age of 18, the youngest to earn the title of Master Bereiter, and to earn his German gold medal.

Kohmann said that he and his fellow trainer at Diamante Farms – Devon Kane, who owns Diamante Farms alongside her mother, Terri Kane – can easily relate to young, driven riders. Riders who have such a strong love for dressage that they are determined to achieve momentous success even at a young age especially resonate with Kohmann and Kane. After all, the Diamante Farms trainers themselves were highly successful in the Under 25 division not so many years ago. Kohmann and Kane are also able to offer a variety of methods to teach their riders. “We use many teaching methods,” Kohmann said. “We stick to classical methods, but we also acknowledge that all roads lead to Rome. That’s how Devon and I train everyone – we understand that every horse and rider has a different learning style, and we try different approaches to achieve goals.”

Pai, who has been serious about the sport of dressage for the past five years, has been working with Kohmann for four years. She followed him to Diamante Farms when he moved there three years ago.

“The best thing about Kevin is that he is such a good rider and a good coach,” she said, adding that since she is a visual learner, it’s helpful for her to watch him ride so that she can copy him. “Sometimes, when I don’t understand something, it’s really important for the way I learn for someone to show me how to do it rather than tell me how to do it.” Pai’s mother, Melanie Pai, is also a dressage rider who grew up in the show ring. She agreed that her daughter clicks with Kohmann’s teaching style.

“He’s really good with Natalie,” she said. “He’s a perfect match for her personality. He’s funny, and Natalie is a prankster and hysterically funny, so they can really ham it up together. Because he’s young, everything is very fresh with him. He has a lot of ways of explaining things. He keeps coming up with a different approach.”

The younger Pai said that her mother was probably even more excited than she was when she clinched the Reserve Championship at Gladstone. She doesn’t plan to change trainers any time soon – although recently Devon Kane gave Pai some lessons while Kohmann was competing, and Pai found her time with Kane invaluable. Both Kane and Pai are petite, and the trainer gave the younger rider some valuable tips on how to adjust her technique for her size.

“I think it was really helpful for me to train with someone who understands my body mechanisms,” she said. “She helped me with technique, especially with my seat. For example, in the pirouettes I used to sit back a little bit, and she told me to hinge my shoulders forward a little bit. That really helped. She also said that rather than using your strength to take the outside rein, push him more into the outside rein. That was helpful because I am smaller, so by pushing him into it, I don’t have to use quite as much strength. I made a lot of improvements with her.”

The Pais keep five horses at Diamante Farms in Wellington, Florida, and Natalie rides three of them. She keeps busy with her six-day-a-week riding schedule with Kohmann, while also attending Palm Beach Atlantic University, where she is majoring in Business Management.

“I think it’s quite incredible what she has accomplished with Unlimited in the short amount of time she has been riding him,” Kohmann said, explaining that she had only leased the gelding for five months before she had her major win at Gladstone. “Going from riding Prix St. Georges in Young Riders to the Grand Prix is a huge jump. I remember this well, as it’s not so long ago that I made that jump myself. There’s a lot more going on in the Grand Prix. It’s a complete game changer from Prix St. Georges – a different sport. She has learned a lot in a very short time.”

Pai counts herself lucky that she has such a great support system in her parents, Kohmann, and Kane. In fact, she had a fan club watching her at Gladstone, including Kohmann, her mother, father, aunt, and groom Emilija Anderson, as well as friends watching through the live stream.

“It’s really nice to be able to talk about dressage with my mom,” Pai said. “I think that’s really important. My mom can give a lot of pointers and I think she enjoys it. When I won the 2015 North American Young Rider Individual Gold medal at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) [aboard Fritz San Tino (Falkenstern 11 x Wanessa, Wanderbursch 11)], she was sobbing.”

Melanie Pai said her main advice to her daughter is to do her best but to enjoy it. “I always tell her to smile and have fun,” she said. “If it’s not fun, why are we doing this? Natalie has learned so much. She has the ability to feel and fix things. It’s been fun to watch her growth in becoming a real, professional rider.”

She credits Kohmann and the atmosphere at Diamante Farms for helping her daughter excel in dressage. “I enjoy the Kanes,” she said, adding that she has known the facility’s owners from when they all lived in Texas years ago. “They run a top-notch, professional barn. It’s a very calm, relaxed atmosphere. We are good friends. They move the horses along at their own pace; nobody is pushing them. It’s a great atmosphere to work in.”

She was thrilled when her daughter won the Reserve Championship at the Festival of Champions. “It was a proud moment,” she said. “It’s amazing to see your own child achieving such great results. Obviously you are on cloud nine; you are over the moon. To come out and achieve Reserve Champion the first year is phenomenal.”

The younger Pai hopes to return to the November U.S. Dressage Finals in Kentucky and to compete in the Brentina Cup again. “I have five years left in the U25 division,” she said. “And, I’d like to do Young Riders again. NAJYRC is a great experience.”

