Traverse City, Mich. – Two gold medalists emerged today at the 2023 FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships presented by USDF as the Young Rider and U25 divisions completed their individual championships. Mary Claire Piller (Oakdale, Tenn.) and Caterina, Emily Brollier’s 2011 Hanoverian mare, won the gold in the Young Rider division. Emily Hewitt (Atlanta, Ga.) was the U25 champion with Fidens, a 2010 KWPN gelding owned by Tammy Pearson.
Young Rider Individual Championship
After earning the top score in the team test on Wednesday, Piller and Caterina repeated the feat in the FEI Individual Young Rider test, scoring a 70.147% to secure gold.
“My horse felt amazing. She always tries so hard for me in the ring,” said Piller. “I really just wanted to lay down a quiet and consistent test and show my horse off where I could and try to improve on some things that we may have missed a little bit in the team test. And she really tried as hard as she could for me, and I couldn’t be happier with her.”
Piller said that she was able to improve on her centerlines and pirouettes in her second test at this NAYC, and that Caterina has many strengths that she brings to the ring.
“[Her strength is] absolutely the cadence in her trot work,” said Piller. “She’s incredibly balanced and powerful in her movements. She has a really nice extension and can really show off, especially in the individual test because coming out of a small volte you have to go into medium and she really comes out of that and says, ‘How much do you want?’”
Piller said she will compete at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions with Caterina in the Young Rider division later this month. From there, she has her sights set on the big stage.
“The ultimate goal is always a Grand Prix, so we’re working towards that.”
Celsiana William rode her own Prima Ballerina, a 2011 Oldenburg mare, to a close second-place finish on a score of 69.912% to take home silver.
“I think our medium and extended trots and some of the changes today were high points,” said William. “She was just so with me and happy out there, so I’m extremely pleased. She’s consistently gotten better and better as the season has gone on and more focused and relaxed in the ring.”
Kat Fuqua (Atlanta, Ga.) won bronze with her own Dreamgirl, a 2008 KWPN mare, posting a score of 69.294%. Fuqua competes in hunters and jumpers as well as dressage, and her partnership with Dreamgirl has helped her find success in the dressage arena.
“I’ve had Dreamgirl for about three years. She was my first dressage horse ever, so I know her really well,” said Fuqua. “All of the dressage knowledge I have is basically from her, so it’s really special to be competing here with her. Luckily I’m just doing dressage this week, so I can solely focus on that, but I have a really great team behind me that helps me juggle both the jumpers and dressage together, so it’s been really fun.”
U25 Individual Championship
In winning the FEI Grand Prix 16-25 test on Friday, Emily Hewitt became the first-ever winner of the U25 individual gold medal at NAYC. This came after she won a team bronze earlier in the week, and she said she was able to improve on some things in her second test with Fidens, earning a 66.641%.
“Today I was really focused on getting him in front of my leg and more on my aids,” said Hewitt. “I felt like some of the high points of my ride today were my canter pirouettes and my changes. Overall I was so pleased with him. He was such a good boy and was really obedient and listening. I really couldn’t ask for more from him.
“I felt like today I was really able to improve. The piaffe/passage for example was one of them,” said Hewitt. “Today I made sure in the warm-up to really encourage him to be in front of my leg and it worked.”
Dennesy Rogers (Santa Rosa Valley, Calif.) won the individual silver medal riding Chanel, Dorriah Rogers’s 2005 Danish Warmblood mare. The pair earned a 66.256%, improving over their team test earlier in the week.
“Our main focus was pretty much trying to keep my horse fit and sound, so we don’t want to work her too hard and we also want to make sure she stays fit enough to be prepared for a competition like this,” said Rogers. “Today she felt so much better than [in the team test] because she’s been very amped up since we got here. She didn’t really have a walk the other day, but today we did, so I’m very happy with that.”
Claire Robinson of Canada won individual bronze to add to her team gold from earlier in the week. She rode Carol Robinson’s Glamour Boy, a 2011 KWPN gelding, and said she was able to channel his energy from the cool and windy weather to turn in a good performance.
“Today he was definitely feeling the weather a bit. He was a little amped up,” said Robinson. “But I felt that in my warm-up, I could really feel him connecting, being with me, so that I could really use that power in the test. I could really feel that at moments in my test today.”
On being part of the inaugural U25 competition at NAYC, Robinson expressed appreciation for the opportunity to compete in an international environment.
“It is so educational for me as a rider,” she said. “I think probably everyone here is hoping to make [senior] teams in the future, so I think this is an amazing experience. It was so awesome to be able to wear the flag on my saddle pad and compete with these other extremely talented riders and to feel the pressure and learn how to cope with that. It is just so awesome.”
Dressage competition at NAYC continues on Saturday, August 12, with the Junior Individual Championship at 8:00 a.m. ET and the U25 FEI Grand Prix Freestyle at 6:00 p.m.
Keep up with the latest news and coverage from the 2023 FEI North American Youth Championships on USEF.org. Follow USA Dressage on Facebook and Instagram and US Equestrian on TikTok and YouTube.