Her long-term goals include the Olympic Games, the World Equestrian Games, and the Reem Acra World Cup of Dressage. And through it all, she plans to stick with Kohmann and Diamante Farms. “Devon and Kevin inspire me,” she said. “To be able to watch Devon and Kevin excel in competition and in business from such a young age is amazing.”

Many who follow the sport of dressage have heard U.S. Olympic icons Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald refer to the “pipeline of dressage” as the future of the sport in America. Riders like Natalie Pai and trainers like Kevin Kohmann and Devon Kane are not only part of that pipeline, but are also encouraging other young equestrians who dream of competing at high levels to ride along with them.

Helen Claire McNulty and Natalie Pai Earn Dressage Gold Medals at NAJYRC

Dressage Junior Individual medalists – Chloe Taylor (Bronze), Helen Claire McNulty (Gold), and Camille Bergeron (Silver) (SusanJStickle.com)

Endurance Medals Awarded and Eventing Underway

Lexington, Ky. – Dressage riders from across the United States and Canada competed for Individual medals at the 2015 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC) on Friday at the Kentucky Horse Park.

In the USDF/Platinum Performance North American Junior and Young Rider Dressage Championship, it was Helen Claire McNulty (Region 2) who claimed the Gold medal in the Junior division. In the Young Rider division, the Gold medal went to Natalie Pai (Region 3).

Endurance riders competed in their 75-mile race on Thursday, and on Friday morning Kelsey Russell was presented with the Individual Gold medal. The Team Gold was awarded to Team USA Southeast. CH-J 1* Junior eventing competition also got underway on Friday with the dressage phase of competition.

Helen Claire McNulty Wins Individual Gold

The top three in the Junior Individual dressage competition all finished within less than one percent of each other, but at the top of the list was Helen Claire McNulty of Region 2. The 15-year-old and her mount, Checkmate, finished the day on a score of 70.816% to claim the Individual Gold medal.

“I did [the NAJYRC] last year, and I finished 11th individually and fifth in the freestyle. It’s pretty cool to come back here and win it,” McNulty said.

McNulty (Holland, Mich.) continued, “My horse and I, we have had a lot of problems. Last night I said to myself that if you want to do well, you have to start pushing a little bit more and asking a little bit more because he can give it to you. I just did that today, and it paid it off. I took some risks that maybe could have ended badly, but they didn’t.”

Camille Bergeron (15, Mascouche, Que.) of Team British Columbia/Quebec rode Delfiano to the Silver medal after earning a score of 70.079%.

“We train all year to get here. Just to be here and to win is a dream come true. It proves all of our hard work paid off,” Bergeron said.

The Bronze medal was awarded to Region 9’s Chloe Taylor (17, Wimberley, Texas) riding Calecto V.

“I’m really pleased with my test and my horse, and I really want to congratulate my teammates because I think everybody did a really, really good job today. All of the tests were beautiful,” Taylor said.

Young Rider Gold Goes to Natalie Pai

On Wednesday Natalie Pai claimed Team Silver alongside her Region 3 teammates, and after Friday’s Individual competition she will also be going home with a Gold.

Pai (18, Wellington, Fla.) and Fritz San Tino finished Friday’s Individual test with a score of 69.132% to secure their victory.

“I honestly just came here to have a lot fun,” Pai said. “I’m so thrilled with how it turned out. He was such a good boy, and I’m so happy with him.”

Fresh off the USEF Young Rider European Tour, last year’s Individual, Team, and Freestyle Gold medalist, Catherine Chamberlain, came into this year’s competition feeling the pressure of returning as the defending champion, and now, she is thrilled to be leaving with another Young Rider medal. She claimed the Individual Silver medal on Avesto Van Weltevreden with a score of 68.711%.

“I was on a different horse this year. He’s really green; he’s only 10,” Chamberlain said. “We just did our first Prix St. George test in February. It’s been quite the journey with him. He’s a very talented horse. I’ve been thrilled with how he’s really developed over the last few months, and I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s trying really hard, and he’s just such a good boy. This is my last year here; I age out. To come here and to get this result is amazing. I’m very happy.”

Finishing in third and taking home the Bronze medal was Naima Moreira Laliberte (18, Montreal, Que.) on Belafonte. The pair from the team of Quebec earned a score of 68.447%.

Double Gold for Team USA Southeast in Endurance

Team USA Southeast dominated the podium on Friday morning at the NAJYRC. The team took both Team and Individual Gold, while USA Northeast earned Team Silver.

Kelsey Russell, 19, of Williston, Fla., rode off with both the Individual Gold and the Best-Conditioned Horse Award aboard My Wild Irish Gold, a 12-year-old Anglo-Arabian mare owned by Valerie Kanavy. Her teammate, Annie Whelan (Louisa, Ky.), won the Style Award.

Team medals are determined by the top three highest-placed combinations. The USA Southeast team finished with the best cumulative time of 19:35:15, followed by USA Northeast (20:30:41).

In the individual rankings, Russell had the best time of 5:43:56 hours. The Silver medal went to Hanna Weightman (Shamong, N.J.) with Meg Sleeper’s Syrocco Rabia (5:46:07 hours), and the Bronze to Hope Misner (Webster City, Iowa) with Roxi Welling’s GDE Sweete Legacy (5:52:03).

Eleven of 14 starters completed the course designed by Emmett Ross, which drew numerous compliments from competitors.

“Emmett Ross got us out of the mud, and we’re very grateful for that,” said Whelan. Ross spent the entire day before the race rerouting the course because portions of the original route were belly-deep in water from torrential rains earlier in the week.

At the press conference after the awards, there was laughter and tears, particularly when the competitors talked about their horses (three of which are being retired after this event). Among the retirees is My Wild Irish Gold, Russell’s champion mount whom she has been riding for six years and whom will now become a broodmare. The pair previously won this event at the Horse Park in 2011.

“I won my first ride on her, and she took me to two world championships,” Russell said. “It’s a bond I don’t think anyone will ever take (away).”

The Gold medal team roster included:

Kelsey Russell with Valerie Kanavy’s My Wild Irish Gold
Katie Baldino (Marietta, Ga.) with Mary Kathryn Clark’s Questafir
Annie Whelan with Nicki Meuten’s RF Priceless
Mary Kathryn Clark (Eatonton, Ga.) with her own Kalilas Legacy
Mallory Capps (Cumming, Ga.) with Jeremy Olson’s SA Belshazzar

The Silver team members were:

Hanna Weightman with Meg Sleeper’s Syrocco Rabia
India Orino (Albany Township, Maine) with Thomas Hutchinson’s Frontier Random
Maria Muzzio (Clifton, Va.) with Natalie Muzzion’s Laconic
Hunter Green (Star Tannery, Va.) with Cheryl Van Desusen’s Spotless Summer Magic

Area II and Camilla Grover-Dodge Lead Eventing after Day One

The three-day journey to the Eventing CH-J 1* (Junior) and CCI2* (Young Rider) medal podiums started on Friday with the dressage phase of the USEA North American Junior and Young Rider Eventing Championship.

In the CH-J 1* Team competition, the team from Area II leads the way on a score of 126.6 penalties, while Area VI sits second with a score of 144.8 penalties and Ontario currently rounds out the top three on a score of 146.1 penalties.

The Area II team includes:
Camilla Grover-Dodge (16, Lancaster, Pa.) on Remington XXV (38.3 penalties)
Morgan Booth (18, Charlottesville, Va.) on Twizzel (41.8 penalties)
Amanda Beale Clement (16, Phoenixville, Pa.) on Peter Pan (46.5 penalties)
Skyler Decker (16, Mount Airy, Md.) on Inoui Van Bost (53.2 penalties)

Camilla Grover-Dodge and Remington XXV, CH-J 1* leaders (Brant Gamma Photos)
Camilla Grover-Dodge and Remington XXV, CH-J 1* leaders (Brant Gamma Photos)

This year marks Booth’s third time competing at the NAJYRC, and after learning experiences the past two years, she hopes this will be her best one yet.

“I think the third time is the charm, and I’m really happy to be back because it’s so great,” Grover-Dodge said. “It’s the best week as a junior. It’s so inspiring and who doesn’t want to come ride in the Rolex arena?”

In the CH-J 1* Individual competition, Grover-Dodge on Remington XXV leads the standings with 38.3 penalties for Area II. Booth, also of Area II, sits in second riding Twizzel with 41.8 penalties, and Makenna Rold (15, Delano, Minn.) of Area IV rounds out the top three with 44.9 penalties.

“We went in there and [Remington] put on his game face,” Grover-Dodge said. “He was so rideable for all the moments; he was great.”

Grover-Dodge continued, “He’s 19, so he always has to be in work: always walking, keeping him really fit because he’s older. I’m so lucky to be able to ride Remington, and I just want to do well on him.”

In the CCI2* Individual standings, Nicole Doolittle (Reddick, Fla.) tops the leaderboard with 47.7 penalties riding Tops. Paige Pence (Louisville, Ky.) sits in second on Class Action with 59.6 penalties. Diane Portwood (Marietta, Ga.) and Cinerescent round out the top three on 60.5 penalties.

The CCI2* will not be competing for FEI medals and the team competition is not being held this year due to insufficient international entries.

USHJA North American Junior and Young Rider Show Jumping Championship Farewell Round

Eight horses competed in the Farewell class in the Walnut Arena on Friday morning with Zone 2’s Lucy Matz (Coatesville, Pa.) and Cardella topping the field. The pair posted the quickest clear jump-off round in a time of 38.42 seconds.

Finishing just behind Matz were Zone 9’s Jennifer Gates (Medina, Wash.) and Cadence in second, while third went to Canada’s Ashlee Steffens and Braveheart de Muze.

For full results or to learn more about the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North, please visit www.youngriders.org.

USEF Network presented by SmartPak will live stream the entirety of Saturday’s events from the Rolex Stadium and Stonelea Ring during NAJYRC. Visit www.usefnetwork.com to tune in and to find out more.

From Phelps Media Group, Inc./USEF